Each summer, ESPN projects the top players at every position for the next season. It's good, clickable content to start conversations. But for some teams, it's a chance to lament the lack of respect people have for your team.

Phoenix Suns. Los Angeles Lakers. Boston Celtics. Philadelphia 76ers. Brooklyn Nets.

Those are the only five teams that failed to get a single player ranked in the Top 10 at his position - in terms of projected Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) - this week by ESPN's Bradford Doolittle.

That's it. And three of those, Nets and Lakers and Celtics, are only off the Top 10 list due to injuries to Brook Lopez, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, respectively.

The other two - Suns and Sixers - have no such injury excuse.Not-top-10

That means 28 of the other 29 NBA teams have at least one player on their roster who is a bigger difference-maker, when healthy, than anyone on the Suns roster. Thank you, Philadelphia!

Likely, it's not that simple. The point guard position is incredi-deep while the shooting guard position has the aging Dwyane Wade at #2 overall and Dion Waiters at #5, for example. The Suns trio of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas all made the "honorable mention" list at point guard, so at least they are in the top-20 discussion at the PG position.

But still. Not one Top 10 player at ANY position.

There's your Rodney Dangerfield moment, folks.

Here's an even bigger eye-opener: Outside of the Slash Triplets, not one Suns player even made the "Top 15" at his position according to these projections. That covers shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. Remember, there's only 30 teams in this league.

Uh, wut?

This for a team that finished last year as arguably the best non-playoff team in NBA history, winning 48 games to tie the Golden State Warriors for the most non-playoff win total since the 16-team playoff format was introduced more than 30 years ago.

Honeymoon's over, dudes and dudettes.

The Suns roster sucks eggs. Again.

At least, according to ESPN's "WARP Projector":

Rankings methodology
The annual offseason position rankings offer a snapshot of the top players in the league by base position, according to the forecast quantity and quality of performance for the coming season. Players are ranked by wins above replacement player (WARP), an estimate of the number of wins a player adds to a team's bottom line above what would be expected of any easily acquired talent from outside the NBA. Players are measured for usage and efficiency on both ends of the floor, and these ratings are converted to an individual winning percentage. From there, WARP is calculated based on the player's winning percentage and forecast playing time for the coming season. Playing-time projections are based on recent seasons, health and role on the player's current team. Players are assigned a position according to where they appeared most often in their most recent NBA season, though subjective adjustments have been made for some players based on anticipated usage in 2014-15.

The underlying methodology of calculating the player efficiencies used in these rankings has changed since last year and now relies on real plus-minus methodology, with adjustments. Each player's offensive and defensive RPM is converted to efficiency ratings for each end of the floor. Those ratings are then evaluated for "direct" and "indirect" impact. Direct impact is composed of points scored and possessions used, as calculated from traditional box scores. Indirect impact uses RPM to evaluate how a player affects the possessions finished by his teammates while he's on the floor. RPM has been split in this manner for a couple of reasons. First, indirect impact has a higher season-to-season correlation and is less affected by player aging patterns. Also, splitting direct impact and indirect impact is useful for projecting how players will perform in new environments and in calculating team projections. For first-year NBA players, their SCHOENE projection is used as their WARP projection in these rankings.

So the Suns are just not a very talented team. They're aren't even a kinda talented team, outside of point guard. Most every NBA team can field a better shooting guard, a better small forward, a better power forward or a better center. And a third of them can field a better point guard.

How did the Suns win 48 games then?

They did it through teamwork and coaching and unselfishness. And by leveling the playing field by playing their best players without regard to traditional position. But because of Bledsoe's injury, Dragic still ended up playing the majority of his minutes at point guard along with Bledsoe. Bledsoe's 2014-15 projection was downgraded due to injury and low minutes in prior years, while Isaiah Thomas was likely downgraded because of his projected role as a backup.

But what of the other positions?

ESPN named 15 other shooting guards ahead of Gerald Green, likely because his minutes are projected to decline with the presence of the Three Amigos.

They named 15 other small forwards ahead of P.J. Tucker. He may not be the most talented starter in the game, but I'd go to war with P.J. (just not in a car on a Friday night).

They named 15 other centers ahead of Miles Plumlee. That's not a total stretch. Moving on.

What has me scratching my head the most is that they named 15 other power forwards ahead of Markieff Morris, a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year with more than 13 points and 6 rebounds a game on just 26 minutes a night. If it makes you feel any better, Taj Gibson didn't make Top 15 either.

Here's how the other teams fared:ESPN-Top-10s

To the future

Given these rankings, will any of these Phoenix Suns become a Top 10 player at his position in the next year?

I would argue that Goran Dragic deserves a Top 10 point guard ranking right now and that he's only being held back by a projection of fewer minutes (and therefore lesser impact) in 2014-15 being part of the Triplets. But I would also argue that so far Dragic's career year is just that - a career year. He's more likely to decline slightly in 2014-15 as rise even higher.

Will 29 year old Gerald Green rise to Top 10 status when he can't even crack the Top 15 after a career year? Probably not. Same goes for P.J. Tucker. And Miles Plumlee.

Nay, the two players most likely to rise to Top 10 at their position in future years are Markieff Morris and Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe is already a Top 10 point guard - he was just held back by injuries and limited minutes in prior years. One more year of starting will make him a shoe-in.

Markieff Morris is entering a contract year and has been working on expanding his game to become a threat as a stretch four. If he can become a threat out there AND keep his post game alive (which was also a one-year wonder so far), then Morris can become a Top 10 Power Forward in the NBA.

So that's Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris who could become Top 10 Players at their position in 2014-15.

What else do those three have in common?

All could be free agents (Morris restricted) in the summer of 2015, if Bledsoe doesn't sign a long-term deal in the next 39 days.

Ball Up

Speaking of Bledsoe, he spent some of this summer working with kids and youth basketball camps. He also participated as a celebrity coach of a Birmingham basketball team made up of non-professional locals who beat the touring Ball Up All-Stars this summer for the first time in 4 years.

This Ball Up tour is a showcase for street ball talent to make a name for themselves and maybe even make some cash along with it.


While the Dragon was not the decisive factor in the game, his Dragonshake got the crowd going and helped Slovenia edge over the current second-best team in Europe (minus Jonas Valanciunas, but we'll gloss over that)


Starting the game, there was little between the two teams. both defenses were focused and shots on both sides clanged off the rim. But with a few made threes, Slovenia got it's first sizable lead with 16:10 about 8 minutes into the second period. The lead could have been higher since Lithuania was really off in their attempts but so was Slovenia. After the first period the score was 16:13, Goran Dragic was, I am sorry to say a non-factor, guarded closely and not able to make an impact and he only scored two points in the period to complement his two personal fouls.

Second period pretty much resembled the first, Slovenia holding on to a small lead throughout, extending it to 7 points with a little over 3 minutes left to play in the half. A few missed shots aside and a great block by Uroš Slokar on Lithuania's main offensive weapon, Mantas Kalnietis, just served to help them keep the lead at 7 going into the break. It was 42:35: and our Dragon's flame did seem a bit damp (no wonder, the weather here is almost monsoon-like).

Lithuania got going early into the third period, but not before Gogi faked the socks of a Donatas Montiejunas. A Dragonshake to behold, and you can see how rare a move like that is in Europe by the collective gasp of the crowd. Teams were trading buckets, but this was still a defensive effort first and foremost. 8 unanswered points by Lithuania later, Zdovc was forced to call a time-out, which resulted in an immediate made three to stop the bleeding. Slovenia held on to lead 54:53 going into the fourth quarter.

Lithuania scored first in the fourth, but Slovenia rallied and answered with an 7-point run. Time-out called by the Lithuianian coach was followed by a made three by Domen Lorbek to push the score to 64:57. The game was give-and-go form then on, teams trading buckets (two step-backs by Gogi included) and getting quite physical in a few cases, I guess nobody told the player it was supposed to be a friendly match, but it never went past a few heated arguments. Lithuania managed to tie the score at 71 with a little over two minutes left in the game on a series of made threes (what else, it's their primary weapon as Jonas Valanciunas did not play). Both teams fumbled their next attack, but with a minute left Jaka Klobucar hit a dagger three that would seal the victory despite the fact that Lithuania had a shot to tie it with a few seconds left. Final score was 74:72 against the reigning European vice-champions minus Valanciunas, but we'll take it.

Summary of the summary

This was the first game without distinct ups and downs from the Slovenian team, the defense worked much better and offensively, everyone was involved, even if we'd have preferred if the Dragon was a bit more involved.

Speak of the devil, Goran finished the game with 10 points on 5/10 shooting that included 0/4 from behind the arc (as kajkejti has correctly stipulated, he was not far enough behind the arc), 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and three turnovers in a little over 22 minutes of play which was limited due to early foul trouble.

This was the last home game for Slovenia as today they are scheduled to fly to the Canary Islands for a last warm-up game against team USA. If playing against some of the best the NBA has to offer is not a good last test, I don't know what is. And yeah, we know we don't stand a chance, but how often do the Slovenian fans get to see a match-up like that. I ask you.

It's been a frustrating summer at times.

Today is no less frustrating, even though the news has been expected for weeks now. Kevin Love has been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and not the Phoenix Suns.

For months, the Suns have wanted to acquire Kevin Love but they never could put together a package to top all other offers. Neither did the Golden State Warriors for that matter, even IF they had included Klay Thompson after all.

The Minnesota Timberwolves were at the right place at the right time, and for the first time in as long as I can remember they came out ahead in the deal. The Wolves turned a sure thing loser (Kevin Love walking in a year) into the last two #1 overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, and one of the better power forwards in the NBA in Thad Young.

Rarely does a team come out arguably better than they started. The Denver Nuggets did it with Carmelo Anthony a few years ago, but I tend to think this deal is better for the selling team than that one was. Time will tell though.

Where does that leave the Suns?

It leaves the Suns on the side of the road wondering what the hell happened this summer. The Suns came into the summer with big plans to go after the league's best free agents and trade targets.

So far, nothing.

And to their ultimate chagrin, I think, news got out yesterday afternoon that the Suns made a last-ditch effort to try to pry Minny's eyes off their Cavalier booty.

This report stinks to me. Stinks of old news. I could be wrong, but I'd be floored if the day transpired as it was posed on the internets - that the Suns, for the first time all summer, walked into a board room and collectively decided, "Hey maybe Minnesota might want Eric Bledsoe for Love! Let's try that. How much time is left on the Wiggins 3-day clock?"

That's a lot of BS to me.

First of all, the Suns have wanted Love for months. Every single player on the Suns' roster has been discussed, I can assure you. There's no way the Suns ever told Minny that Bledsoe was off the table.

Of course, back then and even now, the Suns cannot "offer" Bledsoe in trade without Bledsoe pre-agreeing to go. The Suns cannot just call someone up and offer Bledsoe to them and work out the details. Bledsoe must agree to go, and he must agree to a new contract before that.

So this report feels wrong to me.

But regardless, the Suns have struck out on the big fish. Struck out big time.

Here's to another 39 days before the preseason and training camp actually start. Let's hope something happens in a positive way to turn this frustrating summer around.

The hottest trend around social media these days is the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. If you aren’t aware of what this new trend is all about then you probably are the least social media savvy...

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The Dragon plays on Slovenian soil again, breathing some defensive fire and making longer 3s.

After almost 11 months Suns Goran Dragic played in front of Slovenian fans again. It was nice to finally see him lead Slovenia team on court as its rightful captain. His first home game, though statistically not as efficient as usual, was still good: 18points on 7/17 shooting, 7 assists and a chase down block you could see coming immediately after the ball changed possession. When the Dragon doesn't produce well on offence, he goes into defense (make-up) mode, which I really have to commend here. His game also included a 14 point 4th quarter, where he got "GO-GI GO-GI" cheers while taking a free throw - which sadly, he missed.


The atmosphere was great, the crowd was cheering from the start and got louder and louder as the game progressed. You have to give credit to the Brazilians. As hard as the fans were rooting for our own, they were booing the Brazil team just as bad. Some of those Splitter free throw misses had to be due to the overwhelming noise. Unfortunately, Brazil still managed to win in overtime, despite Slovenia defeating a 19 point deficit and getting an 8 point lead in the 2nd half. Brazil managed to tie it in the last seconds of regulation. After that they outscored us by 4 and won the game 88:84.

Again Jogi wrote a great recap of the very intense game and for all the number nerds here are the stats.

The only other thing I'll say is; the Slovenian refs weren't giving us any breaks, at some point in the game, even I was shouting rudely at them and I had a lot of support around me. Zoran Dragi? got slapped in the face while getting a rebound and nothing..

Quotes from Klemen Prepeli? (19pt) and coach Jure Zdovc:

Jure Zdovc: First half wasn't so bad, defense was good, we were just turning the ball over to much, we had 8 turnovers, but even that isn't that big of a problem if 6 of those turnovers weren't direct punishments, and that's what really killed us. But I have to emphasise they (Brazil) were really aggressive in the first half, too aggressive. I mean a few of our players were bruised all over. The referees were allowing it. I warned them about it, but they just weren't stoping the aggressiveness in time, we didn't fight back and we payed for it.

Again very bad start to the 3rd quarter, mistakes on defence, turnover at half-court.. I think we simply can't afford that and then we were chasing them for 19 points. I sent young Nikoli? in to push the ball more aggressively. We came to life a little bit, made some hard 3s. But this is all the consequence of good defence, which gave us some certainty. Then, after we hit one 3, I always say 3s are contagious; either no one makes it or everybody starts hitting it. So we got a few lucky shots. And again incomprehensibly, stupidly we handed them the win. again a lot of nonsense, that we just can't afford if we want to win, especially against a good team like Brazil.

Klemen Prepeli? (when asked if they'd need more time to prepare because of all the flaws): Considering Gogi is limited and that Erazem (Lorbek) is not coming, which was a big shock for us... But we still have a lot of quality players and like Jure said "The team wins, not the individual". Agains Lithuania and today agains Brazil we showed some solid minutes and if we apply them to all 40 minutes we can play anyone.

We definitely won't be winning with 3s, we need some depth, which we'll mostly get from Gogi's penetration, but someone else has to step up as well. Gogi hasn't played since april and he needs minutes. I think we're on the right track, we have to get that confidence and play bravely.

It's a shame we lost, but it was still a special game for me, since I somehow luckily got first row tickets for the game, which turned out to really be 2nd row court-side seats. Though the view is better from farther away, it was great seeing the action up close and hearing player "opinions" directed towards the refs. Even heard Gogi sort of curse at one. He had a point and fans were cursing way worse anyway.

Today is the last day of the Telemach tournament and Slovenia will have the chance to repay Lithuania for last week's loss. I fully expect #Junaki to come through and win the cup on home court.

Oh yeah, almost forgot: our poll from last week seems to have some merit :) Here are the results:


Last thing: I made a few kinda bad quality videos with some Dragon highlights. If any are good enough and anyone is interested, I'll post them when I have the time to sort through them. Or maybe KZS will give us some video and I'll post the link. And I could only get a good photo of Gogi from the back, but at least it's completely fresh :)

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