In this weekly segment, I discuss some thoughts on Eric Bledsoe's free agency, the sad end of Steve Nash's career and more.

The Suns are heading into All-Star break with a slight bit of disappointment coming from Goran Dragic's All-Star snub and from a hard-fought loss to the Miami Heat earlier in the week.

However, things have been overwhelmingly positive for the Suns this year. The team has surpassed approximately 100% of the everyone's expectations in order to win somewhere around 2590245% more games than they had been projected to before the season began. Basically every single player on the roster is having the best year of his career, Eric Bledsoe emerged as a young star before his injury and Goran Dragic showed the NBA why he's the most underrated player in the league after said injury.

Things continue to look up for the Suns. The team is seemingly involved in nearly every trade rumor that pops up due to Phoenix's status as a "buyer" (with Emeka Okafor's valuable contract) andEric Bledsoe is expected to return in the near future.

So for now, cheer on Miles Plumlee and Goran Dragic during this weekend's Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, respectively, and brace yourselves for a whirlwind of trade rumors before the February 20 deadline.

Let's now take a look at some random Suns-related content that has recently floated around various parts of the internet and some of my musings.

Link of the Week: Suns will "absolutely" match any offer Bledsoe receives


Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby was a guest on the Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM this Tuesday. When asked about Eric Bledsoe's future in Phoenix, he reiterated the franchise's plans to match any offer Bledsoe will receive in his restricted free agency this summer.

This is likely an attempt from Babby to dissuade GMs of other teams from wasting their time and efforts on Bledsoe this July so the Suns can save some money. However, I still believe at least one team will present a max offer sheet to Bledsoe--and one is all it takes. I also think the Suns will remain true to their words and match any such offer.

But in the words of the venerable Missy Elliott, is it worth it? Let me work it:

Too many fans hear "max contract" and assume things that aren't necessarily accurate. In the NBA, not all max contracts are the same. Take a look at the breakdown of the different types of maxes players in the NBA can receive (from the NBA Salary Cap FAQ):


Since he's coming off a rookie contract, Eric Bledsoe is eligible to receive 25% of the salary cap in the form of a maximum contract. I do believe that Bledsoe has shown enough this season to not only command such an offer sheet from another team, but to push the Suns to match one.

To take a closer look at the flexibility the Suns will have this summer after retaining Bledsoe's contract, I added a sheet to the spreadsheet above ("Bledsoe & Tucker extensions") with projected extensions for him and PJ Tucker. I gave Bledsoe a maximum contract starting at the 2013-14 max salary of $13.7 million, while Tucker receives a Jared Dudley extension of $4.25 million per year in this scenario.

In such a situation, the Suns would field the current roster minus Okafor, Kravtsov, Christmas and Barbosa and would have a total payroll of just under $50 million. With the 2014-15 salary cap projected to be over $60 million, the Suns would have over $10 million in cap room after these new contracts for Bledsoe and Tucker. They would be able to use that room to sign drafted rookies, go after free agents or retain flexibility for a blockbuster trade in which they could take back more salary than they'd send out.

The possibilities don't just end there. If Ryan McDonough and co. are determined to chase a major free agent this summer, they could potentially sign one before going over the cap to retain their own restricted free agent, Bledsoe. This scenario would require to retain Bledsoe's cap hold of about $6.6 million,  sign a free agent first and then match an offer sheet for Bledsoe. Although they'd be over the cap for the 2014-15 season, such maneuvering could give Phoenix about $8 million in addition cap flexibility this summer.

The bottom line is that the Phoenix Suns will have plenty of flexibility this summer, even with a mini-max contract for their mini-LeBron.

Video of the Week: The Sad Decline of Steve Nash

I understand that many Suns fans still refuse to acknowledge Steve Nash's presence because of his current existence on a Lakers roster. I know that a lot of people who adored him for so long still dislike him today after he requested a trade nearly two years ago to a hated rival just a week after claiming he'd never be able to don the purple and gold because he considered himself to be "old school."

I get that. I really do--I was one of those people for a long time, and still partly am.

But bear with me here.

Steve Nash is the reason I am a basketball fan. He is why I turned on a Suns game in 2005, didn't change the channel and never looked back. If it weren't for his years in purple and orange, I might have never begun watching sports and I may never have immersed myself in the terrible, wonderful and beautiful world of being a crazed fan. It may sound overly melodramatic, but I don't think it's a stretch to say I would not be the fan I am today nor the person I am today without a skinny Canadian dude who looked nothing like a prototypical NBA athlete for all of his 17 years in the league.

Steve Nash is the reason I became a fan of basketball, and he's the reason I became a much bigger Phoenix Suns fan than a Steve Nash fan.

This is why it makes me sad to watch that tremendous Grantland feature above (you should also give this great accompanying column by Bill Simmons a read). After rooting for the Lakers to fail through all of 2012-13 and reveling in the disastrous outcome of that much-publicized squad, I realized this year that one feeling overshadows all others when I think, watch or read about Steve Nash: nostalgia.

I have such fond memories of his years in Phoenix--and always will--that I feel sad every time I hear of Nash's latest setback in LA. This was a guy that I idolized through all of my teenage years, only to feel a confusing amount of anger when he seemingly "betrayed" Suns fans in 2012. That anger turned to indifference when Nash suffered his first injury in LA and indifference became pity after last summer as I watched him try to overcome injuries and contribute to a miserable 2013-14 Lakers team.

Now, I feel neither anger nor indifference to Steve Nash. As the 40-year old attempts to recover from yet another physical setback, I watch in fond memory of the player he once was for my favorite team. I may no longer consider him to be the "can-do-no-wrong" hero I naively thought he was when I was younger, but I now have admiration for the old man trying to prove he's more than just an overpaid, forgotten former star. As a selfish and nostalgic fan, I just hate to see Nash end his career this way, no matter the colors on his jersey.

I'm not trying to say that Suns fans who prefer to ignore Steve Nash or continue to dislike him are wrong in anyway--they're not. But as someone who owes so much of his fandom to Nash, I think I've come full circle and am hoping for him to physically recover to the point of being able to retire when he wants to, not when Father Time wants him to.

Terrible Goran Dragic Photoshop of the Week

In my quest to get Goran Dragic to file a restraining order against me commemorate Goran's stellar play this year, I've taken to making really awful photoshops of him. On a related note, I should point out that I don't really know how to use Photoshop, so when I say "awful," I've never meant it more.

This week, I'm presenting How to Train Your Dragon, co-starring Jeff Hornacek as the masterful coach who has tapped into The Dragon's immense potential, resulting in the best play of the latter's career:


I'm sorry.

Tweets of the Week

Unreal: @Suns' @Goran_Dragic has scored 20+ pts in career-long 7 straight games, averaging 26.9 pts (.627 FG%, .633 3FG%) over this stretch.

— Ben York (@bjyork) February 11, 2014

Suns President Lon Babby on the trade deadline: "We are all in agreement in the principle of, 'Don't be blinded by instant gratification.'"

— Jeramie McPeek (@Jeramie) February 11, 2014

Man I love this Suns team. Tough, fast and well coached. One of the best stories in the NBA this year.

— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) February 12, 2014

Goran Dragic is the first in nearly a full year to score at least 34 on as few as 13 shots...

— Matt Winer (@matt_winer) February 9, 2014

Jesus, the Suns now have a better record than the Warriors. Can Jeff Hornacek win MVP rather than Coach of the Year?

— Akis Yerocostas (@Aykis16) February 9, 2014

Goran Dragic with a career high 34 points on THIRTEEN shots. And one giant middle finger to the All-Star game.

— BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) February 9, 2014

@MikePradaSBN @SBNationNBA ... Goran Dragic, starting guard for the East. Make it happen, people.

— Doug Eberhardt (@ebehoops) February 13, 2014

Preposterously Premature Playoff Picture

The Miami Heat played a big role in affecting the West standings this week. LeBron James dominated in Phoenix to eke out a close win over the Suns and buried the Warriors the very next night with a nasty fadeaway three-pointer. King James of the East had his way with the West.

The Mavericks have jumped over both Phoenix and Golden State to hold the 6th seed in the West heading into the All-Star break, while the Suns are 7th and Warriors are 8th. It's going to be a wild ride to the postseason, folks.

Western Standings

Oklahoma City Thunder 54 42-12 .778
San Antonio Spurs 53 38-15 .717
Houston Rockets 53 36-17 .679
Los Angeles Clippers 55 37-18 .673
Portland Trail Blazers 53 36-17 .679
Dallas Mavericks 54 32-22 .593
Phoenix Suns 51 30-21 .588
Golden State Warriors 53 31-22 .585
Memphis Grizzlies 52 29-23 .558
Minnesota Timberwolves 53 25-28 .472
Denver Nuggets 51 24-27 .471
New Orleans Pelicans 52 23-29 .442
Utah Jazz 52 19-33 .365
Los Angeles Lakers 52 18-34 .346
Sacramento Kings 53 18-35 .340


I haven't done a Solar Flares in a while so I thought I'd change it up a bit this time. Any other news you'd like to share? Any suggestions for what else you'd like me to do/include in these weekly segments (I'm open to anything!)? As always, feel free to discuss below.

In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we go back to Game 7 of a first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006, when Leandro Barbosa scored 26 points to lead the Suns to a 121-90 win....

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

A lot of names are being linked to the Phoenix Suns over the past couple of weeks, and even more will come out soon. But you have to look past the name to get to the real value of any deal.

Every team in the NBA wants to foist their overpaid, underperforming and/or inefficient player on the Phoenix Suns in exchange for instant money savings, future cap relief and draft picks. Makes a ton of sense for those teams.

But does it make sense for the Suns?


Macallan Signatory Vintage

Josh Smith ($54 million through 2017). Carmelo Anthony ($44.7 million through 2015). Rudy Gay ($37.2 million through 2015). Zach Randolph ($35.1 million through 2015). Thaddeus Young ($28 million through 2016). Jeff Green ($27.1 million through 2016). Omer Asik ($16 million through 2015).

These guys are all heavy on the wallet and there's better out there for less money.

All of those players could likely be had for Emeka Okafor ($14.5 million, expiring, 80% paid by insurance), cash and a one or more of 6 first round draft picks in the next two years.

On the surface, it sounds good. The Suns could add a player for the playoff run this season without giving up any current talent.

Yet, the Suns would be tying up their salary cap for the next 1-3 years AND giving up a young player(s) in the 2014 or 2015 draft for the privilege.

And, that would make it much harder to sign any younger players ready to break out, or to acquire big-name players like Kevin Love.

Jim Beam

Carlos Boozer ($32.1 million through 2015). Gerald Wallace ($30.3 million through 2016). Kendrick Perkins ($18 million through 2015).

Costs more than you'd think, but the taste is a dime a dozen.

These guys could be had for "just" Okafor's expiring, 80%-covered contract, but still you're tying up next year's cap to get them.

There is a reason these folks are on the trade block. They don't do enough for their current team to justify keeping them. Ryan McDonough went on record last summer saying the Suns were looking for keepers. These guys are not keepers.

Just the other day, Lon Babby said, "We are all in agreement in the principle of: ‘Don't be blinded by instant gratification.'"

Cross all of these guys off your list unless they are part of a bigger trade that gets the Suns a long-term piece to their puzzle. A star. If Kevin Love is walking through that door, sure it's worth adding a bad contract to get him as long as you're not gutting the team of Dragic or Bledsoe.

Seagrams 7

Pau Gasol ($19 million, expiring). Ben Gordon ($13.2 million, expiring). Richard Jefferson ($11 million, expiring). Luol Deng ($14.2 million, expiring). Anderson Varejao ($9 million, with 2014-15 non-guaranteed).

Not as heavy as the others, and they won't weight you down in future years. But the taste is a little bitter anyway.

Now you're getting into players who won't hurt the cap in future years, so it's okay if they are not keepers. Once June hits, their impact on the team could easily be over.

Deng or Varejao would clearly upgrade the team this season, helping a playoff run and possibly cementing their value for future seasons.

But Deng or Varejao would require a draft pick or two in return. Is it worth giving up future picks if these guys don't stay past this season? And if they did stay, is it worth giving up future cap space AND picks to get them now?

That's why you might hear about players like Gasol, Gordon and Jefferson "on the Suns radar" in the coming days. None would (likely) require draft compensation to acquire, all would easily fit into the Okafor/cap space equation and all are clear NBA players who could help a playoff run at least marginally.

But are those guys true upgrades?

Does Gasol provide a higher win potential than Channing Frye and/or Markieff Morris? Or Miles Plumlee and Alex Len? Maybe, but no guarantee.

Does Jefferson provide a higher win potential than P.J. Tucker or Marcus Morris? Probably not.

Does Gordon provide a higher win potential than one of Ish Smith or Leandro Barbosa? Not likely.

Ryan McDonough said the other day he won't make a trade just to make one. He won't dump the salary savings of Okafor in exchange for someone else's full salary just for the sake of the transaction.

Crown Royal

(yes, that's a shameless product plug)

The Suns are most likely holding out for something better. They want to make the playoffs this year - why not? - but they don't want to impact the overall upward trajectory of the team. Assets are only assets if you use them right.

It's okay to eat into future cap space and give up youth if you're acquiring talent that is clearly better than anyone at that position on your team and can stay for a few years.

Lon Babby tells me that the Suns would love to enhance the current roster AS LONG AS it doesn't hinder their future flexibility. If the transaction acquires the star, or further sets the stage to acquire a star, then go for it.

But if all the transaction does is marginally improve the current team while hurting the future, then there's no way that deal gets done.

Wait for Kevin Love, or someone of that caliber.

Short of that, don't do anything to hurt your position in July.

PHOENIX – Beyond making the playoffs, the Phoenix Suns want to stake their names in the earth as legitimate postseason threats. They’re young but thirsty, and a Tuesday night loss to the...

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

It's All-Star weekend!  The Phoenix Suns may not have a representative in the main event (cough bull@#$% cough), but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to celebrate over the break.

Who thought the Suns would have 20 wins at this point in the season, much less 30?  Widely viewed as one of the worst teams coming into this season, we are now proudly the fans of the NBA's biggest surprise this year.

"That's a really good team," LeBron James said last night after the two-time champs barely beat the Suns back. "The surprise of the NBA."

The Youth Movement Begins

The Suns' success started in the off-season.  Before the Miami HEAT had won their second NBA championship, Phoenix announced it was hiring Ryan McDonough as the organization's new general manager.  A promising young executive, the 33-year old McDonough's hiring was considered a step in the right direction for a franchise floundering in the wake of 3 years of ineptitude that started with the departure of Amar'e Stoudemire and ended with the departure of Steve Nash and a 25-win season.

McDonough got to work quickly.  Not content with 4th of July fireworks, the former Boston wunderkind made some noise of his own, trading fan favorite Jared Dudley and a second round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for aging but steady vet Caron Butler and superstar-in-the-making Eric Bledsoe.  This trade was seen as a coup for the Suns who immediately upgraded their depth at 2 positions while giving up a serviceable player, but not a foundation piece.

Summer Fun

The new beginning got its start on the court in Summer League.  New head coach Jeff Hornacek got his first NBA experience coaching a squad of rookies and young players in Las Vegas.  While top draft pick Alex Len was still recovering from ankle surgery, that team crucially featured 3 prominent rotation players in P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris.

In addition to those three, it provided Hornacek and McDonough the ability to evaluate new rookie Archie Goodwin, second-year point guard and former lotto pick Kendall Marshall, as well as current Sun and 14th man, Dionte Christmas.

I think it was crucial that as far back as July, the new coach was already getting core players to buy into his philosophy for the team.  The seeds planted in Las Vegas are blooming nicely in the Valley of the Sun.  Hornacek guided the team to a 6-1 record, with their only loss coming to the Golden State Warriors in the Summer League championship game.  The Summer Suns' top 5 scorers from the pre-pre-season are all currently on the roster.

More Youth, Less Respect

Whatever goodwill as a team legitimately trying to win the Suns might have earned with their Summer League success and acquisition of Bledsoe and Butler was quickly jettisoned with a series of trades beginning immediately after Summer League.

The roster overhaul continued with the trade of Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers in what is now looking to be an incredibly lopsided trade in favor of the Suns.  In exchange for the 33-year old Scola, the Phoenix Suns got a seemingly mixed bag of goodies including NBA and international journeyman guard Gerald Green and second-year center Miles Plumlee, who had only played 55 minutes in his entire career.  The apparent prize in this trade was a low first-round draft pick as a thank you to the Suns for bolstering the Pacers' bench while taking on a couple of superfluous spare parts.

A month later in late August, after featuring Butler at the Suns' new uniform fashion show, the barely ORNG forward was shipped off to his hometown of Milwaukee for what appeared to be more fringe NBA talent in 25 year-old point guard Ish Smith and 26 year-old back-up center Viacheslav Kravtsov.

Igniting the Pre-Season

The Suns followed up the Summer League success with a promising pre-season campaign.  The upstart team notched a 5-2 record including wins over the Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.  While there were inklings this team might not be the dumpster fire pundits were predicting, very few people were ready to consider them anything more than a scrappy team that was going to play hard in a lot of losses.

In fact, if anything, the Suns were viewed as perhaps too good to properly tank with solid rotation players in the form of burgeoning stars Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, steady center Marcin Gortat, and a collection of veteran rotation players.

The Tank Trades

Any talk of the Suns being too good to tank was quickly hushed with the October 25 trade of Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Kendall Marshall to the Washington Wizards for a rehabbing Emeka Okafor.  What competitive team was going to swap three presumptive rotation players for essentially an expiring contract?

As far as the national media was concerned, this was the proof they needed that the Phoenix Suns were indeed in full-on tank mode.  The race to the bottom started with the Suns and ended with the Philadelphia 76ers.  These were clearly a pair of teams designed with the goal of the number one draft pick in mind.

Little did they know that Jeff Hornacek and Ryan McDonough had hid a Western Conference competitor in plain sight.  Come back tomorrow for part 2 of this look back at the first half of Phoenix's Rise from the Ashes.

Page 910 of 2111


Web Links

Sponsored Ads