In what has turned out to be a bridesmaid season, the Phoenix Suns have added yet another 'just missed it' to the list as Markieff Morris finishes 4th in the Sixth Man of Year voting.
Despite having the most double-doubles off the bench, producing the most double-digit scoring efforts off the bench and leading the league in total bench points by more than 100, Markieff Morris finished only fourth in the Sixth Man of the Year voting, an award for players who make their living coming off the bench in place of a starter.
Morris received the second-most third-place votes, but otherwise was 3rd to 4th best candidate for Sixth Man of the Year for most everyone outside the Phoenix metro area.
On one hand, you might think the Suns should win a collective award for being in the running for so many awards this season as they surprised the league with a 48-34 record. But even then, the Suns would miss out to the Spurs or Clippers anyway.
It seems that coming up short of the playoffs has been a death knell for voting in every award outside the 'Most Improved', which is generally open to players outside the playoff picture as a pat on the head effort.
These other awards are apparently reserved for the big boys who make the playoffs.
Manu Ginobili finished 3rd in the voting which looks like another lifetime achievement award for the Spurs. After RC Buford wrested the Exec award for signing Marco Belinelli and doing nothing else, and Gregg Popovich won the coach award, now Ginobili finishes ahead of Morris.
Manu Ginobili put up 12.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists in just under 23 minutes per game this season - all but the assists being less than Morris produced. Ginobili also missed 14 games, while Morris only missed 1 (suspension on opening night).
Taj Gibson finished 2nd in the voting, but it should have been he or Morris winning the thing. Gibson is a wonderful defensive player and pulled down more rebounds than Morris, while still averaging double digits in scoring.
Jamal Crawford was the winner, but more than half his points were scored as a starting player and he barely came off the bench for half the season. Giving this award to Crawford is a slap in the face to those players who spent the entire year doing what the award was created for: COMING OFF THE BENCH!
If the award was meant for guys who had seasons like Crawford's, it would have been called "NBA PART TIME STARTER OF THE YEAR".
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 14th pick in the coming draft.
With the uncertainty surrounding P.J. Tucker's future as a Phoenix Sun, as well as entering in to Gerald Green's contract year, the small forward and shooting guard positions will certainly be areas of interest come draft night.
Here are some of the shooting guard and small forward prospects that the Suns will be keeping a close eye on in the coming draft combine that could be potential candidates for their 14th pick.
Strengths: Excellent Slasher and Finisher, High Motor, Attacks the Basket, Efficient Mid-range Shooter, Good Defender
Weaknesses: Three-point shooting declined this season
Gary Harris will likely be a top 10 pick when it's all said and done, but as of right now he is mocked anywhere in the top 14...so I'm giving the Suns a chance at him.
Harris is a game-changer. He plays with energy and hustle on both ends of the court and can absolutely take a game over when he gets going. I've noticed that his play can be a little streaky at times, but when he gets hot, he catches fire. Defensively, Harris plays with the same intensity as he does on offense, and has great fundamentals and b-ball I.Q. He is also very coachable and plays well within a system.
His biggest drawback is that he still hasn't perfected his shooting from beyond the arc. He is a much more natural scorer from inside of 20 feet, though his shooting touch and fundamentals lead me to believe he could certainly develop this aspect of his game.
If he's somehow still available at 14, he would be extremely difficult for the Suns to pass up.
Strengths: Excellent Shooter, Versatility, Ball-Handling, Shoots Well On or Off Ball, Quick Release on Shot
Weaknesses: Not a Great Defender, Average Athlete
Nik Stauskas has risen up the mocks due to his strong season at Michigan and his ability to shoot the ball at high-efficiency at anywhere on the court. Not only is he a great catch-and-shoot player, but he is also effective at knocking down shots off the dribble, and possesses good ball-handling skills.
One of Stauskas's most intriguing skills is his shooting from beyond the arc. He has true NBA range, and shoots the ball at an extremely high percentage from three. But he's not limited to just that, he can also score at the basket and weave through traffic to create for others as well.
The biggest knock on Stauskas is his limited defensive ability, which may be exposed to a greater extent in the NBA. Still, he shows good awareness on defense and rotates well, so he's not a complete liability on that end. All in all he will be an intriguing prospect for the right team looking for more offense and perimeter scoring.
Strengths: Natural Scorer, Great Size & Strength, NBA Body, Athletic, Gets to the Rim, High Ceiling
Weaknesses: Not a Great Three-Point Shooter, Below average defender
James Young has the most upside of any of the wings currently projected to be drafted in the lottery, and already has the type of game to fit into most NBA systems. Young is a long, athletic, scorer who can get to the basket and also shoot the ball pretty well inside the arc.
Although his long arms and athleticism help him defensively, he hasn't shown very solid defensive fundamentals or an understanding of how to play within a system. This could certainly improve with time though, and I think he has all the tools to become at least adequate in this regard.
Young showed a lot of progress through the year, increasing his importance to Kentucky's young team and helping the team advance in the tournament as well. In fact, Young probably had the most impressive dunk of the entire tournament...with a savage throw down on two UCONN defenders during the championship game. Although Kentucky lost the game, Young was definitely one of their bright spots with his 20 points and 7 rebounds....showing that he has the ability to step up in the spotlight.
Young is a very talented prospect who could continue to rise after the combine. If he is available when the Suns pick at 14, he would certainly be a major consideration.
Strengths: Excellent Shooter/Scorer. NBA Range, Good Size, NBA Ready, Athletic
Weaknesses: Not a Great Defender, Lower Ceiling
Rodney Hood was one of the better scorers in college basketball this season, and did it on a team who already had one of the best prospects overall, Jabari Parker. There were many games where Rodney Hood actually stole Parker's thunder, and became the go-to scorer for the offense.
Although Parker certainly projects to be a better overall NBA prospect, Hood also showed a great deal of potential to impact the game with his lights-out shooting and ability to get to the rim. Hood can score from anywhere on the court, and does so consistently and efficiently.
Hood's biggest knock is his lack of intensity on defense. It appears he has the tools, but just doesn't play with the same energy as he does offensively. He has also dropped a bit in the mocks lately, possibly due to his performance in Duke's last game of the season in which they lost to Mercer in the tournament. Although he was great all season, he had a rare off-night, going only 2-10 from the field. This shouldn't really affect him much when it's all said and done though, he has shown what he can bring to a team, and I expect him to be picked somewhere in the late lottery or the late teens.
Strengths: Unique Skill Set, Very Versatile, Great Size, 7'2" Wingspan, Great Passer & Court Vision, Good Rebounder
Weaknesses: Not Very Athletic, Lacks Quickness, Not a Good Defender, Lacks Strength
Anderson is an interesting prospect. He has so many tools and skills, and yet he has quite a few red-flags as well. He is tremendously skilled...and has the skillset of all 5 positions rolled in to one, at least to some degree. He can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, he can dribble and pass like a point guard, he can rebound like a power forward, and he has the wingspan of a center.
So why isn't he a top-5 prospect? Well, let's start with his nickname, "Slo-Mo". Although it's meant to be an endearing term from his teammates, it adequately describes Anderson's speed and tempo at which he plays. He isn't explosive at all, or athletic. He is very deliberate in his movements and plays with a smooth, but controlled pace. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but how well will he translate to the NBA without the elite speed and athleticism of other wings?
Despite his wingspan, he isn't a good defender, and lacks the quickness to stay in front of his man. He is too slow to guard most threes, and definitely lacks the strength to guard fours. Still, he's an intriguing prospect to say the least, and because of his polarizing traits, he could realistically be drafted anywhere from the mid lottery to the late first round.
This is part one of the wings preview. I'll be posting part two with some of the other players that the Suns will be looking at with their 18th and 27 picks tomorrow.
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? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.