We've saved the best for last in our Bright Side of the Sun season review report cards.

Up and Down

Goran Dragic has had an incredibly interesting career thus far. The peaks have been high, the valleys have been low and there have been plenty of both in his six seasons in the NBA.

You needn't have even followed his career as closely as most of us here on the Bright Side have to know what I'm talking about; all you would need to do is take a look at his win shares per 48 throughout his career.

Report from <a href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/" mce_href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/">Basketball-Reference.com</a>.

It really is bizarre. Dud (rookie year) to stud (sophomore year; Spurs fourth quarter) to dud (third year slump) to stud (back-up in Houston) to stud (back-up/starter in Houston) to stud (first year back in Phoenix) and finally to star (this year). Dragic even surprised himself this year.

"In some games, yes, [I was surprised by my play]," Dragic said. "But my confidence was high. A lot of credit goes to my teammates. They make me better. My coach makes me better. But I always had this in my head that I can play in this league; that I'm good enough. If you ask me I'm always, probably like every player thinks he's the best, and I always think for myself I'm good enough and top 10 of players."

Last year, the Suns struggled mightily but Dragic put up a solid individual season.

Report from <a href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/" mce_href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/">Basketball-Reference.com</a>.

14 points and 7 assists are solid if not spectacular numbers for a starting point guard. Dragic flashed moments of brilliance, but the consistency wasn't there. He was a good scorer, but seemed content to take a bit of a back seat at times and looked to set everyone else up before himself, even though he didn't have a lot of talent around him. The aggression and will to dominate was not there on every play.

Fast forward one year, and Dragic is a completely different player.

Report from <a href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/" mce_href="http://www.basketball-reference.com/">Basketball-Reference.com</a>.

No more taking a back seat. Dragic let everyone know that Phoenix was his team. He put up numbers we've seen from few guards in the history of the game. And now he is likely to be named to one of the All-NBA teams. The only thing that slowed him down this year were injuries, something he will hopefully be able to avoid next year.

Dragon Unleashed

Dragic averaged 20.3 points on 50 shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from 3-point range. Dragic became one of the best finishers in the game, and got to the rim more than he ever has before.

Per Synergy, Dragic scored 1.23 points per possession and shot 63.3 percent in transition. He scored 0.98 points per possession in isolation, good for 26th among all qualifying players. He also scored 0.98 points per possession as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, good for 10th among all players, and shot 51.5 percent.

We all knew Dragic was really fast and very athletic, but he managed to channel and refine that speed and athleticism this year to turn himself into a deadly scorer. He also refined his pull-up and step-back jumpers as a counter when the lane was cut off, and steadily improved his 3-point shooting as the season progressed.

The side effect of Dragic's new ultra aggression was a drop in his assist numbers, but that is a trade-off the Suns were more than happy to make. Dragic still averaged a respectable 5.9 assists while splitting ball-handling duties with Eric Bledsoe, and his size double-digit assist games show he can still break down a defense and find his teammates when the situation calls for it.

Dragic has a fiery personality and plays with great intensity on the court, and that is something his new backcourt mate Bledsoe said he appreciated and identified with.

"Goran is an unbelievable competitor," Bledsoe said. "He goes into every game wanting to win, me and him both. That's all you can ask from your two point guards."

Slash Brothers

Speaking of Bledsoe, there were many questions about the ability of Dragic and Bledsoe to coexist in one backcourt. All of those questions are hilarious in retrospect. There were some growing pains, but the two meshed very well and each other's presence allowed both to have the best season of their careers.

The Suns went 23-11 when both guards started, and their chemistry improved with every game they got under their belt. Bledsoe supplemented Dragic's 20 and 6 with 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds of his own. The Suns were able to pair up two of the best penetrating and finishing guards in the NBA, and the result was nearly a playoff berth after a 25-win season the year before. Their combination of speed and aggressiveness also allowed the two to get after opponents defensively when they were out there, only helping to force turnovers and fuel their vaunted fastbreak.

"No question [they were one of the best backcourts in the NBA]," P.J. Tucker said. "If you look at the numbers, what those guys mean to our team, the way they performed all year, hurt, fighting all kind of adversity, those guys stuck together and made it happen even when people didn't think it would be good. Those guys were amazing."

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Dragic said this season was his second favorite behind only the 2010 Western Conference Finals run, and said it was individually the best of his career. However, Dragic is not content with where he is at, and knows there is still work to do.

"My goal is to not only have one season like that," Dragic said. "Of course, you need to have several seasons like that to be an elite point guard and I'm still not there and I still need to work hard."

Dragic may have been named the league's Most Improved Player this season, but he is planning on coming back even better next year.

"I'm like a broken record," Dragic said. "Every exit meeting I say the same: try to work on my game and try to be a better player, a complete player. This season was an unbelievable season for me, and just for my name to be mentioned in that category [with other top players], it's shown me that I'm on the right path, I'm working hard and I'm still not done. I still have to improve some things."


Now go watch this highlight video if you're suffering from Dragic withdrawals.

PHOENIX – Team success and personal success have never quite been in alignment for Phoenix Suns center Miles Plumlee. As a sophomore at Duke in 2009-10, he started 24 games for Mike Krzyzewski,...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Toss us your Suns questions, and the Bright Side of the Sun staff will answer the best ones in a weekly SunBlast mailbag.

If you're anything like me, you're thinking about Phoenix Suns basketball every day, but not much is happening to satisfy that thirst for news. It's a long dry spell before the Suns play another game.

We've got a week or so till the lottery happens (Suns have a 1.5% chance of moving up from 14 into the top 3), 6 weeks till the Draft, 7 weeks till free agency, 16 weeks till voluntary workouts, 20 weeks till preseason and 24 weeks till Opening Night.

In the meantime, we preview the draft and free agency and try cover every available angle on the team we love.

But you've got endless questions about the Suns we're not even considering.

Post your questions!

Tomorrow, I will be posting round two of the Bright Side mailbag. Post your questions in the comments section, or hit me up with an email, tweet or facebook post.

We here at Bright Side try to cover all the angles, but there's just a half-dozen of us writers versus 50-100 regular commenters versus 10,000+ total readers every day.

What does that mean?

That means there's LOT of Suns questions we're not answering every week with our coverage.

Here's a look at some of the shooting guard and small forward prospects prior to the NBA Draft Combine later this month, whom the Suns may be able to choose from with their 18th or 27th picks in the coming draft.

This is part two of the wings' Pre-NBA Combine preview...to see part one, click here

These are some of the wings that the Suns could be keeping a close eye on in the coming draft combine that could be potential candidates for their 18th or 27th pick.

18th Pick

Jerami Grant, SF

6'8", 220lbs, 20 years old, Syracuse


(Click to Enlarge - Stats courtesy of ESPN)

Strengths: Extremely Athletic, Very Good Finisher, Long, Attacks the Basket, High Motor, Upside

Weaknesses: Raw Offensively, Lacking Three-Point Shot, Lacks Fundamentals on Defense

Jerami Grant is in no way a finished product.  His game revolves mostly around his physical talents and athleticism at this point.  However, he has improved his shot somewhat this season, giving scouts hope that he can continue to develop his game at the next level.

What Grant does very well is attack the basket, grab rebounds and score put-backs, and catch alley-oops.  He is definitely one of the most athletic prospects in the draft with great length and an aggressive style of play.  What he lacks in long range shooting he made up for with quality play at the rim...at least at the college level.

Grant is definitely a gamble, but could be a big pay off for a team willing to take the chance on him.  He possesses elite athleticism and uses his strengths to the best of his ability.  He knows what he is and doesn't try to force shots he isn't capable of making.  He is a project, but has certain attributes that can help a team off the bench almost immediately while he works on refining his game.

P.J. Hairston, SG

6'5", 220lbs, 21 years old, North Carolina/Texas Legends


(Click to Enlarge - Stats courtesy of ESPN)

Strengths: Great Shooter, Great Size, Long, Strong & Physical Player, NBA Ready, Good Defender

Weaknesses: Not a Good Passer, Limited Ball-Handling, Character Concerns, Limited Upside

P.J. Hairston may be one of the most underrated wing prospects in this year's draft.  After a great season at UNC last year, Hairston was suspended by the team after being arrested for speeding and possession of marijuana.  Hairston was eventually released and signed with the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League this past season. where he once again impressed, averaging 21 points per game.

Hairston plays well in an up-tempo system like the Suns run, where he can attack quick off the dribble and create shots all over the floor.  He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and can take over a game when he gets in the zone.  He has very good defensive tools and instincts, though sometimes seemed to play with a lack of effort in his D-League stint.

P.J. is ready to contribute in some way to whichever NBA team drafts him.  Although he made a few bad choices in the past, by all accounts he is an excellent teammate and a very coachable player.  He could end up being one of the biggest steals of the draft depending where he's selected.

K.J. McDaniels, SF

6'6", 200lbs, 21 years old, Clemson


(Click to Enlarge - Stats courtesy of ESPN)

Strengths: Super Athletic, Explosive, Excellent Defender & Rim Protector, Attacks the Basket, Long Wingspan, Strong Finisher

Weaknesses: Not a Great Shooter, Undersized, Tweener, Streaky

K.J. McDaniels was a game changer for Clemson this season.  He has been one of the fastest risers up the mock drafts based on his excellent all-around play and his ability to play efficiently on both ends of the floor.  He is arguably the best athlete in the entire draft...even more so than Grant and LaVine, and also has nearly as much upside.

While McDaniels isn't a great shooter and can be inconsistent at times, he does have a decent jump shot with range out beyond the arc...and shoots free throws at an extremely efficent 87%, leading many to believe he can continue to improve on his jump shooting as well.

McDaniels most glaring weakness is his lack of size.  Although he has a 6'10" wingspan, he is only 6'6" which is small for a three.  But with all of his defensive tools, his athleticism, and his style of play, he certainly makes for a promising young prospect.  Plus, his name is K.J...how could the Suns go wrong with this pick?

27th Pick

Cleanthony Early, SF

6'8", 215lbs, 23 years old, Wichita St.


(Click to Enlarge - Stats courtesy of ESPN)

Strengths: Natural Scorer, High Motor, Attacks the Basket, Crashes the Boards Offensively

Weaknesses: Not a Great Jump-Shooter, Poor Ball-Handling, Lateral Quickness, Age, Limited Upside

Early is a natural scorer who can impact the game with his skills inside the paint and at the rim.  He was one of the driving engines of the Wichita St. Shock this season leading them to an undefeated record until their loss in the NCAA tournament.

While Early is an adept scorer, he has a flat-looking jump shot and is not a great shooter from long-range. He is an above average athlete overall, but struggles with lateral quickness while defending...which is especially concerning at the NBA level.

Still, he has been absolutely dominant at times, and against some top competition, such as his 31 point game against Kentucky.  Early is an interesting pick as a potential role player who can heat up and score in bunches.

Zach Lavine, SG

6'5", 180lbs, 19 years old, UCLA


(Click to Enlarge - Stats courtesy of ESPN)

Strengths: Elite Athleticism, Explosive, High Motor, Good Shooter, Great Form

Weaknesses: Tendency to Disappear, Lacks Strength, Inconsistent

Zach LaVine may be one of the most polarizing young prospects in this years draft class.  On the one hand, he is an elite athlete with a nice stroke and three-point range.  On the other, he still seems raw and unpolished, and sometimes takes bad shots and makes poor decisions.

One positive is that he already has the athleticism and shooting form of an NBA player, he just needs to work on refining his skills and continuing his development.  I think his role as a point guard in UCLA's system worked exacerbated some of his weaknesses, and I think he can be much more adept off the ball.

At the moment, his draft position is all over the place because of the various scouts' opinions of him.  That could change more after the combine which could be a make or break performance for Zach.  Still, LaVine has blue-chip talent, and could be a steal in the late draft if he can develop a more all-around game.

But Wait...There's More!

This concludes the wings preview in the coming NBA Draft Combine. I'll be posting another position group soon full of other players that the Suns will be looking at soon to follow.

With as many as three first round picks available, the Suns have a lot of choices to make.  Who do you like out of this group, if anyone, and what pick do you think the Suns will use on them?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Which of these players are you most interested in with either the 18th, or 27th pick in the coming draft?

  304 votes | Results

Poor Pau Gasol. The Spaniard always seems to be linked to trade rumors every year and this one was no different. Reports indicated that he could end up with the Phoenix Suns at the February trade...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Page 879 of 2159


Web Links

Sponsored Ads