In the 2014 NBA Draft the Phoenix Suns will be drafting No. 14, 18, 27, and 44 at the very least. Let's look at these picks one at a time starting with the "lottery" pick.

Expectations are a line we create in our heads for something with the hope that they are exceeded and the fear that they will not be met. They exist in all walks of life. In the 2013-2014 NBA Season the Phoenix Suns were not supposed to win more than 21 games total. Then they went out and did that on January 15th.

Odds and expectations are very different.

With the 2014 NBA Draft coming up in the distance there like a mirage that was once all the hopes and dreams for a starving fan base in the desert is now just another mile marker on the path to where the team is going. It does not have the pazazz as it did less than six months ago. The prospects are all there. From Andrew Wiggins to Jabari Parker to Dante Exum, they are all waiting there, but the Suns are there to meet them with open arms.

So, full disclosure here, the Phoenix Suns will be drafting 14th, 3rd, 2nd, or 1st in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The odds for each pick are:

0.5% for No. 1

0.6% for No. 2

0.7% for No.3

98.2% for No. 14

In the nine year history of the No. 14 Overall Pick it has never moved into the Top 3 once. It has finished where it started every year. In fact the highest risers in the history of the lottery were the Cleveland Cavaliers (via the Los Angeles Clippers) in 2011 with the 8th best odds, the Chicago Bulls in 2008 with the 9th worst odds, and the Orlando Magic in 1993 with the 11th worst odds.

Moving up to potentially drape Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Parker, or Exum in purple and orange is a desirable outcome, just not a realistic one.

Instead the talent pool looks more like Rashad McCants, Ronnie Brewer, Al Thornton, Anthony Randolph, former Sun Earl Clark, Patrick Patterson, current Sun Marcus Morris, John Henson, and Shabazz Muhammad. That group has an average PER of 13.8 over their individual careers with Henson (18.0) being the leader so far and Clark (10.3) holding up the bottom.

The league average for PER was 13.46 this past season, therefore the 14th pick generally wields a league average player.

Expectations are to win the lottery and or net an above average to great player with any pick. However the odds are that a good player will be available and will spend less than four years with the team that drafts them. In the current construction of the NBA Draft with 14 Lottery Picks the longest any player has lasted with the team that drafted them was 3.5 years, two of them are out of the league, and every one of them have played for more than one team, excluding the last two drafts.

Is this the year the odds play in the favor of the Suns? That will be determined on May 20th, but for now expectations should be tempered to the point of at least getting a league average player for the next 2-4 years.

The last two drafts saw the No. 14 Overall Pick traded either on draft night or the night before. That could be a three-peat this year with the mentality and aggressive nature of Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. With three mid-value picks like the team has a trade is not out of the cards to move.

With the way things are currently constructed the Suns could use a traditional power forward to eventually take over those duties and more options on the perimeter for both shooting and defending.

Some prospects to keep an eye on include Michigan State Power Forward Adreian Payne (No. 12 Overall on NDI Rankings), Syracuse combo forward Jerami Grant (No. 15), and Creighton combo forward Doug McDermott (No. 16). Other than that the forward position is very light after you get past the first 5-7 picks. Payne can play inside and out with more traditional size at 6-10 and very good overall athleticism. He fits the mold as a potential two-way forward that can stretch the floor with his shooting, score in the paint, and defend NBA caliber forwards.

Both Grant and McDermott are combo forwards that will have limitations playing the three or the four at the next level.

On the wing the options are UCLA combo guard Zach LaVine (No. 14), Kentucky G/F James Young (No. 17), and Clemson wing K.J. McDaniels (No. 20). Others are sure to rise while some of these prospects could fall. Young has a hard time defending the fifth best player on the court in a college game so he will be drafted more for his offensive versatility. McDaniels will be an interesting option with his game resembling what would happen if you could merge P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green into one player. He is an elite athlete that defends at a very high level, has the ability to hit the three-point shot well, and maximizes his talent every game.

Last year the 14th and 21st picks were combined to move up to obtain the 9th Overall Pick. Is it worth trading a league average player and another asset to draft five spots higher?

The Suns can do that. They can also hold strong and potentially add one of these six names mentioned above with the No. 14 Overall Pick. There are so many options and the team has put themselves in an enviable position of having the assets and no need to make a drastic move in either direction.

Next up: A review of the No. 18 Overall Pick

The Phoenix Suns want to supplement their team with a top-10 NBA talent this summer, such as Minnesota's Kevin Love. But how far would they go in that pursuit?

Any deal for Minnesota power forward Kevin Love, a three-time All-Star at age 25, will be complicated by his contract status because the interested team is only buying his services for one season.

Kevin Love has a player option to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season, at which time he can take his pick of any team with the cap space or ingenuity to via sign-and-trade to get him on their team.

Given that knowledge, how much do you give up for Love this summer?

James Harden

Two years ago, the Houston Rockets surrendered Kevin Martin (huge expiring deal to help cap situation), rookie #12 pick Jeremy Lamb (potential SG for many years), two future first round picks and a second round pick to Oklahoma City for third-year shooting guard James Harden. One of those future firsts was a guaranteed lottery pick the Rockets had obtained from Toronto for Kyle Lowry. So Houston effectively traded Martin, Lamb, Lowry and two draft picks for Harden. Quite the sacrifice.

Yet the difference there was Houston got a guaranteed four years out of James Harden, who signed a mini-max rookie extension on the night of the trade. It's okay to give up a bevy of talent for 4 years of your best player.

Oklahoma City has suffered in the short term. Neither Martin nor Lamb has lived up to Harden's standard, though Lamb is still only 21. That guaranteed lotto pick turned into Steven Adams at #12 last spring.

The Phoenix Suns could approximate that Rox/OKC deal to acquire Love, except for the functional replacement of Love in Minnesota's lineup. The Suns can take care of the picks and young talent portion, no problem. They have their own three picks this June, plus the Lakers' top-5 protected next year and Minny's own pick still due when they make the playoffs.

But the Suns cannot send the starting PF replacement to Minny to appease fans and keep heading toward the playoffs. OKC got Kevin Martin to put up the same stats as Harden that first year. The best the Suns can do is Markieff Morris, whose 18 and 8 per 36 minutes pale in comparison to what Love delivers.

Dwight Howard

The last blockbuster trade of a player one year from free agency involved Dwight Howard as the centerpiece going from Orlando in a four-team trade that included 3 All-Stars swapping teams. But that trade, from Orlando's point of view, is different than any Love trade would be.

The Orlando Magic was ready for a rebuild with Dwight Howard's departure as their path to quickening that pace. The Magic had made the playoffs for several consecutive years but were in decline, despite Howard still being at the height of his powers. Seeing no future with Howard, the Magic settled for young pieces and are still in that rebuild mode.

That's not Minnesota's position.

Minnesota, already hitting a full decade since last making the playoffs, is going to want to improve their team (or at least think they are) in the wake of any Love departure. They will have no interest in rebuilding. A strong PF replacement will have to come back to them in any trade. Otherwise, just keep building around a top-5 NBA player for another year and hope for the best.

Andre Iguodala

It appears to me that the closest recent comparison to any Love deal this summer would be the Sixers situation with All-Star small forward Andre Iguodala two offseasons ago.

Iguodala was a great individual player still at the apex of this talents but unable to turn Philly into a contender by himself. Year after year, the team put the wrong pieces around Iggy and year after year ended in disappointment.

When Iggy approached his last year of his contract, the Sixers knew it was time to move on. They knew he likely wouldn't stay and they needed to get something good in return before he left.

The best they could do was to acquire All-Star big man Andrew Bynum in the hopes that filling a long-time at center would more than replace what they lost in Iguodala.

But the Sixers did it wrong, even if Bynum had stayed healthy. To get one year of Bynum, they traded away Iguodala and two promising rookies (Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless) AND a future first-round pick. Even worse, they took on the bloated contract of Jason Richardson too.

So even if Bynum had been healthy, he could have left a year later and all the Sixers would have to show for him was Richardson and a depleted roster.

There's no way Minnesota would pull a Sixers this summer. Don't count on it.

What would it take to get Love?

While none of those scenarios are perfect, the blueprint is there - if you're going to replace an All-Star in his prime and you want to stay in playoff hunt, you HAVE to get an All-Star in return, even if said All-Star is declining or an injury risk.

Unfortunately, the Phoenix Suns do not have an All-Star big man to send back in return.

The Suns do have two potential All-Stars in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, but both are point guards and the Wolves already have PG Ricky Rubio.

Rubio is about to enter his fourth season, just a year behind Eric Bledsoe in that regard. He will likely command a big contract as an RFA despite having shooting woes because he's a great passer and defender.

Would Minnesota want to bring on an Eric Bledsoe and sign him to a mini-max deal? Or a Goran Dragic, who can become an unrestricted free agent at the same time Rubio becomes an RFA?

If you're Minnesota, which would you rather have:

  • Love (UFA) and Rubio (RFA) hitting the market together next summer
  • Dragic (UFA) and Rubio (RFA) hitting the market together next summer, with Love already traded
  • Bledsoe under long-term contract, but Rubio an RFA and Love already traded

Bringing in Bledsoe for Love this summer could basically become Bledsoe for Love AND Rubio in a year. While the Suns might make a two-point guard system work, there's no guarantee Bledsoe and Rubio could thrive in the same back court for years to come.

Nay, I don't think Minnesota wants Dragic or Bledsoe for Love as long as they have Rubio.

Pau Gasol

Local radio guy John Gambodoro floated in February that one of the reasons the Suns would target Pau Gasol was to pre-acquire that All-Star (if fading) PF talent that could be sent to Minny to replace Love. Gasol would have effectively been the "Kevin Martin" of a potential summer deal.

The downside is that Gasol would be an unrestricted free agent this summer, making a sign-and-trade the only way to get Gasol to Minny for the Suns' benefit. But that would require Gasol WANTING to go to Minny. Gasol just might want to re-unite with fellow Spaniard Rubio, so there's that.

A third team needed

This all adds up to the Suns likely needing to involve a third team who would trade an All-Star caliber player to Minnesota in exchange for the Suns bevy of picks and young talent.

The Suns will likely have to find some other team that wants to rebuild in the wake of their All-Star leaving (Orlando post-Howard), or wants to rid themselves of an All-Star due to overcrowding (Thunder post-Harden).

One potential third team is Detroit, who will have a new GM in the near future intent on undoing what the prior regime left behind. Detroit is overloaded with All-Star talented big men. Josh Smith is a multi-faceted PF miscast as a SF in their offense. Greg Monroe is a multi-talented C miscast as a PF in their offense. And Andre Drummond is the C of the future for them.

Something has to give. Two months from now, it appears likely that one or both of Monroe and Smith will be in another uniform.

Maybe the Suns could include Detroit in a three-way deal to send Smith or Monroe to Minnesota to replace Love, who heads to Phoenix?

If so, what could the Suns send to Detroit and Minnesota in return that would be BETTER than Detroit just acquiring Love straight up? This is where is gets murky. The Suns have to earn their way into any three-way deal for Love.

Detroit has a long-term point guard in Brandon Jennings, signed for two more years at $8 million+, so if they acquire a PG like Dragic or Bledsoe they will want to rid themselves of Jennings in the process. They have a rookie at shooting guard with a bright future (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) already, so they won't need someone like Archie Goodwin in return. And with Drummond at C in Detroit and Pekovic/Dieng at C in Minny, neither needs Alex Len.

Detroit might insist on either (a) getting Bledsoe or Dragic in exchange for Monroe/Smith or (b) making the Suns eat the Jennings contract or (c) both.

Three-team deals get very complicated, especially when you're the designated buyer.

Would the Suns sacrifice one of Bledsoe/Dragic AND eat Jennings' contract AND giving up young talent/picks, just to get Kevin Love for a year?

If the answer is yes, would Bledsoe sign a contract to go to Detroit (he would have to agree to a sign-and-trade)?

If the answer is no, why wouldn't Detroit and Minny just seal a two-team deal to balance their rosters and cap sheets?

And even if the Suns say yes, all it takes in one season-long injury to Love and a 2015 exodus to look ominously like the Sixers' disaster.

That's why I can't see the Suns saying yes.

Recap

This article is confusing. My head is spinning. WTF are you saying, Dave King?

Minny is no Orlando. Minny will want an All-Star talent in return for All-Star Love, or why trade him in the first place?

The Suns' only All-Star talents are PGs, which is one position Minny already has (Rubio). Again, Minny will want to supplement their roster, not sabotage it, so they won't pile PG on top of a PG. They are not rebuilding.

Detroit is a potential third team (Monroe or Smith), but how can the Suns join that party without those two teams just swapping stars and leaving the Suns at home?

And why would the Suns sacrifice give up top-end talent to get Love, when Love fits best alongside Bledsoe AND Dragic?

That's the big question:

How far would the Suns go to acquire Love this summer, if he becomes available? How much bad salary would the Suns take on while sending out talent, just for the services of (potentially) one year of Love?

Miles Plumlee was one of the biggest surprises on this season's Suns' team, and in the NBA as a whole. Let's take a look at how the Suns' starting big-man fared in his first season as a full-time starter.

Miles Plumlee first came to the Suns as what many thought to be a throw in...as a part of the Luis Scola trade with the Indiana Pacers.  Most had him pegged as a third-string center, behind former starter Marcin Gortat, and the Suns blue-chip draftee, Alex Len.

In fact, many thought he would never crack the roster, save for the occasional blow-out.

However, before the start of the season, and before the Suns traded away Gortat to make room for the Plumster, I wrote a preview about the young up-and-comer, with a word of caution for those ready to write him off as just filler.

Miles Plumlee may be one of the less heralded additions to the Phoenix Suns this off-season, but he may very well be a player that fans should keep an eye on.

Miles, who is the older brother of this year's 22nd overall draft pick Mason Plumlee, was also the 25th overall pick just a year earlier...In what many believe to be a much better draft class overall.

Now, this isn't to say Miles is better than Mason. However, he's certainly more than just trade or camp filler.
Only time will tell what type of future Miles Plumlee has with the Phoenix Suns. However, he's certainly an intriguing player that fans should keep an eye on in the preseason...He just might be one of this year's surprises.

Now before I pat myself on the back, I'll admit that I watched Miles play during his entire career at Duke, and even his summer league games for Indiana.  I was very impressed with his strength and athleticism, especially during this year's summer league, just before he was traded to the Suns.

Shortly after writing the preview, I also had an opportunity to watch Miles scrimmage live against Gortat and Len during the Bright Side's Staff trip to Flagstaff...where the Frequent Flyer (courtesy Jim C.) put on an impressive show against the other bigs...full of dunks, blocks, and rebounds.

I specifically remember Dave, Jim, and I remarking to each other just how impressive Plumlee looked, and how he appeared to be dominating Gortat in that scrimmage.

So, I had a bit of an idea on who the Suns were really getting...but could anyone have really expected this?

The 2013-14 Season

Shortly after his acquisition, The Suns jettisoned the Polish Hammer Gazelle for a first round pick + Okafor's expiring contract, and Miles was given the starting job. Everyone assumed this was just further evidence of the Suns' intentions to tank the season away, but was it really?

Although Miles received only 55 minutes of combined playing time in his first season on the Indiana Pacers, the athletic big-man from Duke was ready to make an impact.  He took the starting job and ran with it instantly, registering 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the first game of the season, and his first game as a starter!

Plumlee continued to surprise people and work his way up the scouting report during the early part of the season, becoming one of the standout players for the Suns.  In fact, he played so well that he eventually earned a spot on the "Rising Stars" game during the All-Start break, showcasing the best freshman and sophomore players in the league.

However, after playing so many minutes for the first time in his career, he seemed to hit what is commonly referred to as the rookie wall.  Miles seemed to slow down and he was noticeably less energetic and impactful on the court.  His splits (courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com) comparing his stats pre and post All-Star break pretty much tell the story (click to enlarge):

Screen_shot_2014-04-25_at_9.38.27_am_medium

As you can see, Miles was a different player in the second half of the season.  However, to his credit, he did bounce back toward the end of the year with a mini-resurgence.  Still his overall stats for a 55 minutes removed rookie is still nothing to sneeze at, especially compared to his rookie season at Indiana:

All in all, this was a very good year for the Plumster.  He led the team in rebounding (7.8), field goal percentage (.517), defensive rating (104), and blocks (1.1) per game...All while averaging the lowest minutes per game of any starter (24.6).

Overall Grade for the 2013-14 Season:  A-

He started out the year with an A+, but had a significant drop off toward the middle, then started to bounce back toward the end.  This should certainly improve with more conditioning and exposure to the pace of the NBA.  Plumlee will also benefit from the Suns training staff, who will no doubt work with him in the off-season to prepare him for next season.

Defensively, you don't need stats to see just how much of a difference he makes as a rim protector, which is his most valuable attribute and greatest contribution to the team, in my opinion.  He completely changes the way the opposing players approach the rim, and alters shots consistently with his athleticism and innate ability to block shots without fouling.

Add to that the fact that Plumlee still has a substantial amount of upside to his game.  He needs to continue working on his post game and his free throws, as well as develop at least a serviceable jump shot from inside 15 feet.  His hook shot at times looked like a thing of beauty, but it was very inconsistent and sometimes looked flat.  This is probably one aspect of his game that I expect will improve significantly over the off-season, as he continues working at refining it.

Future Outlook

He has all the tools to be a very successful big man in the league.  But there are still questions.

Fortunately, the Suns still have him under contract for another year at only $1.1 million, and then have a team option on him for the following season at only $2.1 million, which they will certainly pick up, before he becomes a restricted free agent in the 2016/17 season...assuming he isn't included in any trades before then.

This gives the Suns plenty of time to evaluate him on a very inexpensive contract, to see where he fits in their long term plans.

In fact, I expect next year's competition between he and Alex Len in training camp to be one of the premier position battles on the team.  It really could go either way, but no matter what happens, I expect Miles to continue improving and refining his game, and helping the Suns in whatever role he finds himself in.

PHOENIX — It’s easy to forget how fortunate the Suns have been with so many dynamic point guards coming through Phoenix in the past two and a half decades. Jeff Hornacek became better...

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Quick preview of the Phoenix Mercury's Training Camp, their needs, and the unique new pre-season concept being rolled out by the WNBA this year...

How fun was last season? Let me re-phrase that: How crazy was last season with a decent ending all things considered? It was a roller-coaster of coaching changes, roster adjustments, injuries, winning, and then in the end losing.

This season has the potential to be a special one as last year was the first half of The Avengers Story with this year promising to be the final battle. The Mercury might leave New York City Super Hero level wreckage in their path to a Championship.

Well, that was what was said last year too... By me.

No doubt the Mercury have star power. From Taurasi to Griner, Taylor to Bonner, and all the way to Dupree this is a team of stars.

There is no lack of talent on this team, but a "team" is who wins the Championship every year. That is obviously the Mercury's goal under new head coach Sandy Brondello meaning they need to add a little more substance to this group of obvious style. This team has a lot of style.

While The Avengers analogy is not overly creative or perfect, it fits this team. Every player mentioned above has had their own run as the Alpha on a team. Taylor is an Alpha, Taurasi has always been an Alpha, Bonner became an Alpha while those two were injured, Griner is a young Alpha, and Dupree has Alpha potential. Put all of them in a room together to ration shots and minutes and roles and egos and pride and their Alpha-ness and things become tricky.

That is where the need to add substance comes into play. Briana Gilbreath, Alexis Gray-Lawson, and Krystal Thomas provide some. They need more.

With the way WNBA Rosters are constructed each team is allocated ten spots for players with injury exemptions available, as every Mercury fan is aware of over the course of the past two years. The team is returning eight players from last season leaving two spots open to be filled.

Play-Making and forward/center depth are two of the teams main strengths leaving holes at guard, the need for specialist shooters, and more "glue" that makes a team a Champion.

2014 Pre-Season Training Camp Roster

Coaching Staff: Sandy Brondello (Head Coach), Julie Hairgrove (Assistant), Todd Troxel (Assistant), and Tamara Poole (Athletic Trainer)

(*On Roster Last Season)

Mistie Bass (8) -- 6-3 190 lbs. Forward

Tiffany Bias (23) -- 5-6 lbs. Guard

*DeWanna Bonner (24) -- 6-4 137 lbs. Guard/Forward

Hallie Christofferson (5) -- 6-3 lbs. Forward

*Candice Dupree (4) -- 6-2 172 lbs. Forward

*Briana Gilbreath (15) -- 6-0 150 lbs. Guard

*Alexis Gray-Lawson (21) -- 5-8 180 lbs. Guard

*Brittney Griner (42) -- 6-8 199 lbs. Center

Chelsea Hopkins (1) -- 5-8 lbs. Guard

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (10) -- 5-9 167 lbs. Guard

Ewelina Kobryn (11) -- 6-4 210 lbs. Center

Maggie Lucas (33) -- 5-10lbs. Guard

Shay Murphy (14) 5-11 164 lbs. Guard

Erin Phillips (31) -- 5-8 165 lbs. Guard

April Sykes (48) -- 6-0 183 lbs. Guard/Forward

*Diana Taurasi (3) -- 6-0 183 lbs. Guard

*Penny Taylor (13) -- 6-1 165 lbs. Forward

*Krystal Thomas (34) -- 6-5 210 lbs. Center

2014 Orlando Pre-Season Tournament

Starting on May 9th, 2014 the Phoenix Mercury will make Orlando home as they are one of four teams; Minnesota Lynx, Indiana Fever, and Chicago Sky, that will play in a pre-season tournament. It will be a four game tournament played at the HP Field House at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.

The teams will practice and make the event home for a four game tournament with some bragging rights going into the season and a chance to motivate nearly 1,500 AAU girls from the ages of 7-18 at the event.

"We are excited to be partnering with an organization like the WNBA," said AAU President & CEO Henry Forrest.  "We are looking forward to a great event as well as a continued long term relationship."

The Chicago Sky will face the Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference portion first followed by a Western Conference collision between the Phoenix Mercury and the Minnesota Lynx. The winners will play each other for the "Championship" on May 11th as will the others in a consolation prize game.

The league's best and brightest stars will be on display.

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