In this first installment of BSOTS Throwback Thursday, we jump back to 2001 and look at an extraordinary performance by a most ordinary journeyman.

Welcome to Throwback Thursday. The dog days of summer are here, and for those unfortunate enough to not find themselves floating in the swimming pool with a cold beverage, we've got you covered every Thursday right here on Bright Side of the Sun, where we do the time warp and relive some of the more curious moments of Phoenix Suns history. Summer sucks. We're trying to make it suck less.

You know those shot-happy guards that are too small to be wings and lack the playmaking skills to handle the point, so they spend their careers bouncing around from team to team to provide the delicious combination of microwave scoring and deplorable defense off the bench?

While names like Eddie House and Aaron Brooks surely leap to mind, few have fit the mold as well as NBA journeyman Tony Delk.

The 6'1 guard played for 8 teams in his 10 year career, averaging only 68 games played per team. For his career he barely cracked the Mendoza line of NBA shooting with a cringeworthy FG% of .408. He was a little guy without a position that took a bunch of shots and managed to make some of them here and there.

He also wore numeral 00 for most of his career, which is neat.

The Suns signed Delk as a mercenary free agent in August of 2000 in a largely trivial move to shore up their depth in the backcourt. His tenure as a Sun mostly played out the same way as the rest of his career -- he was a sparkplug off the bench that could get hot from time to time.

But on January 2, 2001, on an ordinary night in Sacramento, he went nuclear and turned in one of the most surprising 50-point games in NBA history, pouring in a grand total of 53 on the Kings.

Read on for the details.

The Time

The early 2000's were a largely forgettable stretch for the NBA. The league was at the peak of the post-Jordan hangover. Nobody could shoot, scoring was way down, and high-volume isolation players ruled the roost. Allen Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse were first and second in scoring, and neither of them shot better than 42% from the field.

The Lakers were dominant, Ricky Davis was a thing, and final scores often resembled college games. It was not a rewarding time to follow professional basketball.

As for the Suns, they did a masterful job of eventually turning the Charles Barkley departure into the arrival of Jason Kidd, but then proceeded to do a remarkably poor job of surrounding their All-World point guard with complimentary players.

Kidd was arguably the fastest player in the NBA with the ball in his hands, so naturally the Suns decided to spend a huge amount of money on the slowest frontcourt possible with players like Tom Gugliotta and Luc Longley.

They then threw $86 million at Penny Hardaway and the ill-fated Backcourt 2000, which saw Penny suit up for a grand total of 4 games in 2000/01.

The Teams

The Suns still possessed a solid core with Kidd at the point, young dynamo Shawn Marion on the wing, and the always-underrated Clifford Robinson's versatile two-way frontcourt play. But with about $146 million tied up in Hardaway and the ineffective Gugliotta, their supporting cast consisted of various cast-offs, has-beens and never-weres.

Corie Blount, Paul McPherson, Daniel Santiago, Chris Dudley, Elliot Perry (part deux), Mario Elie (!!!), and Jake Tsakalidis all saw time that season, and if that wasn't enough mediocrity, a mid-season trade was swung for 34-year-old Vinny Del Negro.

It wasn't a particularly exciting time to be a Suns fan, but they were still a playoff team by virtue of their anti-Sunsian defense, which finished the 2000/01 season number 2 in DRtg under the frownage of head coach Scott Scowls Skiles.

Really, I'm not lying.

After a 15-6 start to the season, they had begun to slowly fall apart like all Scott Skiles teams eventually do and stood at 18-11 on January 2, 2001.

The Kings, on the other hand, were an up-and-coming cast of colorful characters that was one Mike Bibby trade away from becoming a threat to the Lakers' supremacy. They stood at a respectable 21-8. Chris Webber was destroying everything en route to his first team All-NBA selection. Peja Stojakovic was enjoying a breakout season. Future Suns legend Hedo Turkoglu was a 21-year-old rookie seeing limited time. Lawrence Funderburke was a basketball player.

The Kings pushed the pace (2nd overall) and lit up the scoreboard, at least in early-2000's terms (their league-leading 101.7 PPG would have only been good for 13th last season). They, along with the upstart Mavs led by young Dirk and Steve, were pretty much the only team that was enjoyable to watch to the casual fan.

It was a good time for the Kings. They were young, exciting, had a positively European flavor, and had yet to be formally introduced to Robert Horry.

The Feat

1st Quarter

  • 10:39 - Assisted 17-footer over Jason Williams, who sort of contested it but not really
  • 5:09 - Wide open from 18 feet off a cross-court transition pass from Kidd
  • 2:55 - Sneaks backdoor, scores on Funderburke, who forgets to use his arms to defend
  • :41 - Hits a Beasley (long two with your foot directly on top of the 3-point line) on a transition pull-up
2nd Quarter

  • 11:27 - Drives and scores on Hedo and Scot Pollard, which is funny
  • 3:28 - Hits another Beasley, this time off the dribble with 13 seconds still left on the shot clock, over Doug Christie, who clearly was not anticipating such an asinine shot attempt
  • 1:57 - Another 17-footer over White Chocolate
  • :40 - Takes Christie off the dribble, scores over a nonplussed Vlade Divac, who sort of waves at the layup attempt
3rd Quarter

  • 11:27 - Takes Funderburke off the dribble, hits a tough floater despite excellent defense from his teammate Chris Dudley
  • 6:22 - Transition layup over a helpless Peja on an assist from Kidd
  • 6:07 - Nails an 18-footer over two Kings instead of making the easy pass to an open Rodney Rogers. He's in shoot-everything mode now, even more than usual
  • 5:28 - Fadeaway 18-footer ... good contest by Divac on the switch but it doesn't matter
  • 4:01 - Christie doesn't pick him up in transition ... wide open 18-footer off a Kidd assist
  • 1:26 - Breakaway layup on the pass from Mr. Rogers off a turnover ... easiest bucket of the night
  • :49 - Driving layup over Divac
4th Quarter

  • 10:00 - Wide open 20-footer off a kickout from Uncle Cliffy
  • 8:39 - 18-footer off a curl screen from Dudley ... they're actually running plays for him at this point! Kidd assist
  • 7:51 - Another play run for him, and another curl screen, this time from Rogers. Kidd assist
  • 3:58 - Coast-to-coast transition layup. Peja again displays hilarious transition defense
  • 3:24 - Transition layup, with an assist from Young Matrix and his fuzzy hairdo!

The Line

53 points on 20/27 from the field and 13/15 from the stripe. Most baffling of all, Delk didn't hit a single 3-pointer (he only attempted one).

Unfortunately, the Kings prevailed 121-117 in overtime despite Chris Webber only logging 7 minutes (injury?), with Peja and Vlade combining for 67 points on 24/37 from the field. Divac attempted 16 freethrows -- all of which I'm sure were the result of legitimate fouls.

For the Suns, Kidd had a most Kiddesque line of 17 assists to go with a 5/18 night from the floor.

The Suns fearsome frontcourt reserves -- Chris Dudley, Corie Blount, Jake Tsakalidis and Daniel Santiago -- combined for 51 minutes, 13 boards, 12 points, 1 block, 14 fouls, 2 turnovers and 0 assists.

Somehow it wasn't enough.

The Aftermath

The Suns delivered a 51-win season that year, but it was about as unappealing as a 51-win season can possibly be. Kidd was arrested shortly after Delk's career night for domestic violence, and just a month after that, Clifford Robinson pulled a Beasley (the other kind) and was arrested for spliffing and driving.

They bowed out without much of a fight in the first round of the playoffs against the same Kings team, quietly losing in 4 games.

The Colangelos cleaned house that summer. Kidd was flipped to Jersey for Stephon Marbury, and Robinson was shipped to Detroit for Jud Buechler and John Wallace(no that is not a typo).

In a way, Delk's night in Sacramento was a perfect microcosm of that 2000/01 Suns team. A nice achievement, but ultimately lost in a swell of disappointment and mundanity.

As for Delk, a little over a year later he was sent with Rodney Rogers to the Celtics for Randy Brown, Milt Palacio, a first-rounder that would become Casey Jacobsen, and future all-NBA Joe Johnson. So if you're scoring at home, Tony Delk begat Joe Johnson begat Boris Diaw begat Jason Richardson begat Marcin Gortat begat Tyler Ennis.

Apparently it takes 12 years for a Tony to become a Tyler.

Delk was the third Sun to join the 50-point club, after Tom Chambers did it twice in 1990 (34 days apart) and Clifford Robinson the year prior. In 2005, on the four-year anniversary of Delk's 53, Amare Stoudemire joined the club by hanging 50 on the Blazers.

The all-time mark belongs to Chambers, who reached 60.

Delk's Place In History

Last season provided a double-dose of scoring anomalies as both Terrence Ross and Corey Brewer delivered 51-point games. This of course sent the stat geeks at the Elias Sports Bureau into a frenzy, and they offered some perspective for how rare it is for such modest scorers to reach such a milestone.

Wouldn't you know it,our old friend Tony Delk had set the bar.

From ESPN, the lowest career high in scoring at the time of scoring 50+ points was a tie between Terrence Ross and Tony Delk, both at 26 points.

The lowest career scoring average at the time of scoring 50+ points was Ross at 7.4, followed by Delk at 8.0.

Basketball novices will glance at that stat years from now and assume that Ross is the more average player than Delk, but if there were any fairness in this cruel world there would be an asterisk next to Ross' name. Since he achieved his 51 point game in only his second season, he has only a fraction of the mediocre body of work that Delk had.

By 2000/01, Delk had already registered 4 seasons of meh, and was 5 years older than was Ross in 2013/14.

So, Terrence Ross, kindly step away from our Kool-Aid.

Mr. Delk, we here at Bright Side salute you, and will tell all of our friends and neighbors that you are truly the most average player in the modern era to crack the 50 point barrier. You're like a Disney film sprung to life; a testament to the notion that magical things can happen at any turn, even to the most average of us.

Rock on, Mr. Average.

The Phoenix Suns are rumored to be considering extending an offer sheet to the Detroit Piston's RFA Greg Monroe. They shouldn't.

The Phoenix Suns have been linked to restricted free agent Greg Monroe frequently over the last few weeks, but rumors have run rampant after this Jordan Schultz tweet.

A man of few skills

It's difficult to imagine why the Suns would even be considering Monroe.  The power forward/center does two things well: rebounding and posting up.  He was a top 20 rebounder (9.3 rpg), but better yet, he did a great job of picking up Josh Smith clankers, averaging 3.1 offensive rebounds a game, which ranks 9th in the league.  As far as post ups go, he's good, but not great.  Monroe shoots 53% within five feet of the basket.  That's a decent number, but not exactly anything to write home about when you look at fellow post-bully Al Jefferson's 62% mark.  Monroe's got a decent hook shot, but it's nothing on Big Al's.

I'm not kidding when I say that these are Monroe's only two skills.  He can't hit the broadside of a barn with his jump shot.  Within 8-16 feet of the basket, Monroe hit a lukewarm 44% of his shots, but anything beyond that drops down to an abysmal 24%. Yikes.

The guy can't jump over a phone book, or move well laterally.  His .6 blocks per game are shameful for his size.  Monroe has trouble guarding agile 4's like Thaddeus Young, and doesn't quite have the strength to guard big 5's.  So, with Monroe you get two things, and only two things: boards and post ups.

A bad fit

Could the Suns use a good rebounder and a post-up threat? Yes on the rebounding, but I'm not convinced on the post-up option. Post-ups are just not an effective way to score points, and the league is moving further and further from them.  The Suns could survive with just Markieff Morris's improved post play, as they did last season.  Adding a post presence like Monroe wouldn't be a bad thing, if only he could step out of the lane and hit a jump shot.  But that's the problem with Monroe; he needs the lane to operate.

Monroe would absolutely eviscerate Phoenix's beautifully spaced floor.  The Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe pairing is predicated on slash and kicks, pick and rolls/pops, and defenders being pulled out.  With Monroe in the fold, that all goes away.  He'd pull defenders into the lane, and his jump shot isn't soon luring any of them out. Monroe needs to be fed the ball in a grind it out style, so he can barrel his way through the key.  He's a decent passer from the post, but he's not good enough to tailor the entire offense around him.

Moose's tweener status is problematic as well, and I'm not sure which position the Suns would put him at.  If he starts at the center spot, the starting unit has zero rim protection, and the frontcourt would look pretty slow with him and Markieff.  The lane would be horribly clogged on offense, with both big men contending for post positioning.  I don't like the idea of Monroe at 5, but the thought of him at power forward is somehow worse.  Going from Channing Frye to Greg Monroe would be disastrous for spacing, and there would be no shooting whatsoever outside of the point guard position.  You can get away with one or two guys who can't shoot in the starting lineup (and only if P.J. Tucker is hitting the occasional corner 3), but three is lottery-bound.

Adding Monroe to the team would require a complete rehaul of the offense.  Phoenix's offense works a lot better with a floor-stretching big man, and the defense needs a rim protector.  Monroe cannot fill either of those roles; he is not worth scrapping the playbook over.

By the way, it'll cost you

If you're not already convinced that Monroe would be a bad fit on the Suns, I haven't even mentioned the contract he'll demand.  Monroe is looking for a max contract, and with Detroit reportedly expressing an intention to match any offer he gets, it would probably take a max to call their bluff, or overzealous commitment to Monroe, whichever it is.  His max would look similar to Bledsoe's max, landing somewhere in the $15 million range.  Considering Big Al has about a $13.7 million a year contract, a max for Moose seems like an overpay.  Now, Monroe is only 24, and could still improve.  But a max for a big guy that offers zilch on the defensive end seems like a recipe for trouble.

Monroe might be worth a max elsewhere, but he shouldn't be to the Suns.  He could very well be a nice fit somewhere that plays a slow, grind it out pace, and has a rim protector to back him up.  But that ain't Phoenix.

In addition to clogging up the paint, Monroe would stop up Phoenix's cap for the next few years as well. Assuming Bledsoe resigns for somewhere in the $12-15 range, signing Monroe could effectively take the Suns out of any big name free agent hopes in 2015 and 2016 if they plan to keep Dragic, who will be due for a pay raise.

Signing Monroe to a max contract or anything close to it would be a disaster all around.  He simply does not fit on the current roster, and his play style would not fit the offense.  Monroe's a decent player, but he does not belong in the valley.  The Suns need to stay to course, and not spend money just for the sake of spending money.  The power forward spot is a position of need after Frye's departure, but Monroe is not the answer.

Should the Suns sign Greg Monroe?

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In this episode Nate Parham (@NateP_SBN) joins the conversation to talk about numerous topics revolving around the WNBA (check out Swish Appeal), the Phoenix Suns, and the Golden State Warriors (check out Golden State of Mind).

This week we explore the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game, the second half of the season with what to expect, Kevin Love trade rumors, Steve Kerr a head coach, and the Team USA Select Squad that includes one Sun and two Warriors on the roster. Big things happening in the world of basketball in the Valley so let's get to it:


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There are more than a few reasons for the gulf between the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe’s camp when it comes to his value as a restricted free agent. I went over the details a few days ago,...

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The Phoenix Suns now have 15 players on their roster, all of whom will want playing time next year. How will the Suns work that out?

Only three players on the projected 2014-15 Phoenix Suns roster will be paid more than $6 million next season. Those three - Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas - comprise a "three headed monster", coined by coach Jeff Hornacek, as combo guards rotating a two-pronged attack from both sides of the court at the same time.

Conversely, the other 12 players -- three of whom are projected starters -- will each make less than $6 million next season. Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? You can't win with such low-paid players, right? Wrong. The Suns parlayed an even more disparate mix (just two active players over $3.5 million) into 48 wins last season, only missing the playoffs to injury woes. Still, the Suns finished the season with the most wins by a non-playoff team in more than 30 years.

Can the Suns repeat their success again? Or can they do even better?

Player swap

Last year, the Suns only high(ish) paid players were Goran Dragic ($7.5 million) and Channing Frye ($6.4 million). That's paltry compared to most of the NBA.

Since the end of the season, the Suns have lost F/C Frye (28 minutes per game) and PG Ish Smith (14 minutes per game), while adding Isaiah Thomas (34.7 mpg last year) and Anthony Tolliver (20 mpg), along with two more first round draft picks.

On the surface, that's a 42 mpg swap for 54 mpg, not even including either draft pick.

But even more lopsided is that big-minute player swap came from two very different positions. Can the Suns handle adding another high-minute player to the guard rotation?

Two-point-guard lineup works

The Suns implemented the two-point-guard system last year with great success, racking up a 23-11 record when Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe started in the same game. Despite playing at a height disadvantage, the 6'1" Bledsoe and 6'3" Dragic were a plus-10.1 points per 100 possessions when they played together.

In fact, Bledsoe was part of the top 5 three-man Suns lineups last season (all plus-7.6 pp100p or higher) while Dragic was in 8 of the top 13 three-man lineups (all plus-3.2 or higher).

But unfortunately injuries took a toll, as the pair only played 884 minutes together, just 22% of the possible minutes in 2013-14. Bledsoe missed 39 games with two different injuries, while Dragic missed six but was hobbled with ankle woes in a number of other games.

When one of the pair was out, the Suns started 6'8" shooting guard Gerald Green. Green had a career year (15.8 points, 1.5 assists per game), but is not a primary ball handler. With only one guard capable of running an efficient offense, the Suns went just 25-23 causing them to miss the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.

Enter Isaiah Thomas

Thomas played point guard for a really bad Sacramento team last year, but his name is dotted all over the Kings best lineups per 100 possessions. Thomas was not the Kings' problem last season. He put up Dragic-esque numbers of 20.6 points and 6.3 assists per game with an overall plus-9.4 points per 100 possessions (that's versus the times he wasn't on the court. In pure terms, the Kings were plus-0.2 points versus opponents with him out there vs. minus-9.6 with him on the bench. Yes, the Kings were bad.)

He now joins a Suns team as their (likely) third highest-paid player without an obvious starting spot waiting for him. Is that a problem though?

Not if you consider that the Suns needed a second point guard to execute their attack the 78% of the time one of Dragic or Bledsoe were unavailable last year.

With the three guards at Hornacek's disposal, it will be much easier to sustain success.

"We feel it just gives us another weapon if something happens with Eric or Goran with injury, and not lose a beat," coach Jeff Hornacek told me after the press conference.

Let's see how that shakes out.

Game of Minutes

"We talked about it," Hornacek said. "We talked about how it was going to affect peoples' minutes, how we would play it. But again we still go into training camp with the guys that are here and are going to play."

If Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas play all 96 guard minutes, that's 32 minutes each. Each of Dragic (35.1), Bledsoe (32.9) and Thomas (34.7) played more than 32 minutes each game last year. Just by numbers, none of them can play the same minutes in 2014-15 as long as they take the court as a threesome all year long.

For Dragic, that may be a blessing as he got run down by the end of the season with all the minutes. But he won't need to drop too many though. He played a solid 33 per game in 2012-13 and finished stronger than he started, scoring 16 points along with 9.5 assists in 36 minutes per game in the second half.

Bledsoe clearly had never played so many minutes per game before - never exceeding 22 per game as a backup in LA - but he's arguably the best returning player for the Suns and will get plenty of minutes as the starting point guard. But he missed half the season with a knee issue and finished with only the 8th-most minutes on the team.

Thomas played his most minutes of his career last season, averaging nearly 35 per game, but figures to take the biggest hit in minutes behind the incumbent starters. To get a change of pace in the lineup for floor spacing, like Gerald Green, or size, like P.J. Tucker or Archie Goodwin, some minutes have to be squeezed from the three guards at the top of the pecking order.

Hornacek thinks the Suns can figure it out on a game to game basis.

"I think they will all be affected a little bit," he explained. "Like we did last year, when guys are going good they will be in there. We've explained it to them that some nights you're going to have it, some nights other guys are going to be hot and you're going to ride with them and maybe that game you don't play as much. The next game you might be the hot guy and you play some more."

Green and Thomas the most affected

Over the course of the year, if there are no injuries, you'll see a drop in total minutes from all three of the top guards. Dragic and Bledsoe will see the smallest drop, while Thomas and Green will inevitably see the bigger hit.

If you assume 30 minutes per game from Dragic and Bledsoe (60 total), that leaves 36 for Thomas and Green to share. Clearly, each has earned more than an 18-minute-per-game role.

Thomas started 54 games a year ago, playing 34.7 minutes per contest. Green just finished his best season of his career, playing all 82 games and starting 48 of them while playing 28.2 minutes per game with 15.7 points per game and making 40% of this threes.

But still Thomas, with the four-year contract and high-scoring profile, will likely take the bulk of those 36 minutes. Where does Green go? To the bench? Or to the small forward spot?

"He could," said Hornacek of the 6'8" Green taking some small forward minutes. "Or he could play the 4 with the three guards. That would be fun."

Hornacek is highlighting the tectonic shift here. Once Green is considered for some small forward minutes, what of the current glut that's already there?

P.J. Tucker is the team's starting small forward, and can't be taken off the floor without a shotgun. And, he just got a big new contract. Marcus Morris is entering his contract year and had the fourth-highest three-point percentage on a team that thrives on making threes. And then there's rookie T.J. Warren, the #14 overall pick in last month's draft.

All four of those guys, including Green, sharing just 48 minutes a night? Collectively, they played 131 minutes a night last season (Warren with N.C. State).

You have to assume Warren won't see any time as a rookie, and that Marcus Morris will shift to the power forward position on many nights. Still, that leaves a few minutes for Morris at the 4, a few minutes for Green at the 3 and Tucker getting the bulk of the time.

Now, on to power forward.

At PF, you have Markieff Morris (28 mpg last year) and newly signed Anthony Tolliver (20 mpg) and Marcus Morris (22 mpg). None were starters, but all were key role players last year. Squeezing them into 48 PF minutes will be difficult. All of them will make almost exactly the same money ($3 million per year) and all are in contract years. The Morrii will be restricted free agents, while Tolliver is only guaranteed for $400,000 in 2015-16 which makes him basically an expiring contract.

Hornacek knows it will be a mix and match game, and hopes that if the team stays the same they will come back with the same attitude as last year.

"Our guys were good about that last year," Hornacek said. "It makes it easier on us coaches that they understand that and respect that. They know that's the best chance we have for winning, the hot guys staying in, and they cheer for each other and that's what's great.

"As a player," Hornacek continued. "That's an environment you want to be in."

"I'm a fan of basketball and I watch a lot of basketball," Isaiah Thomas said at the press conference. "The Phoenix Suns were a team that I watched a lot last year. There was a lot of excitement. The guys, they seemed like they played for each other and with each other. They just had fun out there. Everybody counted the Phoenix Suns out and they won 48 games. I want to be a part of something like that.

"Even playing on the court against the Suns, there was really no arguing," he said. "There was just wanting to play, wanting to have fun and wanting to win. I wanted to be a part of something like that. The direction it's going is forward."

This year is not last year

"The sum was greater than the parts this year," Lon Babby said at the closing press conference in April. "But things change. Contract change, players want to demonstrate that they have improved. I always say its like another school year. It's not the same each year."

Last year, only Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker were in true contact years and they didn't have to worry about their minutes. Each played as much as they could handle. Frye ended up choosing to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but didn't have the pressure to perform because he could otherwise have picked up his 2014-15 player option.

This year will be different. Dragic, Green, Morris, Morris and Tolliver will all be fighting to earn their next contract, and yet all are fighting for minutes too. Dragic could lose time to Thomas and/or Bledsoe. And we've already covered the logjam among the other four, who all make about the same amount of money.

Let's hope next year the Suns are just as happy with sharing minutes as they were last year.

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