20130129_mjr_su5_188

This NBA Draft is considered weak, primarily because there is not a superstar or two at the top. Fine. But the fact remains that there are many, many players in this draft who will some day be better than anyone currently on the Phoenix Suns roster

The Phoenix Suns own the #5 overall pick, #30 and #57 in the 2013 NBA Draft.

The Suns also own their own (probably high) pick in the much more ballyhooed 2014 NBA Draft, as well as the rights to Minnesota's 2014 first round pick (as long as the Wolves make the playoffs). Let's hope that team stays healthy. In addition, the Suns have two high second round picks (Toronto's and their own) in 2014.

The question is what to do THIS year.

If I were GM of the Phoenix Suns, here would be my ground rules for NBA Draft season.

Don't spend big assets to move up from #5

As much as many people like the top four this year of Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo, none of those guys is a sure-fire All-Star. Because of this, there is a likelihood that one of those four drop to #5 without the Suns having to move up. And if one of them doesn't drop, there isn't much difference between them and Anthony Bennett, Alex Len or Trey Burke to name a few.

The worst thing the Suns could do is trade a good asset or take on a lot of long-term salary just to move up a couple of spots.

Don't give away any 2014 picks

The 2014 NBA Draft is much stronger at the top, so there's no reason to sacrifice either of those first round picks in any deal to get a 2013 pick. In fact, I'd work with Minnesota to get that 2014 guaranteed to the Suns if at all possible.

Don't take on lots of long-term salary

The Suns have about $5 million left on the 2012-13 cap, which is still what counts until a week after the draft. In any draft trade, the Suns can take more salary back than they send out. But any incoming salary should be less expensive in 2014+ than anything going the other way.

Why not take on long-term money? At some point, the Suns are going to want to spend free agent money on real, desired free agents rather than somoene else's scraps, so they will need cap room in 2014 and 2015.

The only exception to this rule is if the incoming talent is so good that it's worth adding a LITTLE long-term money to get it.

Add another lottery pick or two

There are rumors of teams trading out of the lottery. The Suns should pounce on that. The Suns have two very good assets for teams trying to make the 2014 playoffs that might exchange a lottery pick for their services: Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. Each could garner a 7-12 pick in this draft by themselves. The trick is making the trade work under the CBA.

Even though this draft is "weak", I'll repeat that many lottery picks in this draft will some day be better than anyone currently on the Suns roster. I write this knowing the Suns have several recent lotto picks (the Morri, Marshall, Beasley) on their roster already, but they have been underwhelming and the right lotto pick(s) could end up better than any of them.

If a player the Suns like falls to the 9-12 range, why not trade Gortat or Dudley to get them? Neither is a rebuilding piece. Add them to the fray!

If you add another lotto pick or two, stash/trade #30 and #57

It's tough to get rotation minutes for too many rookies. Drafting a Euro guy later in the draft is a good idea. Or, trade the pick for a 2014 or 2015 pick that might be a little higher instead.

What say you, Suns fans?

Do you agree with these rules? Do you have any others to add?

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Abraham Lincoln once said, "I am not concerned that you have fallen - I am concerned that you arise."

On July 11, 2007, Grant Henry Hill, coming off seven unfortunate and injury-riddled seasons with the Orlando Magic in which he had fallen time and again, signed with the Phoenix Suns as an unrestricted free agent. Over the course of the next five years, Grant won the hearts of Suns fans with his great play on the court and even greater behavior off it.

As a Sun, Grant Hill put behind him the injuries that had unfairly robbed him of a legendary career (though he will always remain a legend to many fans) and arose, reborn much like a Phoenix. Today, we celebrate the retirement of the brilliant player and even better individual with the top ten moments during Grant's tenure as a member of the Phoenix Suns:

10. Grant Hill makes his Phoenix Suns debut

Grant Hill made his regular season debut for the Suns on November 1, 2007 against the Seattle Supersonics (Kevin Durant's rookie year). He had the type of game fans would come to expect from him in following years: 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, perfectly complementing stars Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion. I couldn't find a video of his debut performance, but here are some highlights from that game:

9. Grant wants you to think before you speak

In what is perfectly representative of Grant Hill's personality, he (along with fellow fan favorite Jared Dudley) participated in the following PSA advising fans to omit homophobic slurs from their trash-talking vocabulary. I'm guessing Roy Hibbert has never seen this before:

8. Grant plays all 82 games for the first time in his career

The 2008-2009 season was a disappointment for Phoenix, but it marked a remarkable achievement for Grant Hill. For the first time in his career, and at age 36, he played in every game of the regular season and reaped the benefits of the Phoenix Suns training staff with plays like this:

7. Grant re-signs with the Suns for less money

After enjoying back to back healthy seasons in Phoenix, Grant Hill received attention from several teams in the summer of 2009, when he was once again a free agent. The New York Knicks offered him more money and the championship-caliber Boston Celtics also offered him a contract. However, Grant returned to the Valley on a very cheap contract, displaying his loyalty and endearing himself to Suns fans even more. This would prove to be a smart move on both his and the Suns' parts, as the team had a very successful 2009-10 season in which it would get within 2 games of reaching the NBA finals.

6. Grant becomes first ever three-time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award

In yet another example of the class, sophistication, and likability he exhibits, Grant Hill won the NBA's Sportsmanship Award in 2009-10, becoming the only player to ever win the award thrice (the first two coming during the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons). One of the reasons Grant is so beloved by Suns fans is that he seemingly always makes the right play both on and off the court, with the latter evidenced by the well-deserved recognition of his sportsmanship and philanthropy.

5. Grant Hill dunks on Carlos Boozer

The 2009-10 season was the most successful one of Grant's entire career in Phoenix (and arguable the most successful of the whole Nash era). Much of the team's success can be credited to great chemistry both on and off the court, which Grant recently alluded to as one of the favorite parts of his 19 year career. While the team had lots of success, Grant also enjoyed some highlights of his own:

4. Grant blocks Kobe

Because it's Kobe...is an explanation necessary?

3. Grant's buzzer-beating alley-oop pass

The 2010-11 saw the Suns missing the playoffs after a season in which they reached game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. However, the team remained competitive right down to the stretch and produced many memorable games. On November 5, 2010, the Suns beat the Memphis Grizzlies in a very tight and entertaining game. The play of the game (which was reminiscent of a very famous pass made by Grant long, long before he was a Sun) occurred when Grant threw a perfect inbounds alley-oop pass to Jason Richardson, who laid it in with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime:

2. Grant scores 34 points at age 38.

Although the 2010-11 season was disappointing for Suns fans, Grant's play did not disappoint. He averaged the highest points per game of any of his seasons in Phoenix (13.2 ppg) and continued his remarkable health, playing in 80 games. The highlight of his season was perhaps his brilliant performance in Indiana, when he scored a career Suns-high 34 points and hit a game-tying three pointer to send the game into OT (where Channing Frye would hit the first of his two game winners in back-to-back nights):

1. Grant advances in the playoffs

One of the things Grant Hill never achieved through his magnificent years in Detroit and because of his injury-plagued years in Orlando was a playoff series win. One would assume that much of the reason behind him joining the Suns as a free agent in 2007 (other than Phoenix's renowned training staff) had to have been the fact that they were a contender. However, the Suns would lose in the first round during Grant's first year and miss the playoffs altogether in 2009. Despite these failures, Grant remained loyal to his team and re-signed with them and ultimately helped guide them to a Western Conference Finals berth the following year.

In the 2009-10 season, Grant elevated his game to help the Suns by making the right plays on offense and defending up to four different positions on the other end of the floor. The Suns entered the playoffs as the 3rd seed in the West in 2010. They eventually defeated the Portland Trailblazers in six games, giving Grant the first playoff series victory of his career (making him the oldest player to do so). The Suns went on to sweep a familiar playoff rival, the San Antonio Spurs, in the second round but ultimately lost in the Western Conference Finals to another familiar foe, the LA Lakers. Despite this, the 2009-10 season was a success and it holds a special place in many fans' hearts. Grant's best highlight of that postseason came in the first series and is the epitome of the heart and determination he played with:

Honorable mention: Grant burns Jalen Rose in 2011 with class, respect, and eloquence as only he can.

Congrats on a great career, Grant. I wish you could've retired in Phoenix, but I know you will always be a Sun for many of us fans (ok fine, Pistons fans can make their claim too). We hope you will come back to our franchise in some form or fashion but more importantly, we wish you the best in whatever you choose to do. Happy retirement, BAMF.

Now, if only that other former Sun in LA would just give up and call it a career...

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Before Kobe Bryant, before LeBron James, and before Kevin Durant there was Grant Hill. The quiet, clean cut, and well-mannered kid from Duke University came into the NBA in 1994 as a beacon of light for the league and as the next superstar to take the reigns over from the stars of yesteryear.

The changing of the guard from Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird was impossible on the surface, but plausible with Hill.

Yesterday, Grant Hill retired after 19 years in the NBA.

Hill was an ambassador of the game and his career was very much like two acts of a play. The first 10 years were surrounding by rousing success as an individual and, at the same time, marred with injuries.

In that 10th year, doctors told Hill that he should retire and that he will never play basketball again. That was their expert opinion. Instead, he worked hard for his second act, earning the right to play nine more seasons in the league that showed a different brand of Hill as a role player just doing what was asked of him. In the process, he helped young players along the way and created some special moments.

This was reminiscent of Shawn Michaels, who, after roughly 10 years in wrestling was told his career was over despite having the potential to be one of the greats. He worked hard for four years and came back to have a second act as well. The first act was filled with the promise of greatness while showcasing it on the court, but the second half was what defines each in their careers.

Through his first six seasons in the league, Hill did not disappoint playing in nearly every game, averaging 21.6 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.6 steals with a Rookie of the Year trophy (shared with Jason Kidd) and four trips to the All-Star game in his back pocket. The Detroit Pistons won eight more games with Hill during his rookie year and then proceeded to make the playoffs four of the next five years under his direction.

He was the star that the league needed, but struggled in the playoffs with the Pistons, never getting out of the first round. The team was talented, but fell victim to average teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat year after year in the first round.

That lack of success in the playoffs in-part (the other part was a 7-year 92.9 million dollar contract) led to his move to the Orlando Magic.

Back in 1999, the Magic were attempting to put together the league's next dynamic duo with Tracy McGrady and Hill on the perimeter a la the Chicago Bulls in the 1990's with Jordan and Pippen. Again, this was plausible because of the type of player Hill was and still had the potential to be, but never manifested into much, as the Magic never found a way to pull a first round series win out of the hat. Those playoff woes seemed to follow Hill from the Pistons to the Magic with his teams never making it past the first round of the playoffs for the first 15 years of his career.

Hill struggled with injuries and played a total of 200 games while only making the playoffs once with the Magic, an ironic dust pan needing sweep to the Pistons.

With Hill seemingly getting back to relatively good health towards the final year with the Magic, he crossed the country for the first time in his playing career to join the Phoenix Suns for what would become the role that redefined his career.

Insert the Suns training staff here.

With their assistance, as well as playing with Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire, it was a career resurgence for Hill in the Valley. As he was able to not only get back to form and back on the court, but also finally get back to winning.

It was that change of scenery and lack of pressure that allowed Hill to step on the court in Phoenix to contribute. He was brought in for leadership, defense, versatility, and his class. He was reflective of the culture that the franchise had established over the years and it continued with Hill, who exemplified that to a T.

Team Games % PTS REBS ASTS STLS
Suns 362 91.8 12.07 4.73 2.45 0.88
Other 664 64.2 19.22 6.71 5.06 1.18

Hill was always the extension of an idea on and off the court. That idea was how to play the game of basketball and how to approach the game. His value was not measurable with just per game numbers, playoff wins, or advanced statistics.

There were numerous moments over the five years Hill was in Phoenix that stood out. As an individual defender, he guarded positions 1-4 with resolve and quality. His 34 points against the Indiana Pacers at 38 years old was impressive for a player who hadn't scored with that volume in exactly six years.

I was sitting in a bar in Phoenix watching game five of the Suns and Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. This bar was split 50/50 with fans of each team, as the winner of this game would have control of the series with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. The Suns had been to the Finals twice before in team history, while the Lakers had been there the previous two years alone. Bryant was special in that series (33.7 PPG 8.3 APG 7.2 RPG), but had to earn everything against Hill who was draped all over him all game. That is what I will always remember Grant Hill for.

Whether it was conscious or not, Hill left behind an impression with every young player he crossed paths with. He molded those who never could reach their potential to play their best basketball.

Hill personifies class, perseverance, and what a star should hope to be. Everything he did was with thought and respect. Hill has been and continues to be the model for young stars, in all sports, on how greatness can be achieved, taken away, then earned with work ethic and character.

These were the first two acts of a career that is not over. He may never score another point in this league, but Hill is easing into the third act with the same quiet, clean cut, manner as he did nearly 20 years ago.

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