In the 2014 NBA Draft the Phoenix Suns will be drafting No. 14, 18, 27, and 50 at the very least. Up next the sneaky good No. 18 Overall Pick.
Last year the Utah Jazz turned the No. 14 & 21 picks into Trey Burke while those two picks went to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the form of Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. The trade worked out pretty well for both teams in year one with Burke being a catalyst for the team and Dieng catching fire for a period as the best player in the world. Removing tongue from check now and continuing on...
They also have the 27th and 50th picks respectively, but those are for another day. Focusing on the 18th Overall Pick and what that could bring the Suns is actually much more positive than one would think on the surface. In every draft there is a player that is widely looked at as a Top 10 talent that falls down to the middle of the first round and is available around where the Suns are sitting. Whether that is Avery Bradley at No. 19 in 2010 or Kawhi Leonard at No. 15 in 2011, there is always at least one talent that slides down to a fortunate team. Or a smart team depending on how you look at it.
Over the past nine years using the same window as the analysis on the last pick the 18th pick offers up an average career PER of 13.46 while the NBA League Average was 13.5 this past season.
Just like with the 14th Overall Pick there odds of landing a star are slim, but the odds of a league average player with potential is there. All but one player drafted in this spot in the past nine years is still in the NBA playing a role on a team. The exception is Oleksiy Pecherov which was, if you recall, was one in a chain of missed picks by the Washington Wizards from 1999 to John Wall. To take that a step further, Pecherov (11.9) played in the league for three seasons and netted a career PER that is nearly a full four points higher than Chris Singleton (8.2), another Wizards draft pick at the 18th Overall spot.
Yes that list includes two current Suns and an All-Star point guard. Not too bad.
The past is not an exact indicator of the representative talent in this years class or any draft class going forward, but trends are not to be ignored. If you have a Top three pick you are more likely to draft a franchise altering player than at any other part of the draft. If you are drafting at No. 14 then there is the opportunity to net a league average player that will likely be off your roster in2-4 years. Those are just trends that are established over time. Surface value information.
The 18th Pick seems to have more stability in terms of a long-term NBA talent that has the potential to be between league average and above league average overall.
Payne fills a power forward mandate and could compliment the skill-set of Alex Len or Miles Plumlee with his shooting, athleticism, and defensive potential. Drafting a four with the 14th Pick opens up a well of opportunities from drafting a wing to a trade to the draft-and-stash philosophy with an international prospect.
The top international prospect in that range is Clint Capela, Swiss F/C, No. 24 Overall. He has the athletic tools to be a Serge Ibaka type athlete and defender, but questions of his skill, footwork, and motor are what have him sliding down draft boards since the Nile Hoops Summit. Others to consider are Jusuf Nurkic (C, Bosnia No. 49), Nikola Jokic (C, Serbia No. 51), Kristaps Porzingis (PF, Latvia No. 53), and Vasilije Micic (PG, Serbia No. 44). All are reaches in this spot, but with the current roster having a farm system in Europe is not necessarily a bad thing.
In the next year or two the Chicago Bulls are going to bring over Nikola Mirotic which will be like having an additional lottery pick without picking. The same could happen with the Suns if they go the draft-and-stash route.
Outside of a trade, draft-and-stash, or selecting one of the varying talented wings with this pick there is a lot to be desired here. Unless there is that Top 10 type talent that falls down to the this range. Someone like Dario Daric (F, Croatia No. 10) fits the mold as both a forward and a draft-and-stash prospect. Gary Harris (No. 9) or Marcus Smart (No. 8) does not fit an immediate need, but have very good value as combo guards that could play with Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Archie Goodwin in different line-ups.
Who will fall, if anyone? Once again, the Phoenix Suns are in a position with various options, none of which are negative.
Next up: A review of the No. 27 Overall Pick
It's sure to be the best of all the report cards. Don't act like you aren't going to read it.
From the maker of ‘The Legend of Ish Smith's Three Point Shooting', a piece of writing the critics called
"a waste of time"
while also being
"a bit disingenuous"
comes the heartwarming story of 4 Suns basketball players nobody else on the writing staff wanted to commit to writing about.
Sure they don't have the overwhelming talents of Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe nor the upside of Alex Len or Archie Goodwin but they were Phoenix Suns just the same. This is the story of the 2nd best Ukranian center on the roster, the 30 year-old part-time player, the Seven Seconds or Less relic, and the always happy hypeman.
This is about those guys. The other guys.
In the event you still don't know who or what I'm talking about (because, density) - this is the report card for Slava Kravtsov, Shavlik Randolph, Leandro Barbosa, and Dionte Christmas.
None of those 4 players were on the Suns during the 2012-13 season and it's entirely possible none of them will be on the Suns in the 2014-15 season. Combined they played just 85 games last year which is just three more than Channing Frye.
Here's your due - other guys.
How He Became a Sun:
Slava was acquired by the Suns along with Ish Smith in a deal that sent Suns uniform model Caron Butler to Milwaukee. I had sincerely never heard of the Ukrainian center before that trade occurred. He'd played 25 games for the Pistons the season before and was included by them in a summer trade that got Brandon Jennings to Detroit. 4 weeks after that he was dealt to the Suns - a moment that changed all of our lives forever.
Um - do you just want me to analyze every single minute he played? I mean that's a thing we probably have time for, but since that sounds exhausting for me and pointless for most I'll spare us.
Here were his pertinent statistical contributions:
Kravtsov managed to play more than 5 minutes in a game just once when he played a whopping 9 and a half minutes in the Suns 29 point defeat at the hands of the Warriors. He also produced 25% of his scoring output in that game and recorded 3 rebounds.
Slava was 2nd in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 36 minutes for any player who participated in more than 15 games. This proves once and for all that per 36 numbers are hilarious to manipulate.
To sum this up more quickly, Slava Kravtsov warmed the bench for a while until the Suns organization thought they needed someone who could actually play in games when needed. The arrival of Shavlik Randolph on March 2nd marked the end of the Slava era.
(1) Jacob Padilla REALLY not liking how I kept misspelling his name in the thread for the BSotS Season Preview Google Hangout - just flip through this bad boy for a fun read.
(2) Slava Owning the Knicks:
6 seconds of playing time I'll remember forever. I briefly thought about making this 2 and a half minute video the entire post.
(3) iah725 and rsavaj combine for an epic Bright Side moment:
Since he got waived by the Suns in March and wasn't particularly good in the first place I'm having a very hard time imagining a scenario where he plays for Phoenix again.
I suppose in theory he could surface with another team in the NBA, as he's just 26, but I'm admittedly not terribly optimistic.
Grade: He was a 12th man that played 59 total minutes on the season. The expectations were non-existent and he did very little to remind us that he existed. So I don't know, C. Yeah, C. (As a side note I really thought we had more Arrested Development fans on this site. In the Ish Smith report card I gave him a grade of "Crocodile" which I thought at least a few of you would catch as Maeby Funke's spelling grade at her old alternative school. For shame.)
How He Became a Sun:
Randolph finished playing a season in China for the Foshan Long Lions and was picked up by the Suns on March 2nd for the stretch run.
The former Duke big had spent parts of 6 seasons in the NBA for Philadelphia, Portland, Miami, and the Celtics before joining the Suns. As with most Ryan McDonough moves this basically came out of nowhere, further driving home the point that rosterbaition is as pointless as my writing.
Unlike Slava, Shavlik Randolph had a few moments to remember that weren't related to hilarious things I remember on Bright Side comment threads.
Statistically he played just 95 minutes in his 14 games and scored only 20 points and had 25 rebounds but he had a few games where he actually provided a stabilizing force as a big man. On 4 different occasions Randolph played over 10 minutes in a game and only once was it because the game didn't matter - that being the season finale against the Kings.
(1) Debut - In his debut against the Hawks, Randolph immediately played 10 minutes in the Suns home win. This general period was a trying time for Miles Plumlee, so it helped to get decent minutes from a reliable big.
(2) Blazer Rally - In a late season game remembered more for Gerald Green throwing an alleyoop to himself, Shavlik provided 12 minutes and 41 seconds of sweetness against the Blazers. Randolph entered the game with 4:43 remaining in the 3rd quarter and the Suns trailing 72-66, when he left 8 minutes and 43 seconds later, the Suns were ahead 92-85. Sarcastically that was all him - not sarcastically he made a difference.
(3) Obligatory Third Moment - In a few key minutes against the Clippers, Shavlik recorded his season high of 9 points and oversaw the Suns cutting the Clippers 4th quarter deficit from 15 to 5 before he left the game. This was the one where the Suns blew a 12 point third quarter lead and Matt Barnes scored 10,000 points.
The Suns have a team option on Randoph for 2014-15 but given his veteran status I'd be pretty surprised if the Suns brought back a big man who's going to be 31 during the 1st month of next season.
Grade: He was basically a street free agent the Suns picked up and he provided useful minutes a few times. I'll give him a C+.
How He Became a Sun:
The day before it was announced that Eric Bledsoe would be out indefinitely, the Suns signed Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract. Barbosa had torn his ACL playing for the Celtics the previous season but had rehabbed very quickly and was playing in Brazil at the time the Suns signed him.
Anybody who's been a Suns fan for any decent period of time remembers that the Suns acquired Barbosa in a 2003 draft day trade and he later spent 7 seasons with the team during the heart of the Seven Seconds or Less era. Barbosa was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in the 2006-2007 season, could score points in bunches, and was a fan favorite.
After leaving Phoenix in a trade with Toronto that brought the Suns another fan favorite in Hedo Turkoglu, Barbosa played most of 2 seasons for the Raptors before being dealt to Indiana. A short stop Indiana led to another short stop in Boston where he apparently made an impression on Ryan McDonough.
Uneven probably sums it up nicely. ACL injury or not Barbosa clearly had retained his trademark speed and ability to get to the basket. However the shooting stroke that led him to hit nearly 40% of his 1,781 three point attempts in his first stint as a Phoenix Sun seemed to abandon him in the second stint.
In his 20 games with the Suns - Barbosa averaged 7.5 points per game on 42.7% FG and 28% 3P while playing 18.4 minutes per game. He's Leandro Barbosa so I'm pretty sure you all know his assist numbers are irrelevant - frankly I'm surprised he had any.
When healthy, the Brazilian Blur was a regular member of the rotation. Healthy was a bit of a trick though. In his 4th game with the team, Barbosa injured his shoulder in his smoking hot 4th quarter against the Knicks - which resulted in him sitting out overtime and the next two games. Barbosa's last game of the season was March 4th when he broke his wrist on a drive to the basket in the 1st half of the Clippers game.
He basically bookended the period during which Eric Bledsoe was injured.
(1) His Return - On January 8, 2014 the Suns signed LB and a host of good feelings just washed over the majority of us. It came almost entirely out of nowhere and there were concerns about him taking minutes away from our other guards but "Suns sign Leandro Barbosa" was just a cool thing to see again.
(2) Lighting Up the Knicks - I mentioned this like a sentence ago, but in 30 minutes against the Knicks, LB scored 21 points including 14 in the 4th quarter to basically carry the Suns to overtime. Had he not hurt his shoulder and missed the entirety of the extra 5 minutes I'm pretty sure the Suns win that game.
(3) Putting Me On Blast -
@ScottHoward42 I will...for sure— Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlurBarbosa) January 28, 2014
My biggest joy from that was that Leandro Barbosa apparently searches his own name on Twitter - guess there's a lot of down time in the NBA. This was directly after the Suns road win over the 76ers and in his defense he shot 5/13 from three after that tweet. So, in my face.
Barbosa is an unrestricted free agent for the 2014-15 season. As much as it hurts the nostalgia part of my brain I would be really surprised to see the Blur back in Phoenix next year. While there were points this year where I was A-OK with him getting Archie Goodwin's minutes - those points will not exist next year.
Grade: Like I said above his performance was uneven - some days he was really good, other days not so good. That sounds perfectly average so he gets a C.
How He Became a Sun:
The walking pun had quite the journey before finally making an NBA regular season roster. After finishing college at Temple in 2009 - Christmas played in summer league with the 76ers and Clippers, played with the 76ers for the 2009-10 preseason, played in the Israeli Super League, played for the Kings in 2010 summer league, played in the Czech National League, played with PAOK and Rethymno of the Greek Basket League, signed with the Rockets in April of 2012 (but didn't play in a game), played for the Celtics in the 2012 summer league, played with CSKA Moscow (like our hero Trajan Langdon used to), played for Montepaschi Siena of Italy, played with the Jazz and Suns in the 2013 summer league (DEEP BREATH) and then signed with the Suns. Best run-on sentence ever.
As a 27 year old, Dionte Christmas was finally getting his shot in the NBA.
With the early season injury struggles of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, many of us probably forgot that Dionte Christmas was actually a member of the rotation for a few games. Christmas played double digit minutes in 6 games during the 2013-14 season - 4 of which were in November while the other 2 were the abhorrent loss to Golden State in December and the Dragic/Bledsoe-less Utah road game in late February.
On the year, Christmas appeared in 31 games and played a total of 198 minutes. In his heartwarming holiday minutes he jingled all the way to 71 points. Although advertised as a shooter, Christmas hit just 29% of his 31 attempts from long distance.
(1) NBA Debut - Becoming an NBA player is really, really hard. Becoming an NBA player for the first time when you're in your late 20's seems even harder. Dionte Christmas did both of those things on November 1st against the Jazz when he played nearly 15 minutes while scoring 9 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Oddly enough the 9 points would be his season high. Here's the video.
(2) Leaning Into the Puns -
(3) Happiness - if you watched any Suns game you saw Dionte Christmas cheering constantly, always being excited for his teammates, and basically being what you and I would be if we were sitting on the bench in uniform. If you could watch Christmas react to a play and not get a smile on your face then you probably aren't a human being.
Dionte has a non-guaranteed contract for the 2014-15 season with a price tag of $816,482. While he's pretty much the perfect 12th man on an NBA roster, you have to wonder whether the combination of rookies and new players will force him out. It may take some sort of Hanukkah miracle.
Grade: A+ - mainly because he was just so darn happy to be there. I find his actual basketball play to be irrelevant to the situation.
While one highly notable NBA mess is getting rightfully cleaned up, another blight is still left unchecked. The worst officiated professional sport reared its ugly head again as referees butchered a replay and altered the outcome of a playoff game.
The NBA's dirty little secret.
Or is it even that much of a well-kept secret? Seemingly every NBA fan I know carries a chip on his shoulder to varying degrees over the way the games are officiated.
Superstar officiating. Playoff vs. regular season officiating. Home vs. road officiating. Make up calls. Late whistles. Phantom whistles.
I seriously think that many people have developed a psychosis where they think that the referees are out to get
them their team. But maybe, through their egregious incompetence, the refs actually are.
The first round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies has to be one of the more entertaining matchups in playoff history. Last night's game just set an NBA record by going into overtime for the fourth straight time in the series. Four straight overtime games between two teams.
These games are a grind and have been decided by the slimmest of margins.
After game five the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves down three games to two after a heartbreaking loss in overtime at home. After a Kevin Durant heave from well behind the three point line bounced off the rim into the waiting hands of Serge Ibaka, Ibaka's last second fling went in just after the red lights lit up on the backboard.
As the announcer on NBATV said, it was an "eyelash" too late.
Except it wasn't.
I knew before the Thunder inbounded the ball for their last possession that the game clock was wrong. They just showed multiple replays of the previous possession where Zach Randolph was the last player to touch a ball that went out of bounds. NBATV went forward and backward through the play with the clock running in the bottom right corner of the screen so anyone sitting at home could see who touched the ball last and how much time was on the clock.
After the referees correctly decided that the ball belonged to Oklahoma City they reset the game clock, which had gone down to 2.6 seconds. The problem was that they reset it to 2.9 seconds. The problem was that there were still 3.1 seconds left.
The referees reviewed the play and reset the clock to the wrong time. In game five of a tightly contested playoff series they managed to put the wrong time on the clock before the last play of the game... Because of course two tenths of a second could never be important in that type of situation.
Their replay process led them to be two tenths of a second off. Let me illustrate how absurd that is.
I took the following pictures with my phone by freezing the replay that NBATV showed while the referees were deliberating. Using my DVR and smartphone I achieved a greater degree of accuracy than the referees could with the "technology" they are using for replay.
Forgive the quality of the shots. Hilariously enough, however, they are crystal clear in their ability to illustrate the correct time that should have been put on the clock. Just imagine that these murky, milky shots are how the game looks through the eyes of the referees...
This is before the ball bounces. Notice how it is blocking the middle of the H and is above the left side of the U.
Here is where the ball bounces. This is where the clock should have stopped. Notice how the ball has moved down so that it is completely covering the left side of the U and has moved to the right of the middle of the H.
Here's the final shot. The ball has now moved back towards the H and completely off of the U. Its path has been shown to move from the left to the right and down, then back up. It has clearly bounced. 100% clear. There is still 3.1 left on the game clock.
I actually considered researching better still frames, but in the end my tv selfies seemed like a great way to toss salvos at the insane inaccuracy of the 2.9 second ruling.
It's pretty interesting that they were able to use the replay technology to conclusively rule Ibaka's shot was too late, but they couldn't get the clock right on the review exactly before that play. Based on the track record from that call, maybe they didn't even review the video of Serge's fling and just flipped a coin to decide the victor.
After the game I ran this error by a few people for feedback. Some were upset about the end of the game. That Ibaka was fouled on that last shot... That Randolph was over the back on the previous possession... That replay should be expanded so that corrections could be made in obvious circumstances.
That Joey Crawford inexplicably ran towards Durant like a crazy man and took the ball from him before he took (and missed) his second free throw that would have tied the game. Oddly enough, it was because he noticed an inconsistency with the team fouls on the scoreboard. How ironic is that?
But I got other responses, too. Responses to the effect that if you start looking into that last missed call, what about the one before that and the one before that... There are just too many to keep track of. Responses that replay just causes too many problems because it reveals how many calls actually are missed.
Basically, people are either upset about the poor quality of the officiating or resigned to the fact that the quality of the officiating is poor.
This week the NBA finally stepped up and did the right thing by taking care of a problem (Sterling) that had gone on far too long.
My advice to Adam Silver would be to maintain that positive momentum and take care of another problem (officiating) that has gone on far too long. He could start by making sure the referees put the correct time on the clock before the final plays in playoff games...
An issue was raised as to whether the clock superimposed on the bottom right hand of the screen matched the actual game clock. Here is a picture that shows the official game clock at 3.0 seconds well after the ball has bounced.