Phoenix Suns 125, Portland Trail Blazers 107 After a brutal stretch of road games, the Phoenix Suns have returned home with a chance to move into eighth in the Western Conference standings. With a...

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March 21, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; An actor portraying Captain Morgan poses for a photo during the game between the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets defeated the Pistons, 116-115. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Sunday was a good day for the Phoenix Suns. They returned home after playing seven of their last eight games on the road in the span of just 12 days. That included three back-to-backs, just three days off, and six games against playoff teams.

The 5-3 record given those circumstances is impressive and while the the Suns didn't finish the stretch in the money, they certainly didn't hurt their chances either. I'm not sure you could have realistically asked for more.

As for the rest of the West, the Rockets and Nuggets began a back-to-back, home and home series in Denver with a win for George Karl's boys. That dropped the Rockets to just one full game ahead of Phoenix. If Denver can win on Monday on the road and the Suns can beat the depleted Trail Blazers (they better), the eighth seed will belong to the Suns with just a week of games left.

Go Nuggets!

Looking in the rear view mirror, the Utah Jazz are beat up in their back court and have lost their last two games and face the Mavericks on Monday. The Mavericks, by the way, aren't totally secure in the 6th seed either.

Full standings after the jump.

Wc_standings_041612_medium

Denver Nuggets (33-27, 7th) BEAT Houston Rockets (32-28, 8th)

Rockets Vs. Nuggets recap: Nuggets blow out Rockets; on to the rematch - Denver Stiffs
After pretty much lethargically going through the motions in the first half (trailing 49-43) the Nuggets turned on the afterburners in the third quarter ... outscoring the Rockets 37 -19. That's right, the Nuggets dominated a team coming out of the locker room! Hard to believe isn't it?

Dallas Mavericks (34-27, 6th) LOSE to Los Angeles Lakers (39-22, 3rd)

Mavericks fall to Lakers in OT, 112-108 - Mavs Moneyball
no amount of pondering can erase the fact that Dirk Nowitzki had a piss poor first half and the Lakers were on the receiving end of some pretty meh referee calls. Oh, and the Lakers outscored Dallas in the paint 50-32. SO there's also that. I'm done complaining.

Monday's Key Games:

  • Suns vs. Trail Blazers (duh), 7pm on FSN AZ
  • Nuggets at Rockets, 5pm on League Pass
  • Mavericks at Jazz, 6pm on League Pass

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This guy sure would look good in purple and orange. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Much has been made about Steve Nash's interview in which he said he would not come back to the Suns unless there was improvement. What isn't usually included when that statement is thrown around is that Nash said he fully expects the Suns' front office to do just that.

Wil already took a look at which free agents already on the roster the Suns should bring back. Now let us examine who is on the market that could be an upgrade for the Suns.

Many on this blog feel like the Suns could really use an upgrade on the wing, so first up is the guards and wings.

Here's a link to a chart of who that will be available this summer, arranged according to WP48.

Right at the top, trailing only dunk contest champion extraordinaire Jeremy Evans, is our own Steve Nash. Is it really any wonder why we want to re-sign him?

Some of the more prominent names on the list include: Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Gerald Wallace (Player's Option), Nicolas Batum (Restricted), Goran Dragic, Jeremy Lin (R), Andre Miller, O.J. Mayo (R), Deron Williams (P), Grant Hill, D.J. Augustin, Chauncey Billups, Raymond Felton, Eric Gordon (R) and Michael Beasley (R).

POINT GUARDS

Many of these big names are point guards, and we can probably cross most of them off the list if we retain the services of Steve Nash. Deron Williams probably isn't a realistic target for the Suns with Nash on the roster. We can probably cross off some of the other old guys that still have something left in the tank like Kidd, Miller and Billups.

Phoenix could be in the market for a back-up if the front office doesn't have confidence in Sebastian Telfair or if they are looking to add a possible successor to sit behind and learn from Nash for a couple years.

Jeremy Lin is an option, although the New York Knicks as well as a few other teams are sure to offer him a contract to be their starter. The same can be said of Goran Dragic, unfortunately.

With Kemba Walker in Charlotte, D.J. Augustin could be an option. Raymond Felton is having a miserable season an might be an option as well. Or perhaps the Suns could just match whatever offer Aaron Brooks receives.

WINGS

Ray Allen may be getting up there in age, but he's still producing. If Boston decides to start over around Rondo and lets the old guys loose, Allen would be a great addition to our group of old guys in great shape.

Gerald Wallace has a player's option, but he could decline to turn it down if he feels he can make more long term money with a new contract now. If he does hit the market, the Suns could look to add him on the wing. However, he'll be 30 years old when the 2012-13 season kicks off and if he opts out it will be for more than on or two year contract. He also isn't a typical Suns wing as his game somewhat resembles that of Josh Childress, and we've all seen how much trouble Alvin Gentry has had finding a spot in the rotation for Childress.

Nicolas Batum would be a great addition, but he is restricted and Portland is unlikely to let him go. Eric Gordon might also be difficult to pry loose from New Orleans' clutches, but he would offer a sizable upgrade at shooting guard.

O.J. Mayo is another name that is thrown around this blog whenever free agency is discussed, and he is certainly one of the better options in terms of potential. He is restricted, but he hasn't been a great fit for Memphis and they may be willing to let him go.

Nobody here would be surprised to see Grant Hill back in Phoenix. Considering the way he's been defending over the last two years, I cannot see how that would be a bad move.

There are many fans of Michael Beasley on this blog, but I am not one of them. He can't even start ahead of Wes Johnson or Martell Webster, an those two make up the most incompetent wing duo in the entire league. Beasley is just not a good team player.

COMBO-GUARDS

There are plenty of scoring guards in this year's free agent class capable of playing both spots in the backcourt.

Included in this group are: Delonte West, George Hill (R), Willie Green, Jason Terry, Jerryd Bayless, Lou Williams (Early Termination Option), Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Jamal Crawford.

Another option available to the Suns would be to go after one of these combo-guards. Any one of these players would theoretically be capable of both backing up Nash at the one and playing alongside him at the two.

West, Green and Foye represent decent NBA players but may not be enough of an upgrade to consider signing.

The names Terry and Bayless leave an unpleasant taste in my mouth, and I'm sure most of you feel the same way.

George Hill might be the best option here, but Indiana traded their 2011 15th overall pick for him so they may not be willing to part ways with him just yet. He could be gettable, but I'm not sure how much it would cost.

So that leaves Crawford and the two Williamses. All three are similar players and could be a good fit coming off the bench at both guard spots. However, Lou WIlliams, who is probably the best of the three at this point, is having a good year for Philadelphia, and they ay not be willing to part ways with him. Crawford and Mo Williams should both be available should the Suns decide to go after them.

BEST OF THE REST

Brandon Rush (R), Dominic McGuire, Jodie Meeks (R), Danny Green (R), Rudy Fernandez (R), Carlos Delfino, Courtney Lee (R), Donte' Greene (R), Marco Belinelli

Most Suns fans are thinking big and expecting a huge FA addition. But there is going to be plenty of competition (see this Canis Hoopus link for a breakdown of the teams with cap space), and we aren't going to be able to sign every big name out there. If the Suns brass do not re-sign Grant Hill, Michael Redd and/or Shannon Brown, they may be looking for a quality rotation player on the wing. All of these guys have their faults, but some of them could provide decent production on a good contract.

There you go Suns fans. Those are your free agent options in the backcourt. Who would you like to see the Suns sign?


Photo

On a night when the Suns did themselves no good except for giving their starters rest in a blowout loss in San Antonio, they maintained their 9th place standing in the Western Conference due to a 103-98 Utah Jazz loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Neither the Rockets or Nuggets, each 1 1/2 games ahead of the Suns after last night's loss, played last night but they play a home and away back to back tonight and tomorrow with the first game at 5PM MST in Denver this evening. Whatever the result of that game, the Suns will gain 1/2 game and only be 1 game back going into tomorrow night's game against Portland.

Given that the Nuggets hold the tie-breaker edge over the Suns on the strength of their 2-0 record against Phoenix so far, with one game remaining between the teams, it would be best if the Nuggets swept the two games.

Over at Denver Stiffs, hey, they want to sweep these two games! Let's be friends, Nuggets. We both make it and the Rockets and Jazz are the odd teams out. Deal?

Rockets Vs. Nuggets preview: Nuggets face biggest back to back of the season

You see, the Nuggets can't afford to lose both. Splitting is also an iffy proposition. Truth be told the Nuggets need to sweep these two games to realistically cement their playoff positioning. Win these two games and you are a full two games up on the Rockets WITH the tie breaker. Split and you are no better off than you are now. Lose both and the playoffs start looking like a mighty grim hope. So ... no pressure right?

Current Western Conference standings, courtesy of nba.com:

Standings_041512_medium

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The San Antonio Spurs outscored the Phoenix Suns 35-13 in the opening quarter and never looked back in their 105-91 win Saturday night at the AT&T Center. The game was far more lopsided than the...

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