This week's Phoenix Suns mailbag is chock full of interesting questions. We go from P.J. Tucker's shoes to Ryan McDonough's mind, but the best topic might be constructing a best-ever Suns team that fits within today's NBA salary cap.
P.J. Tucker loves his shoes. He keeps them at the arena, at home, at his mom's home and even in storage. He's got more than 2,000 pairs to his name, though he never wears them more than once.
"I love shoes," Tucker said. "It drives my wife crazy."
My best guess is to recruit P.J.'s wife in the plan, to convince her husband to part with some shoes to adoring fans. You could start by hitting up P.J.'s twitter feed, as we all know our wives read our twitter feed as much as we do. P.J.'s mother is the next best place to go. Find her and make a plea to dump all those shoes in her house onto fans like you.
Good luck! Let me know how it turns out.
The Suns are where Houston was in 2011, prior to acquiring James Harden in October. They have all the assets to acquire a star, and now just need to wait until a team is ready to part with one. You can't get a star unless he's available. Houston was ready to ride out the 2011-12 season without a star until Harden became available.
Arguably, LeBron James and Chris Bosh could be available this summer, but it's highly unlikely they are ready to jump to new teams yet. Those are the only two established stars you'd spend big cap space on.
Otherwise, you're waiting on Minnesota, for example, to decide it's time to trade Kevin Love. If you're waiting on a trade, then gobs of cap space is only marginally valuable, so I can see the Suns doing another Bledsoe-type deal to acquire an underused young talent. Maybe not Harrison Barnes as suggested (for example) in the article, but someone who has a high upside. If the Suns add more picks, they will be in future years (2016 and beyond). McDonough mentioned that in the end-of-season press conference.
This is a great question for a full article. But the nutshell might be that if everyone comes back next year (and the rookies have little impact), the Suns will be hard-pressed to win 48 games again.
The Suns FO plans for continual improvement, but reality is that at least one guy will regress next season. Maybe not on the court, but in attitude and frame of mind. Gerald Green, Goran Dragic, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and maybe even Channing Frye (if he picks up his player option next month) will all be playing for contracts, which might add a little discontent to the locker room.
You don't necessarily have to enter his mind. You simply need to install a listening device in his office. This is apparently an easy task, as every crime show on TV uses that tactic one way or another. Just slip into the the Suns offices and plant bugs in McD and Babby's offices. Load up Asst GM Pat Connelly's office and Trevor Buckstein's offices while you're at it.
What you're likely to hear is a lot rosterbation, phone calls, cap maneuvering... basically everything fans do on BSotS except with the power to act. Babby and Buckstein do a ton of research on what is a good contract value, while everyone partakes in the talent valuations. You'll probably hear a thousand ideas, out of which might come three or four actual moves. Because one team's plan is another team's punchline, more often than not.
This is a weird question, so I'll give a weird answer. My kids are older now and (pretty much) all grown up, so I admit to a bit of nostalgia when I read the recent Goran Dragic interview. If I could switch places for a week, it would be with Goran just to be around Mateo. I love babies. Goran's wife is pretty hot too, but I wouldn't be able to understand a word she said so the communication efforts might be a bit awkward.
While I'm there as Goran, I'd spend the week doing two things: (a) taking care of the kid and (b) contacting my Slovenian team to tell them I need the summer off. The real Goran would probably appreciate me taking care of that for him.
Helluva question, Beav. My first-hand experience as a Suns fan dates back to the 80s, so I can't really name anyone from the 70s with any real knowledge of their game. My guess is that Connie Hawkins was the best small forward in Suns history, that Alvan Adams might have been the best center, and Paul Westphal or Walter Davis the best shooting guard. But I didn't see any of those guys in their prime.
Going from 1988 forward, while staying within the salary cap rules, it's a really tough call. Your criteria was to put them on the Suns "in their prime" which also means at the peak of their salary worth. Even putting three of the Suns' best-ever players in the starting lineup kills the salary cap.
The late-80s Suns had the benefit of cheap rookie-scale contracts for Majerle, KJ and Hornacek for most of that time. The mid-2000s Suns had rookie contracts for JJ, Barbosa and then Diaw as well, until they had to be extended. For this exercise, though, it's a cop-out to use rookie-scale contracts.
Every contract has to be at market value. Kevin Johnson, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire don't make the list because their prohibitive contracts (making assumptions on KJ's here) would limit what I can do with the rest of the roster. I'm picking guys who had great value contracts in their prime, and in the case of 90s players I'm bringing their cap number to modern-day values.
That's $71.5 million committed to 8 players, just under this year's luxury tax line, so the rest of the roster would be journeymen and/or rookies. This combination of players gives us 3 league MVP awards surrounded by highly-talented role players who would have covered up for Nash and Barkey's defensive deficiencies on quality contracts.
Danny Manning was quite possibly the best value signing in the history of the franchise. He took a big discount to join the Suns, which today translates to a mid-level deal.
We couldn't afford Shawn Marion, but Danny Manning and Clifford Robinson would have been tremendous compliments to Sir Charles and MVSteve on both ends of the court. Dragic gets the nod at shooting guard as one of the best values in team history, with Barbosa and EJ providing spacing off the bench. Mark West anchors the middle.
This team would have been the league's best on offense, while providing quality defense in Robinson and West with support from Manning and Dragic. Clifford Robinson, in particular, was a tremendous defensive player in his prime.
My coach has to be Cotton. Jeff Hornacek doesn't have the track record yet, and Paul Westphal was a flameout as coach. Cotton was a better version of Mike D'Antoni because he schemed for better D than the mid-2000s Suns ever provided. The last 80s/early 90s Suns got top-10 finishes on D with regularity while playing an undersized team every year.
What's your all-time Suns team?
By the way, make sure you wish a Happy Mothers Day to all the moms in your life. Not just the one that spat you out, but anyone else who's been a great influence in your life deserves the accolades as well.
We've saved the best for last in our Bright Side of the Sun season review report cards.
Goran Dragic has had an incredibly interesting career thus far. The peaks have been high, the valleys have been low and there have been plenty of both in his six seasons in the NBA.
You needn't have even followed his career as closely as most of us here on the Bright Side have to know what I'm talking about; all you would need to do is take a look at his win shares per 48 throughout his career.
Report from &amp;amp;lt;a href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/" mce_href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/"&amp;amp;gt;Basketball-Reference.com&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;.
It really is bizarre. Dud (rookie year) to stud (sophomore year; Spurs fourth quarter) to dud (third year slump) to stud (back-up in Houston) to stud (back-up/starter in Houston) to stud (first year back in Phoenix) and finally to star (this year). Dragic even surprised himself this year.
"In some games, yes, [I was surprised by my play]," Dragic said. "But my confidence was high. A lot of credit goes to my teammates. They make me better. My coach makes me better. But I always had this in my head that I can play in this league; that I'm good enough. If you ask me I'm always, probably like every player thinks he's the best, and I always think for myself I'm good enough and top 10 of players."
Last year, the Suns struggled mightily but Dragic put up a solid individual season.
Report from &amp;lt;a href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/" mce_href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/"&amp;gt;Basketball-Reference.com&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;.
14 points and 7 assists are solid if not spectacular numbers for a starting point guard. Dragic flashed moments of brilliance, but the consistency wasn't there. He was a good scorer, but seemed content to take a bit of a back seat at times and looked to set everyone else up before himself, even though he didn't have a lot of talent around him. The aggression and will to dominate was not there on every play.
Fast forward one year, and Dragic is a completely different player.
Report from &lt;a href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/" mce_href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/"&gt;Basketball-Reference.com&lt;/a&gt;.
No more taking a back seat. Dragic let everyone know that Phoenix was his team. He put up numbers we've seen from few guards in the history of the game. And now he is likely to be named to one of the All-NBA teams. The only thing that slowed him down this year were injuries, something he will hopefully be able to avoid next year.
Dragic averaged 20.3 points on 50 shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from 3-point range. Dragic became one of the best finishers in the game, and got to the rim more than he ever has before.
Per Synergy, Dragic scored 1.23 points per possession and shot 63.3 percent in transition. He scored 0.98 points per possession in isolation, good for 26th among all qualifying players. He also scored 0.98 points per possession as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, good for 10th among all players, and shot 51.5 percent.
We all knew Dragic was really fast and very athletic, but he managed to channel and refine that speed and athleticism this year to turn himself into a deadly scorer. He also refined his pull-up and step-back jumpers as a counter when the lane was cut off, and steadily improved his 3-point shooting as the season progressed.
The side effect of Dragic's new ultra aggression was a drop in his assist numbers, but that is a trade-off the Suns were more than happy to make. Dragic still averaged a respectable 5.9 assists while splitting ball-handling duties with Eric Bledsoe, and his size double-digit assist games show he can still break down a defense and find his teammates when the situation calls for it.
Dragic has a fiery personality and plays with great intensity on the court, and that is something his new backcourt mate Bledsoe said he appreciated and identified with.
"Goran is an unbelievable competitor," Bledsoe said. "He goes into every game wanting to win, me and him both. That's all you can ask from your two point guards."
Speaking of Bledsoe, there were many questions about the ability of Dragic and Bledsoe to coexist in one backcourt. All of those questions are hilarious in retrospect. There were some growing pains, but the two meshed very well and each other's presence allowed both to have the best season of their careers.
The Suns went 23-11 when both guards started, and their chemistry improved with every game they got under their belt. Bledsoe supplemented Dragic's 20 and 6 with 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds of his own. The Suns were able to pair up two of the best penetrating and finishing guards in the NBA, and the result was nearly a playoff berth after a 25-win season the year before. Their combination of speed and aggressiveness also allowed the two to get after opponents defensively when they were out there, only helping to force turnovers and fuel their vaunted fastbreak.
"No question [they were one of the best backcourts in the NBA]," P.J. Tucker said. "If you look at the numbers, what those guys mean to our team, the way they performed all year, hurt, fighting all kind of adversity, those guys stuck together and made it happen even when people didn't think it would be good. Those guys were amazing."
Dragic said this season was his second favorite behind only the 2010 Western Conference Finals run, and said it was individually the best of his career. However, Dragic is not content with where he is at, and knows there is still work to do.
"My goal is to not only have one season like that," Dragic said. "Of course, you need to have several seasons like that to be an elite point guard and I'm still not there and I still need to work hard."
Dragic may have been named the league's Most Improved Player this season, but he is planning on coming back even better next year.
"I'm like a broken record," Dragic said. "Every exit meeting I say the same: try to work on my game and try to be a better player, a complete player. This season was an unbelievable season for me, and just for my name to be mentioned in that category [with other top players], it's shown me that I'm on the right path, I'm working hard and I'm still not done. I still have to improve some things."
Now go watch this highlight video if you're suffering from Dragic withdrawals.