Bright Side of the Suns enjoyed great coverage of the FIBA World Cup with special reports and game coverage of Suns players Goran Dragic and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Read on for the recap of their incredible summers.

The FIBA World Cup of Basketball is THE international competition that determines the best basketball country in the world every four years and no surprise but the USA won this one big time. Team USA has now become the only country to win four straight worldwide international basketball events - the 2010 and 2014 World Cup, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

For most countries, the World Cup is bigger than the Olympics. You might not know it from this year's competition as Team USA dominated every game despite not even sending their best players, but most countries look to the World Cup as their holy grail for international basketball dominance.

Countries like France, Spain, Lithuania, Serbia, Brazil and Mexico fight to qualify for the World Cup in their regional competitions (Eurobasket, FIBA Americas Cup, etc.) the year prior, hoping to score a good result in the WC against their international brethren.

This year was a bit of a dud though. Spain and France's stars - studded with more than half dozen current and former NBA players each - flamed out prior to the Finals while Team USA ran roughshod over everyone. France was missing Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, but relied on heavy doses of Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum among others. Spain was anchored by the Gasol brothers. Brazil had the big men Anderson Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter (as well as meep-meep Leandro Barbosa).

In the end, the Team USA "mostly under 23" squad took the gold behind stellar performances from WC MVP Kyrie Irving and "The Manimal" Kenneth Faried.

But two players tied to the Phoenix Suns did very well for themselves this year. Let's get some first-hand input from our international BSotS correspondents, kajkejti and Jogi.

The Goran Dragic Report

--by kajkejti

Starting off, we thought there wouldn't be one. With his season exhaustion and ankle issues Slovenia basketball fans were holding their breath for a while there. When Goran Dragi? left Phoenix in April everyone, including the Dragon himself, was under the impression he'd skip this World Cup. Circumstances changed, his ankle was healing nicely, he got some rest and was already itching to get back out there after a month away. When the added bonus of spending more time with his family while playing for Slovenia came into play, the decision was made and Slovenia was happy. And to keep the Suns from worrying too much he managed to get everyone to agree on a plan they were comfortable with.

After 4 months away he started his first game back a little nervously; forcing some shots, trying to get some feel for the game and his teammates. The pre-World Cup warm-up games were exactly that for the Dragon - warm-ups. He even said it himself, he was not going full force, wary of unnecessary injuries. In the 5 preparation games he played he averaged 13.2 points (24/45 2PT, 4/23 3PT, 6/9 FT), 4.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 turnovers and had a total of 3 steals and 2 blocks. Not a brilliant stat line but not an awful one either (except the dreadful 3) considering it was done in 26 minutes average playing time. Before leaving for Spain Goran was not particularly optimistic about how far the team would go. Given the enormous pressure and expectations the whole of Slovenia had for him, he was trying to be realistic, afraid to lift our spirits too high, only to be crushed shortly after. Should have trusted himself and the team more (which he has since admitted).

When Slovenia played their first World Cup game Gogi went into Dragon mode immediately and managed to infect players around him as well. In the first 4 games of the tournament his efficiency was insane: playing approximately 23 minutes per game, his stats jumped to 18.8 PPG on 69% shooting (59% from 3) while still dishing out 4 assists. For the opponents it was the Goran Dragi? show every night. He was the focal point for every defence and was harassed on every possession, which contributed to his tournament turnover average of 3.6 per game.

He finally cooled down in the 5th game against Lithuania. Playing 33 minutes and going 5/14 for 12 points, missing all of his threes. It is impossible to blame him for the loss, but this (collective) freezing cold strike came at the worst possible moment for Team Slovenia. By losing to Lithuania they felt like they were already out of the tournament and the only things keeping them going against the Dominican Republic were pride and the fans. Gogi's 3 point shot would not return for the rest of the tournament.

Of course we all know what happened when Goran played team USA. Again guarded like the secret Coca-Cola recipe, he managed to get 13 points on uncharacteristically low 40% shooting, making only 1 of his 5 tries on 3. Slovenia finished 7th in the tournament and ultra competitive Gogi was again left with the bitter taste of getting eliminated early by a title contender/recipient.

Individually, Goran Dragi? had an excellent performance in the FIBA World Cup. In the 7 games Slovenia played his averages (per game) read 16 PT (55.4%), 4.3 AS, 2.9 REB, 1 ST. This stat line is very similar to the one he had last year at Eurobasket2013 where he played an average 2 minutes per game less than in the WC (26min). Keep in mind the pace of the game for Slovenia has slowed down considerably under Jure Zdvoc's coaching, going mostly for longer attacks. Had they kept the same system I believe these numbers would be higher. What I mostly wanted to point out is the FG% improvement: a measly 39.4 percent compared to the shining 55.4 from this year. He finished at number 8 in FG% among all players in the tournament (2nd if you count only guards), he was 11th in points per game (3rd among guards), 3rd in 2ptFG% (1st among guards) while also being 8th in assists.

During this World Cup run Dragi? has established himself as the team's leader and captain. Improving most of what he promised to improve despite being pressured from all sides. He was way more vocal on court (and of court) about what needs to be done to play the right way. Directing players into positions and making sure the team was focused when on court. He incorporated a nice looking floater into his game and I fully expect it to become another of his scoring weapons when with the Suns. He also seemed to learn some new assist tricks or was at least trying them out. Some looked outright dazzling and were sometimes just badly handled by teammates. The only black dot (though it's more grey) in Goran's WC game were the free throws. His 60 percent is surely something he is dissatisfied with and will probably be the first thing he fixes when the NBA season starts.

All in all Goran Dragi? had a great summer with the National Team; raising his game a bit more, getting some playing time with his brother and as always leaving it all out there for the fans who are just proud to have him represent Slovenia. He will return to Phoenix more dragony than ever.

The Bogdan Bogdanovic Report

--by Javier Pastore



Before the 2014 FIBA World Cup BB Gun had played one international senior event - 2013 EuroBasket - where Serbia ended at the seventh spot behind France, Lithuania, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

His averages through 11 games: 9.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 2 APG

Link to BB Gun stats at the 2013 Eurobasket

2014 FIBA WC

As the competition was getting started, Bogdan was expected to be among the leaders for team Serbia along with Teodosic, Raduljica and Bjelica and he did just that... and sometimes even more!

There were two phases for him in the tournament - both literally and figuratively. He was the starting shooting-guard in the preliminary round (first five games against - successively - Egypt, France, Iran, Brazil and Spain) before moving to a sixth-man role in the elimination round (next four games against Greece, Brazil, France and finally USA in the finals).

In the former phase he played a mixed bag of teams. He did fine in limited time against much lower opponents (Egypt, Iran) and mostly contributed as a facilitator in those two games. He's been a bit more inconsistent against stronger competition though (Spain, Brazil and France).

He did shoot with above-average efficiency overall (2's and 3's) and wasn't turnover prone at all but he didn't assert himself enough to be a dangerous weapon from game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter and was a bit inconsistent. For instance he had a GREAT first couple of minutes of the game against France in the qualification round with 8 points and 1 assist in less than 2'30'' to start the game but only scored 4 points and 1 other assist the rest of the way!! Proof of his inconsistent play early on was the fact he was often alternating games with either 0 FT attempt or 4 tries! He did play well as a facilitator on offense though and played some good D too!

However, he was consistent on defence as he showed hustle, good rotation/positioning, some defensive rebounds here and there. On offense I saw him play his "facilitator role" pretty darn well. He provided Raduljica and Krstic (Serbia's centers) with really good balls inside for them to post-up and score. Defensive assignments couldn't leave him open to double-team and it clearly provided spacing for them to go to work.

Shooting-wise he sometimes had a tendency to take (and often miss) "hero shots" in the fourth quarter while defences keyed on him. That was one of the main reason he had 4 games with 8 points or less.

Before the game against Greece in the "Sweet-16", Djordjevic (Serbia's head-coach) decided to bring BB Gun off-the-bench probably to lessen the pressure on such a young man (in comparison to his more experienced teammates) and be able to provide an offensive spark along the bench unit as a "Ginobili-type" sixth-man. And it worked pretty well!!!

Bogdanovic and Serbia literally crushed Greece and then Brazil - one of the favorites to win a medal - to advance to the Semis and play the other "feel-good story" and underdog of the tournament: France! But that's for the next paragraph :)
In these two games, BB Gun had himself two really good games doing the right play on numerous occasions, both offensively and defensively. He was efficient, very unselfish and showed great motor!

In the semis, France came up a bit sloppy in the first half, maybe a consequence of the excessive emotion that followed their own upset of Spain in the quarterfinals 2 days before that. Anyway, Teodosic went supernova in the first half of that game and France didn't ajusted to him before the second half, when the latter made a FURIOUS rally behind 35 points from Batum (20 in the fourth).

But it was Bogdanovic who threw the daggers (a bit schizophrenic situation for me as both a French citizen and a Suns fan lol) late in the game! He was all over the floor! Difficult shots (2's and 3's), great court vision/passes inside etc...

Serbia eventually won the game mostly behind the strong early play of Teodosic and late play of Bogdan "leading the horde".

The game against the USA was a slaughter, as expected. Bogdan was doing quite well before coach K put Klay on him. BB Gun started to sink like the rest of the Serbian team and couldn't make much of his long-distance contested shots (he was 1/9 from 3 in the game!)

If it was not for this awful 1-of-9 BB Gun would have boasted a TS% superior to 60% on a high volume of threes (more than 1.5 makes per game in less than 27 min).
He rebounded some (2.5 rbds/gm), assisted some, facilitated and defended well thanks to his hustle, relative quickness and huge wingspan (think D-Wade-wingspan here, and standing at 6'6 to boot). Overall Bogdan didn't disappoint at all and has given proof he can be considered one of the finest prospects of his generation.



As I already said in one of the threads BB Gun is gonna be at least a good rotational player for us in a couple of years (hopefully if the Suns keep his rights until then). But in my humble opinion (very humble I'm no prophet at all lol) he has star-potential.

He can do it all! He is still young thus has room for improvement and shows the right demeanor on and off-the-court. What is it not to like? The way he played with Raduljica I'm EAGER to see what he can possibly do with Len, Plumlee and/or Keef, especially Sir Lencelot. I imagine BB Gun's ceiling as being somewhere between our own Dragon and Kyle Korver. What'd be his floor in the NBA? I'd say a nice spot-up shooter off-the-bench. Whatever happens in the next two years I think this guy DEFINITELY has (and à fortiori will have) the required abilities and mental toughness to play with the big boys...

To sump his game, I'd say each time I watch him upcourt I have the same feeling:
- If he has a clear shot he'll take it! Even from 30'!!
- If not, he has a gnack for reading the defence and either slash to the rim, play the P&R or settle nicely a teammate for a post-up.

He showed he knows how to work with a low-post presence and his bball IQ seems to be pretty high! He has the physical tools to succeed but still in fact lacks... physicality! He needs to bulk up (especially the upper body) and strengthen his game a little bit or he'll get killed by the Wes, LeBrons and Kawhis of the league. He's measured at 6'6 an d 205 lbs. If he can add 10 or 15 lbs to that frame within the next couple of years he should be fine...



(PS : Besides, guys, there's something else also...

I think this guy is going to beat Wes for MVS! (Most Valuable Smile))

Wrap up

The World Cup was also dominated by former Suns (Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Viacheslav Kravtsov to name a few) as well as a hopeful soon-to-be Sun Zoran Dragic.

Feel free to use the comments section to discuss the two players currently under the Phoenix Suns umbrella as well as any of the former or potential Suns you might have seen.

Remember a few weeks ago when Marcus and Markieff Morris came up with a contest that allowed fans to choose their next tattoo? The three choices fans had to choose from was a picture of three dogs, a...

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The Morris twins will forever be linked, no matter whether they are on the same team or not. But because the Phoenix Suns made a deal for Marcus Morris to pair the twins together two seasons ago, the...

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Welp.  The NFL continues to be plagued with PR problems after Adrian Peterson was indicted on one count of child abuse and accused of another.  On the Bright Side, the Arizona Cardinals are 2-0 and in control of the NFC West for another week.  Has the Drew Stanton Era begun?

In entertainment news, Idris Elba's No Good Deeds finally unseated Guardians of the Galaxy at the box office.  The USA defeated Serbia to take home the gold at the FIBA World Cup and bad things continue to happen in the Middle East.

What's tickling your fancy this week?  Sound off in the Madhouse!

In the last 12 months nearly every player who has worn a Suns' uniform enjoyed a career year. Who is next?

The 2013/14 season was one of the strangest damn things the NBA has seen in recent history. When does nearly an entire team of castoffs and role players suddenly leap to previously unseen levels of production all at once? The Suns featured at least three players who were legitimate candidates for Most Improved Player, and that is excluding Eric Bledsoe, who missed half the season.

Is this a by-product of the system of Jeff Hornacek? If so, who is the next player to make a Sunsian leap? Let's look at the candidates.

Archie Goodwin

Last Season: Archie's rookie season was basically a mulligan as the Suns unexpectedly found themselves in a playoff race and opted to sign veteran Leandro Barbosa on the cheap rather than expose the jittery 19-year-old Goodwin. He still managed decent levels of production despite limited playing time, putting up 13.1 points on .455 from the field with a surprising 5.9 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The Mongoose showed flashes of brilliance when given the opportunity. There were only four games last season in which Goodwin played 19 minutes or more, but in those four games he shot a scalding 27/38 from the floor for 69 points.

What he'll need to improve: Getting older would help. Archie still just turned 20 years old in August. In the meantime, he'll need to add to his boyish frame. He is listed at 198 pounds, which is absurdly generous. Another year with Shot Doctor Hornacek will hopefully improve his scud missile jumpshot -- Goodwin shot a nasty .139 from deep during his rookie year.

His playmaking will also need to improve, specifically his tendency towards tunnel vision when attacking the rim, which resulted in his abysmal 1.6 APG per 36 -- fewer than Channing Frye.

Outlook: This could very well be another redshirt year for Goodwin, especially if Eric Bledsoe returns to our planet and the Suns are able to form the envisioned triple-PG attack with Bled, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. Also returning will be the incumbent backup 2-guard Gerald Green, who was the team's second leading scorer per 36 and drained 40% from deep last season.

Archie will need a bit of luck to come his way if he's going to find himself a rotation spot in 2014/15, no matter how much progress he may show.

Alex Len

Last Season: Len saw even less time than Goodwin in 2013/14, and during his brief stints of playing time his potential was as tantalizing as his inexperience was obvious. The Suns were extremely cautious with the big Ukrainian's suspect ankles, as Len had appeared in only 4 games as late as January 7th. It also didn't help his cause for playing time that Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris only missed three games combined all season.

While he was able to contribute with his paint defense and rebounding (9.8 boards per 36), on offense he was painfully tentative and there was only one game out of his 42 played in which he attempted more than five shots from the field. This contributed to his .423 FG%, which is a trifle embarrassing for a dude that stands over seven feet tall.

What he'll need to improve: Len will need to find his niche on offense and it would make a tremendous difference if he could shoot better than 5/23 from outside 10 feet and 0/8 outside of 16 feet. He seemed to handle himself will from midrange during his time at Maryland and has decent enough form, so expect the jumpers to fall at some point.

On the other end of the court, Len must learn to defend the paint without fouling. As the roster currently stands, the PF spot will be handled by a platoon of Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Anthony Tolliver, which means that any hope the Suns have of defending the paint rests upon the shoulders of Len and Plumlee at the center position. If he can cut down on his comical 6.8 fouls per 36 while maximizing the ability he showed at times to protect the rim, the effect it would have on this Suns team cannot be understated.

Outlook: Unlike Goodwin's situation, the stars seem to be aligning for Len. The Suns decision not to enlist any outside help at the center position in light of Channing Frye's departure spoke volumes. It appears that they want to keep a window open for Len, but whether or not he's ready is a different story. The big man has all the tools to be a successful center in the NBA if his ankles permit, but keep in mind that he just celebrated his 21st birthday a mere three months ago. There is a good chance that he just isn't ready yet, even if the Suns are.

Marcus Morris

Last Season: While Marcus didn't enjoy quite the leap that his twin brother Markieff did, he still posted career highs in virtually every category while establishing himself as a rotation player at either forward spot. A more cynical type might be inclined to call that a polite euphemism for a tweener,but  when one knocks down 38% of his three-point attempts as did Mook in 2013/14, it holds less bearing what position one plays.

Not to be a one-trick pony, Mook also shot .486 from 10-16 feet on a healthy 109 attempts, and his 15.9 points per 36 ranked fifth overall on the team.

What he'll need to improve: While Marcus' scoring earned him a spot in the rotation and a career-high 22 minutes per game, he'll need to round out the rest of his game if he wants to have a chance at a starting gig during his career. Per 36 minutes he ranked 9th in rebounding, 8th in assists, 12th in blocks and 10th in free-throw attempts among his teammates.

While he managed to not embarrass himself on defense, he also didn't exactly lock anyone down on the perimeter and had an unfortunate tendency to play smaller than his 6'9 frame suggests when battling down low. While his scoring was steady and reliable, he has been particularly unspectacular throughout his career. Last season he managed only a pair of 20+ point games -- in both games he went for 22, and they were six months apart. He has only registered double-digit rebounds one time (January 2013, with Houston) and has never had a double-double.

While the progress that Marcus has made shouldn't be sold short, he simply needs to find more ways to leave his mark on the court.

Outlook: The sky is the limit for Marcus. With Frye's departure the door is open for someone, anyone, to step into those stretchy shoes. If Marcus can find a way to play a bit bigger down low while maintaining his shooting from deep, he'll find himself a vital cog in the system of Jeff Hornacek, and right in time for his 2014 payday.

Anthony Tolliver

Last Season: After a lackluster stint with Atlanta, Tolliver rediscovered his shooting touch in 2013/14 with the Horncats, torching the nets to the tune of a career high .413 from deep. While the Horncats employed him mainly at small forward, he'll be returning to his more natural 4-spot with the Suns as they saw in Tolliver a low-risk opportunity to replace the void left by Channing Frye. Like Frye, Tolliver does a good deal of damage from above the break, which is a crucial ingredient to the Suns' offense.

What he'll need to improve: In Tolliver we have a particularly cut-and-dried case. He is on the floor to shoot and specifically to make defenses pay for collapsing in the paint. With Dragic, Thomas, and hopefully Bledsoe in tow, that paint will be collapsing a lot. If Tolliver can replicate Frye's ability to not just spot up and knock down open shots, but also to set the pick and trigger the attack, he'll be pure gravy for the Suns.

With his unimposing 6'8, 240 pound frame, don't expect the A-Train to hold down the paint or sweep the boards. I suppose there's always a chance that he can defy conventional wisdom and have a sudden epiphany at 29 years of age at either of these areas, but don't count on it.

Outlook: As with Marcus, in this offense the door is always open for those who can hit from downtown -- bonus points if they can do it from the frontline. Tolliver might be a bit too one-dimensional to have what can be called a breakout year, especially as he begins what is likely the back-half of his career, but dammit if this guy wasn't born to be a Phoenix Sun.

Miles Plumlee

Last Season: Plumlee already had what can easily be argued as a breakout season in 2013/14, coming out of nowhere to begin the season as the starting center for the Suns. Due to his impact on defense and as an athletic finisher he did just enough to hold onto his starting spot throughout the season, even as he seemingly ran out of gas about halfway through.

What he'll need to improve: The Plumster desperately needs to add something to his offensive repertoire besides easy dunks and hustle points. The Plum Diary only made 18 shots outside of 10 feet all year. He converted only 38% of his hookshots, which didn't deter him from attempting them 166 times.

The Plum of all Fears will also need to prove that last season's uninspiring second half was an aberration and possibly a product of the grind of his first NBA season.

Outlook: The Plumdinger will surely be feeling a bit squeezed if backup center Alex Len shows any development. The Suns have invested a fifth overall draft pick in Len, and unless he either proves totally incompetent or his ankles explode, he'll get his crack at the starting lineup at some point. There is no time like the present for Plumsauce to show that he belongs as a starting center in the NBA, and is more than just a poor man's DeAndre Jordan with nothing but emphatic dunks that are still only worth two points and average rim protection.

He has a full year under his belt now and should be just entering his prime, so don't be surprised if he staves off the burgeoning Ukrainian and makes some hay in 2014/15.

Who's your guy?

Drop a vote in the poll and let us know why in the comments -- who is the next Phoenix Sun to take a leap in 2014/15? And lest you think I'm all sunshine and roses, stay tuned for the upcoming counter-post when I'll be nominating a handful of candidates on this Suns team that might be crashing back to Earth this year.

Who will break out in 2014/15?

  1077 votes | Results

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