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The Phoenix Suns summer squad was efficient today. And three players were out of this world. Combined stats: 21-27 from the field, 5-6 on threes, 12-16 on free throws. That's 59 points on just 27 shots for Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Archie Goodwin combined.

"There's nothing about Goodwin I don't like," former head coach and current NBATV analyst Sam Mitchell said in the third quarter.

Archie Goodwin was all over the court, looking so fluid and natural that you could tell the game comes totally easy to him. At 18, he's a boy among men who won't even be able to drink when/if he plays his THIRD Summer League season. But in terms of talent he's head and shoulders above anyone else on that court today.

And this is without Goodwin really knowing how to play basketball yet. He is just playing instinctively, moving without the ball, defending his man and running out on the break with ease.

Goodwin started strong and stayed strong, collecting fouls on the opponent's big men to the point that early in the third quarter the ultra-aggressive Quincy Acy stepped away to let Goodwin score easily on yet another drive to the hoop.

Goodwin had 19 points (5-5 shooting, 2-2 on threes), 2 blocks, 2 rebounds and an assist before the end of the third. He played in the fourth, but didn't contribute much (1 point, 1 rebound) as the Suns stopped running very much while they waited out the rest of the game. Goodwin is clearly better in the open court, where he can use his speed and quicks.

It helps that he was surrounded by four NBA rotation players most of the time (Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall, P.J. Tucker), but even among those guys he was the most talented guy out there.

The Morrii had good offensive games and the most encouraging development was their efficiency, taking only good shots within the offense and nearly always within 15 feet of the basket. Both went 8-11 from the floor, getting 39 points between them on just 22 shots. After last year's wild 30% shooting in Vegas for Markieff, this is a welcome development that harkens back to Morris' college days where he made a high percentage of his shots. Hopefully gone are the days of free shots from 22 feet out (hint: they are free because the defense WANTS you to shoot those).

P.J. Tucker was P.J. Tucker. The heart and soul of this team.

The best non-roster Suns player of the game was shooting guard Dionte Christmas. TWICE, Christmas drew the foul on a three-pointer that he made. Rarely is a guy fouled behind the three-point line, and almost never does the shot go in. Christmas did that twice because he caught-and-shot the ball on the run with a chasing defender who ended up running into him. That's skill. Christmas doesn't need to gather - he just needs to stop on a dime and put it up.

The Suns could really use more shooting, but with Shannon Brown under contract already behind the rotation of Bledsoe, Dragic, Marshall, Goodwin and (maybe) Garrett, there will be little room for another shooter unless it's a bench-warming spot only. Still, he might get a camp invite.

One guy who had a really forgettable, like "let's burn that tape", game was Kendall Marshall. He repeatedly made ill-advised passes in the open court and half court, and got his pocket picked a few times while dribbling at mid-court which all turned into a lot of Raptor points. Not sure what was on Kendall's mind today, but it wasn't this game. His final line was 6 points, 2 assists and 5 turnovers. Ouch.

"He may play his way into the D-League if he doesn't pick up his play," Vincent said of Marshall at the end of the game. He suggested 35-40 D-League games would be better for Marshall than sitting on the Suns bench watching Bledsoe, Goodwin and Dragic play ahead of him.

For the Raptors, their best players of the night were Quincy Acy and Dwight Byucks, who scored 56 of the Raptors 98 points and were the only players in double figures. Byucks just signed a contract to come to training camp, and Acy is a fringe NBA player. Both were on fire all game, keeping the Raptors within striking distance. They even pulled within five points with a few seconds left while the Suns were sleep-walking.

But the Suns still won the game, if not in a cake walk. Jake Cohen had ice in his veins, making 6 free throws in the final minute to hold the lead for the Suns.

The Raptors best summer league players before today were big 21 year old center Jonas Valanciunas, who sat out with a sprained finger, and Terrence Ross, who was limited due to a 'who the hell is Archie Goodwin?' sprain. Jonas V was their #5 overall pick in 2011 and Terrence Ross was the #8 pick in 2012. Toronto traded their 2013 pick to Houston for Kyle Lowry, who traded it to OKC (in part) for James Harden. Terrence played but made no impact on the game, finishing with 9 points and 4 rebounds before fouling out early.

UPDATE:

Post-game audio from Archie Goodwin

Post-game audio from Coach Hornacek

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The Suns face the Raptors at 3pm AZ Time on NBATV in a fight to make the Final Four, or semifinals, of the inaugural Vegas SL Championship.

While watching the game, you can get a whiff of what we might eventually see in Alex Len and Archie Goodwin.

Valanciunas comparison to Alex Len

In a recent article, our resident scout Kris Habbas and a former scout for the Phoenix Suns, Amin Elhassan - both of whom have scouted college and international prospects for the last several years professionally - rated Suns draftee Alex Len on nearly the same plane as Raptors youngster Jonas Valanciunas.

The comparisons were done on a "when they were drafted" basis. Jonas, drafted 5th overall in 2011, was a skinny 19 year old kid from Europe with a range of skills and talent who just wasn't ready to play in the NBA yet. The Raptors were willing to wait. A year later, he came over to the NBA and began to make his mark in the rotation. Now at age 21, he's wowing the scouts and journos at Summer League with a near 20-10 stat line.

When you watch Valanciunas today, you might see someone that Suns rookie C Alex Len could someday compare to. Or, if Len doesn't pan out at all, you might see what could have been. Their games are not completely similar, but their body types and potential are right there.

Ross comparison to Archie Goodwin

This quality Raptors team also boasts last year's #8 overall pick, Terrence Ross, who was coveted by Suns fans as a shooting guard prospect. A year later, the Suns have the young Archie Goodwin in that spot. Today, you can use your own eyes to compare the two prospects.

Ross, a 3-and-D guy, was taken a lot higher in a better draft than Goodwin and is a lot more polished as an NBA player. So, expect to be impressed by Ross. He is averaging 13.5 points, 5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game in the SL.

Yet Goodwin, only 18, has been impressive if not consistent. He is putting up 11.8 points per game, with 3 rebounds and a .3 assists.

It will be fun to see them battle it out today.

The rest

While Jonas V and Ross are the headliners for the Raptors, the Suns boast three rotation players from last year's "worst in the West" team: Markieff and Marcus Morris, and P.J. Tucker. Plus, they play last year's lotto pick Kendall Marshall at PG.

Let's see if the Raptors can hang with the Suns balanced and deep squad.

Stats

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Stay patient, kid. Vegas will wait for you.
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There is has always been a constant battle within an organization to choose between building for the future or winning in the here and now. That battle often leads to questionable decisions that hindsight picks apart like ants on a piece of forgotten bread on the picnic blanket...

An ongoing trend in basketball has been the poor development of young players. Let's correct that statement: The poor development of non-superstar level players. Or to take it a step further simply the lack of development in basketball.

In recent years too many talented players that have the potential to add something to a franchise have been tossed aside like those pieces of bread on that blanket, but there is never a real, rationale, or reasonable reason delivered as to why. Why should an 18 or 22 year old that has shown promise simply be cast aside? Why is Thomas Robinson, a former No. 5 Overall pick in the NBA Draft, on his third NBA team begging for opportunity?

Also, why is Samantha Prahalis, the 2012 No. 6 Overall pick, without a job?

There is never a real answer as the responsibility is stripped from the organization that made a commitment to the player. Players are attacked and buried in the media when they move from team to team making power plays and demands like year after year. They do as they please or as much as they can with contracts being considered, but when they do that they are vilified. Organizations, general managers, and coaches do the same thing and are not.

The responsibility to develop these players is dismissed. The responsibility as a whole is dismissed, flicked into the grass, and along with the ants; completely forgotten.

That lack of development and lack of responsibility happens more and more in basketball. For the Phoenix Mercury, Sammy Prahalis is the latest casualty in the lack of responsibility to the younger generation of basketball players that may or may not have "superstar" potential. She became a fan favorite and showed promise as a rookie with little help around her before becoming one of those ants without a crumb, in the grass, and abandoned.

This is an affirmation of the times as young players are discarded without rationale, reason, or any sense of responsibility.

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Last season Prahalis filled in admirably for a group that more resembled an M.A.S.H. ward more than a professional basketball team.

She didn't ask any questions, just started 28 out of 28 games giving the Mercury a steady ball-handler in place of the idle Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor. With her at the helm of a team that suited up 14 different players the team only won seven games, but without Taurasi and Taylor they were the equivalent of the Miami Heat if they featured LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in suits with Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh as the nightly one-two-punch.

This season Prahalis started off doing only one thing wrong; playing behind All-World Taurasi who was back to claim her thrown in the WNBA after missing nearly all of last season.

By her own admittance Prahalis struggled early on, but the only reason she was brushed aside this week was because of a lack of patience, development, and team responsibility.

Yes, Taurasi is playing on a level not even seen by Taurasi during her amazing career. She is leading this team offensively playing at an all-time high. She needs the ball in her hands. But does that mean Prahalis does not need a locker in central Phoenix? Head Coach Corey Gaines speaks to the lack of minutes for Prahalis with direct correlation to the play of Taurasi. As a head coach it is Gaines responsibility to find the right role, spot, and time for his young guard to get on the court and develop.

Coaching is all about winning and a coach will do what is required to win no matter the cost. The game is the game and the system is rigged, but it does not mean it is right.

That cost can at times be punishing the infallible.

Across all levels of basketball this has become the case. Development and responsibility have been cast aside by coaches and teams to the point where players are more and more being put in this situation.

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Over the past five years 21 lottery picks were traded before making it to the end of their third season in the NBA. That is 4.2 players per lottery that are cast away for different reasons and circumstances, basically 30% of the lottery picks over the last five seasons. Between the years 2003-2007 there were 19 lottery picks that were traded or moved before the end of year three. The exclamation point came in 2010 with eight lottery picks flicked off the blanket in their first or second year in the league. No patience. No responsibility.

If that is the precedent going forward, what does that say about the game? If you are not a star by game 200 you are expendable?

Robinson is the new benchmark after lasting 51 games before the Sacramento Kings sent him off to a new home. Then, just 19 games later, the Houston Rockets delivered him to the Pacific Northwest for his third uniform in less than one year. For the first 51 games Robinson played in dysfunction with the Kings before they turned him into Patrick Patterson and cash.

The Mercury didn't turn Prahalis into anything. Rather, they waived her just 36 games into her career after eight DNP-Coaches Decisions and a rough start to her sophomore year.

As a 23 year old point guard Prahalis has the potential to be a serviceable starter for years to come, or, at worst, a change of pace guard off the bench that can create offense for others and shoot the ball. On a team filled with stars, aging by the minute, having a young talented player off the bench can be invaluable. It can be invaluable if the emphasis of the team is development.

There is no reward, no responsibility, and especially no trueheartedness in this business. This is after all is a thankless business for young players like Robinson, Prahalis, and many more to come.

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Much like any other professional sports league, the NBA is as much a business as it is the greatest mass display of the sport of basketball. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, ratified in December of 2011, is the contract between the NBA and its players that dictates the rules that the league, its teams, and its players must adhere to. Specifically, every NBA team is subject to certain financial restrictions that ultimately affect its success. Therefore, it is important to understand the relative standing of a team's salary situation in order to analyze its future opportunities for success.

The Phoenix Suns are currently in the midst of a very important transition period. The Suns' roster already looks significantly different that it did just a couple months ago, thanks in large part to new GM Ryan McDonough. As the team looks to continue and accelerate the rebuilding process, it hopes that the final result will yield a squad that can compete at an elite level for several years. Therefore, effective salary cap management is not just necessary, but crucial to the future success of this Suns team. A look at current and future Suns salaries reveals that the team will have many options to optimize future financial flexibility (for further information on the NBA salary cap, check out the CBA Salary Cap FAQ and my recent piece on how the 2013-14 salary cap affects the Suns).

Phoenix Suns Capology

In an effort to play the role of resident "capologist" here at Bright Side of the Sun, I compiled the spreadsheet above of the Suns' salary situation, which I will update and maintain as the team makes personnel changes (a link to the full spreadsheet can be found here). Most of the salary data was obtained from ShamSports and Hoopsworld.

As can be seen above, the Suns currently have 15 players on their roster with a total salary amount of $58,290,564, which leaves them just a hair short of the 2013-14 NBA salary cap. This means that as things currently stand, the Suns have very little room to maneuver in terms of team salaries or free agency. The team does have the "Room Exception" at its disposal, which would allow them to use a $2.652 million exception to sign a free agent. However, there's really no reason for them to go beyond the salary cap to sign an additional player. The Suns essentially lack the cap room AND the roster space to add any player without first getting rid of a player or two.

The Suns lack the cap room AND the roster space to add any player without first getting rid of someone.


The prime suspects to be included in any possible Suns trades throughout the course of this season are Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, and possibly Shannon Brown. Gortat is one of the team's most valuable yet tradeable assets due to the simple fact that he's probably more valuable to a team that is currently better than the Suns are right now. Scola is in the same boat as Gortat, though his value is lower. Brown currently has no place on this team and his expiring contract could prove to be useful to a contending team that might value his services off the bench (or he could be included as trade filler). Caron Butler (expiring) could also potentially be moved at some point in this upcoming season.

In any trade, the Suns would have to take back equal or less salary than they send out. After the Bledsoe and Butler for Dudley trade (which added about $6 million to the Suns' payroll), the team can no longer afford to take back additional salary in lopsided trades. The team also doesn't have the roster space to execute another two-for-one trade (like the Bledsoe trade, once again). The best bet for the Suns is to package two or more of the team's players for one player or expiring contract (and/or draft picks). A deal like that would free up cap space for this year and beyond and it would create a roster spot or two for the Suns to sign an additional player if need be (one of the member of the Summer League squad, for example).

Future Financial Flexibility

Looking at the Suns' salaries in future years, several things stand out. The team currently has three major expiring contracts in Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat, and Shannon Brown. Furthermore, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola's contracts are only partially guaranteed for the 2014-15 season. Although the absolute guaranteed total salary figure for the 2014-15 season is $15,594,880, we can assume that Channing Frye will pick up his player option for that season and that the team will pick up the team option on at least one or more of Kendall Marshall and the Morris twins.

Once you factor in the extension that Eric Bledsoe will receive from the team, the Suns will be looking at anywhere between $15-25 million in cap room in 2014 (depending on trades, 2014 draft picks, and decisions regarding the team options). If the Suns elect to retain their cap room next year and head towards a 2015 reset, the team could potentially have more than $40 milion in cap room the following year if Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, and Archie Goodwin are the only players with contracts through that year.

Even though much of this is largely hypothetical (anything can happen between now and 2014 to dramatically alter the team's cap situation), one can see that the Suns are well-equipped to optimize cap flexibility in the future. Although they are capped out for this NBA year, they will have significant cap space over the next couple offseasons to accelerate the rebuild. The team will probably be looking at a high 2014 draft pick and cap space for one max contract that year or multiple max contracts the following year.

Why Keep Shannon Brown?

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Suns fans were justifiably bewildered when the team elected not to waive Shannon Brown and his partially guaranteed salary for the 2013-14 season. I was one of the many people who had hopes that the team would choose to waive Shannon Brown and only have to pay him $1.75 million instead of the full $3.5 million the team now owes him.

However, there are definitely several reasons why keeping Brown is possibly better for the Suns' situation. Had the team waived him, they would essentially have paid half of his guaranteed salary just to get rid of him. Instead, they are now paying his full salary not necessarily just for his on-court services, but also for the right of control over him and his contract. The Suns now have the entirety of Brown's $3.5 million expiring contract on their books, which, believe it or not, could actually be an attractive asset to several teams. Moreover, they can now include Brown as part of a bigger deal in order to package multiple players and match salaries in a potential trade (like a 2-for-1 deal I referred to earlier). Furthermore, Shannon Brown is still an NBA rotation player. He may be of no use to this particular Suns team, but several other teams could find his skills (and his contract) useful.

Basically, there is almost always more value in paying a guy $3.5 million and having control over him than paying him $1.75 million just to get rid of him.

Why Keep Michael Beasley?

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Just a short year ago, many Suns fans were filled with excitement and hope that the enigmatic Michael Beasley would perhaps find a way to effectively and consistently unleash his "talent" and finally find a home in Phoenix. Fast forward to today and a large population of Suns fans are eager to chase him out of town, calling for the team to cut ties with him immediately. Although I agree that Beasley most likely doesn't have a future with this team, I argue that it makes more sense for the Suns to hold onto him for another year.

If the Suns waived Beasley today, they would take a cap hit of $6 million for the 2013-14 season and $3 million for the 2014-15 season (Beasley's 14-15 salary is only guaranteed for $3 million). If the team elected to use the stretch provision on him, his remaining guaranteed salary of $9 million would be paid in installments over the next five years, resulting in a cap hit of $1.8 million every year through the 2017-18 season.

If the Suns instead kept Beasley through this season, they could waive him outright in the 2014 offseason and only incur the $3 million cap hit resulting from his remaining guaranteed salary. They could also stretch his salary next year, which would result in the $3 million being paid over the course of three years, meaning that the team would take a cap hit of $1 million every year through the 2016-17. This means that the Suns would take a smaller cap hit per year AND for fewer years if they just keep Beasley through this season.

As can be seen, retaining Michael Beasley for one more year is actually much more beneficial to the Suns' financial future than it would be to waive or stretch him during this offseason. There is also the (incredibly small) chance that Beasley, in limited minutes, enjoys success on the court as a stretch four off the bench. Regardless of how the Suns plan to use him (or even if they don't want to play him at all), it makes more sense for the team to keep him around for another year. Sorry, Suns fans.

What about Luis Scola?

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Luis Scola's contractual situation is a bit different from the previous two examples. Claimed off amnesty waivers by the Suns last year, Scola finds himself as a 33 year old veteran stuck on a rebuilding squad. Scola's contract is a bit trickier than Brown's or Beasley's. He is set to make $4.5 million this season and although his full salary for the 2014-15 season is about $4.9 million, only $941K is guaranteed, with potential to increase to $1.441 million based on number of games played.

Only $941K of Scola's final year salary is guaranteed.


This means that Scola is essentially almost an expiring contract this year since he's only due less than $1 million next year. That makes him a much more attractive option to contending teams that might want to trade for him this season, knowing that they wouldn't have to pay the full $4.9 million salary to a 34 year old Scola in 2014. If the Suns hang onto him for this entire season, he could also be a very interesting trade chip during the next offseason due to his non-guaranteed salary. This useful caveat of his contract makes Scola a somewhat valuable asset to have in possible trades. Due to this fact (as well as the fact that this Suns squad really doesn't need someone like him), I think Scola is the most likely Suns player to be traded.

The Importance of Cap Space

Although the team is set up to have significant cap room in the future to go along with some solid pieces in Dragic, Bledsoe, Len, Goodwin, and a high 2014 pick, the trick lies in effective management of that cap space. Ample cap room can be a a double-edged sword: just as proper salary management can turn a rebuilding team into a contender, irresponsible use of cap space can set a team back for several years. Suns fans can remember the malaise we felt in the summer of 2010 when the team used up significant cap space on the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick.

The Suns are definitely in a better place now as a franchise than they have been at any point in the last couple years. Ryan McDonough has the team heading in a great direction in this rebuilding period. It all starts with adding a couple major pieces through the draft (Alex Len and Archie Goodwin this year, ? next year), is accelerated by acquiring undervalued young talent through shrewd trades (Eric Bledsoe), and will ultimately be "capped" off by effective management of the team's future cap space. Although patience is definitely required, the future looks to be bright, and that is something that Suns fans haven't been able to say since 2010.

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