In this edition of Bright Side of the Sun's 2014-15 season preview, we chow down on the Phoenix Suns' wings.

Dividing the Suns' roster into traditional basketball positions can be tricky under the unorthodox system of Jeff Hornacek. With a lineup employing dual playmaking point guards, plus the Channing Frye role (played this year by Anthony Tolliver) which really deserves it's own designation, the wing positions have been somewhat marginalized.

Hornacek has eschewed the traditional SG/SF lineup in favor of putting an extra serving of speed and ball-handling on the floor in the form of an additional point guard, and thus minutes at the wing position will be scarce in 2014-15. It creates a small problem, then, considering that the Suns boast a handful of players at this position that can make excellent cases for increased court time.

This handful of players represent a different characterization than the rest of the roster. The point guard trio of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas will provide most of the scoring. The frontcourt consists of young big men that the Suns are somewhat counting on to continue to improve this season.

The wings, in contrast, are led by super role-players P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green -- two veterans who have seen their NBA careers die once already, and play with the intensity of men that have nothing left to lose. They'll be pushed for minutes by youngsters Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren, and Marcus Morris figures to be splitting time here as well.

Quite the crowded house. Who will get the lion's share of the minutes? Will the youngsters find a way to steal a rotation spot by season's end? Only the next 82 games will answer these questions -- in the meantime, here's all you need to know about this eclectic batch of wings and how they figure to be used on this team.

The Corners

By now the secret is out among NBA teams. The corner three is the most efficient place to shoot from the floor outside of layups and dunks, and this revelation has not been lost on Hornacek. 27.3% of the Suns' three-point attempts came from the corner -- the 7th-highest such percentage in the league. They converted at a 40.4% clip, good for 8th overall.

With Dragic, Bledsoe and Channing Frye doing most of their damage from the middle of the floor, the corners were largely left to the wings -- namely Tucker, Green and Marcus.

Tucker developed a niche from the corner pocket, which accounted for 87% of his 191 attempts from deep. He converted 41% of his corner shots, giving him just enough scoring ability in a Bruce Bowen sort of way to become the everyday starter at SF. This development really cannot be overstated. With a new found usefulness on offense, the resulting increase in minutes saw Tucker's win shares jump from 2.9 in 2012/13 to 6.1 last season.

Green didn't attempt as many corner shots as Tucker, given that his offensive repertoire is much more versatile, but when he did find himself open he was cash money. He nailed 46% of his 138 attempts from the corner pocket, contributing greatly to his career-high .585 TS%.

Marcus Morris represents an outlier in the theory of corner 3PA's, actually shooting a lower percentage (.373) from the corners than he did overall (.381).

The Defense

Here is where Tucker outshines his colleagues, and frankly it isn't even close.

Both Green and Marcus are passable at defending the wing on their best days, and on their worst days are a liability. Goodwin and Warren both have potential to be plus defenders, Goodwin with his 6'10 wingspan and Warren with his high motor, but in the meantime Tucker will again be relied upon heavily to stymie the opponent's best scorer.

The Suns as a team allowed 30% of their opponents' field goal attempts to come within 3 feet of the rim. That was the 8th worst mark in the league. The 7 teams that were worse than the Suns in this regard all missed the playoffs.

They also surrendered the 5th most free-throw attempts. Again, all the teams with worse marks than the Suns missed the playoffs. There is a pattern here.

Due to the better-than-you-think interior defense of Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye, the Suns were 16th in the NBA in FG% allowed within 3 feet (.639). This is also a number that needs to improve (are you reading this, Alex Len?), but considering the onslaught of field goal attempts at the rim that the Suns interior defenders faced it's hard to place much blame on the big guys.

The Suns did allow an opponents' 3FG% of only .341, second only to the Clippers league-wide. However, chasing opponents off the three-point line is only a workable strategy if one can avoid chasing them all the way to the rim.

Not all of this rests on the shoulders of the Suns' perimeter defenders. The team rebounded only 73% of their opponents' misses (9th worst in the league) which surely led to plenty of putbacks at the rim. However, all this is meant to highlight the impact of one P.J. Tucker.

There have been some premature projections of T.J. Warren or perhaps Marcus Morris horning in on Tucker's minutes at small forward, but Tucker was probably the biggest reason that the Suns' defense in 2013/14 was just good enough to put the team in the playoff picture. As shoddy as the numbers above are, imagine what they might look like without 81 games from Tucker. If they want to end their four-year playoff drought -- and they really, really do -- shoring up the defense in the paint will go a long way to improving their win total from last season. Logically they will need their best defender on the floor to hound opposing wings and blow up pick-and-rolls for this to happen.

In short, don't expect anyone to take minutes away from P.J. anytime soon. You've seen what happens when one tries to take a loose ball away from him, right?


Yet another area where Tucker outshines his peers. Of all the Suns players to get at least 500 minutes of court time last season P.J. came in 4th on the team in rebounds per-36 (7.6) and TRB% (11.9). In contrast, Green was saved by Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa (only 368 MP) from being the worst rebounder on the team, grabbing 4.2 boards per-36.

Marcus Morris rebounding adequately for a SF last season, grabbing 6.4 rebounds per-36 -- a small notch below Channing Frye. Considering how much time he spends manning the 4, improvement would be welcome in this category. As a wing, however, his rebounding is a plus.

The real shocker here was Archie Goodwin, who nabbed 5.9 rebounds per-36 -- easily the best among the guards on the team. He accomplished this feat in only 533 total minutes of court time, which could very well make this an aberration, but perhaps it portends to the all-around player Goodwin is hoped to become.


The Suns will again look to Gerald Green to provide a scoring punch in 2014/15, but likely will not rely upon it quite so much as they were forced to when Eric Bledsoe was lost for half a season. Green responded emphatically to the increased role and was perhaps the biggest surprise on a team full of them, but with the added depth in the backcourt, expect a slightly reduced role for him this time around.

Despite iffy handles and suspect shot selection, Green proved capable of scoring from everywhere on the court, and in all kinds of crazy fashions. Can Green reach his stellar shooting numbers from the prior season, when he nailed 40% of his 3's and was the team's second leading scorer per minute?

The good news for the Suns is, they might not need him to.

Keep an eye out for Marcus Morris as well. The combo forward reportedly spent all summer in the gym with his bro, and will need to keep his nose to the grindstone if he wants to avoid losing minutes. He showed some versatility last season, scoring efficiently from the midrange as well as hitting a stellar .381 from 3. It remains to be seen where Mook will get the bulk of his minutes, but look for him to show off a few new moves in 2014/15.

Goodwin and Warren both have the potential to be microwave scorers off the bench. In the four games in which Goodwin played at least 19 minutes, he scored 17.2 PPG on a combined 27/38 from the field. Warren has produced extremely well during his floor time in summer league and preseason, but alas the Suns are shooting for the playoffs and the young guns will be hard-pressed to steal minutes from the veterans entrenched ahead of them.


Tucker and Green are the embodiment of the newfound culture in Phoenix. The Suns shocked everyone en route to their 48-win season in 2013/14, and it was through sheer hustle and energy that they were able to notch so many wins despite being outmatched on paper against many teams. Tucker battles for every loose ball and rebound as if it's the last lifeboat on a sinking ship. Green sets the crowd on edge every time he steps onto the floor, and wears his heart on his sleeve during every minute. Goran Dragic might the heart and soul of this team, but Tucker and Green have been the fire.

It sets a high bar for the young wings on this team, and don't be surprised if Zoran Dragic is the one to steal minutes for much of the same reasons.


The cohesiveness of this Suns team has been attainable in large part due to the fact that every player knows their role. There is no better example of this than their wings. While the young guns indeed possess tantalizing potential, this part of the floor is held down by the veterans until further notice.

If anyone wants to steal minutes from P.J. Tucker, they'll have to make a case for the team to keep it's best defender and one of it's best rebounders on the bench. It shouldn't be much easier to supplant Green either, provided that he continues to provide the luxury of a player that can take the game over at any moment.

Perhaps next season will be about Goodwin, Warren and/or Zoran stepping into the spotlight, but this team is looking to make noise in 2014/15. They'll need Tucker and Green for this to happen. Defense, corner 3's, microwave scoring, rebounding ... combine the two and you have an All-Star player.

Personally, I wouldn't bet against them.

The Phoenix Suns waived Casey Prather, Jamil Wilson and Joe Jackson today.

The Phoenix Suns, as expected, waived three camp players on non-guaranteed contracts today.

Jamil Wilson, Joe Jackson and Casey Prather are no longer going to wear Phoenix Suns uniforms for the foreseeable future. Jackson and Prather got playing time in Monday's loss, while Wilson played last week. None were expected to make a team already loaded with 15 guaranteed contracts that are three-deep at every position.

All three, however, can be signed to play with the Bakersfield Jam this season. The Jam is the Suns' exclusive affiliate in the NBA D-League, and will run the basketball operations for the team.

NBA Training Camp Allocations: Up to three players released from the roster of an NBA team before the D-League Draft can be allocated to that team's D-League affiliate provided they sign the standard D-League contract. They are known as "affiliate players."

By waiving the players during training camp, the Suns now have the ability to keep them in Bakersfield, but they are under no obligation.

The Phoenix Suns waived guard Joe Jackson, swingman Casey Prather and forward Jamil Wilson on Tuesday to cut their roster to 16 players. The team will move into a Thursday preseason hosting of the...

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I have started a weekly mailbag feature that will allow you to ask questions about the Phoenix Suns. Questions will be answered and posted in a story every Friday afternoon. Your questions can be...

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The Colangelos will recognize the makeup of this Phoenix Suns team because it emulates the formula of 46 years of Suns basketball to a T.

Excuse me if you've heard this one before. The Phoenix Suns have spent 46 years "going small" and plan to continue that trend into the future.

You would think at some point in 46 years, the Suns would have been "going big", but since the team lost the coin flip for Lew Alcindor (later, Kareem Abdul Jabbar), it appears the franchise has determined to be undersized.

Over those five decades, the Suns have gone through three owners, six general managers and 19 head coaches. Actually, when you think about it, having just six general managers in 46 years is not very many. Jerry Colangelo was the GM for the team's first 27 years (1968-1995). He organized a group to buy the team after the drug scandal in the 80s, and installed his son Bryan as GM eight years later. In 2004, Jerry sold the team amid health problems from which he later recovered. Bryan left two years after that to run the Toronto franchise. All tolled, a Colangelo was GM and/or owner for the team's first 38 seasons.

Over those 38 seasons, the team has attempted to acquire outsized big men (6'11" plus), but those acquisitions have been doomed. Lew Alcindor was lost on a coin flip. Neal Walk was servicable. Nick Vanos died in a plan crash. William Bedford had a drug problem. Jake Tsakalidis had talent issues. Robin Lopez had back (and rebounding) issues. Shaquille O'Neal had age issues. Marcin Gortat had rebuilding issues.

In fact, arguably the greatest big men the Suns have employed were 6'9" center Alvan Adams (draft) and power forwards Paul Silas (trade), Larry Nance (draft), Tom Chambers (free agency), Charles Barkley (trade), Shawn Marion (draft) and Amare Stoudemire (draft).

Only Silas, Barkley and Marion averaged more than 10 rebounds per game for their Suns career and none of the three was over 6'8". Other big rebounders made valley cameos for 1-3 seasons but didn't stick, including Maurice Lucas, Truck Robinson, Marcin Gortat. Even Silas and O'Neal fit that short-timer description.

The Colangelos had a penchant for drafting and acquiring players based on skill set rather than size or rebounding. After a slow start, the Suns made the playoffs in 23 of their last 29 seasons running the team. Those playoff seasons included 2 NBA Finals appearances and 8 more Conference Finals appearances.

In the eight seasons since a Colangelo has run the show (2006-2014), the Suns continued to use the core of the last Colangelo-built team for six of them, translating into three playoff appearances including one trip to the Conference Finals.


The Suns did dip a foot into the "going big" pool after the Colangelos left.

They traded Shawn Marion for 7'2" 350-pound Shaquille O'Neal in 2008 to field the biggest and most talented Suns front line in franchise history with 6'10" Amare Stoudemire at his side. But the two never meshed, and the valley never bought into it. Fifteen months later, the Suns said "sorry" by effectively swapping out Shaq for Channing Frye. And the people rejoiced.

Another attempt go at least "normal sized" was to draft 6'10" power forward Markieff Morris in 2011 and trade for 6'11" Marcin Gortat six months later. Morris and Gortat both came to the team with a reputation of being tough and rebound-minded. Gortat lived up to that for at least the first 1.5 seasons, bringing a 15/10 full-season stat line to the center position for the first time in the Suns history.

But the Suns promptly tried to turn Morris into a stretch-four he wasn't ready to play. Morris has been the franchise's most accomplished draft pick in the past decade over his first three seasons, yet the collective fanbase has never totally taken to Keef. Some of that is Keef's personality and performance, but some of it must be attributed to Keef not fitting the traditional Suns mold of player. He's not a stretch four, and neither is he an undersized rebounding demon like Marion. Many Suns fans would rather the team had drafted Kawhi Leonard or Kenneth Faried in 2011, who both profile much more closely to Shawn Marion than Morris does.

The fact that we identify more closely with Faried, Marion and Frye than a sure-fire Hall of Fame player in Shaquille O'Neal is a testament to how ingrained our love for "going small" has become.

The Suns are the winningest NBA franchise not to win an NBA title. "Going small" has become synonymous with "pretty darn good".

Back to the future

So it's no surprise that Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek - who was a player during one of those successful "going small" runs - has no problems going small again this season.

"Sure. But I'd rather do in an outsized situation to see how they do," coach Hornacek said the other night about possibly playing the three point guards at the same time this season.

The 2014-15 Suns have three of the league's best players in point guards Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas but none of the league's best big men.

Following franchise tradition, the Suns have a servicable center (Miles Plumlee) who comes out in smaller lineups and a "could-someday-be-great-if-everything-falls-into-place" center prospect (Alex Len) who better fits the mold of Walk, Tsakalidis and Lopez than anyone named Alcindor.

In fact, the only thing separating this Suns team from the best teams in franchise history is the lack of All-Star power forward more talented on offense than defense. (insert wistful Kevin love here)

This season, the Suns most effective lineup appears to consist of an undersized power forward who can spread the floor (Anthony Tolliver) who "might lead the league in three point attempts and makes" but is otherwise limited in the areas of defense and rebounding.

Markieff Morris will share the power forward minutes, but likely won't get more than 26 minutes a game unless can make 38+% of his three pointers.

Sound familiar?

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