It's crunch time. Right now.  Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.

If the Phoenix Suns plan to take part in the postseason, it would probably be a good idea to win this game tonight against another WC foe, the Utah Jazz.

The Suns currently sit in the 12th seed, tied with Golden State, 3 games back from 8th place Houston. Tonight the Suns could help themselves out by downing the 10th seeded Utah Jazz who are only a game ahead of the purple and orange. Al Jefferson leads the Jazz 19 and 9, and has scored in double figures in every game he has played in this season save for his first outing against the Lakers on December 27. Of course Jefferson is not impervious to making the Jazz faithful "cringe." Check out what Amar from SLC Dunk had to say about Aljeff:

Big Al had a great game against the Detroit Pistons: 33 points, 12 rebounds, and he even made one three pointer. We can extoll his virtues for shooting 14/18, but also cringe at his 1 assist to 4 turn overs. Still, all things considered (including the win), it was a remarkable night for a remarkable individual. It was a night that I will not easily forget.

GETTING DOWN TO BRASS TACKS

It dawned on this blog guy that any key to a Suns win is the same every night out. Play a complete game. There's very very little margin for error. When they play defense and out-rebound their foe, they usually win. So why turn this into more than what it is? The deal is this, the Suns need to play with heart and intensity for 48 minutes. The Jazz have a couple of beasts in the front line in Jefferson and Milsap. Jeff has had some success versus the Suns to the tune of 20 and 11 in 17 games. However, he averages 17 FG attempts a game to pick up those 20 points. Josh Howard is probable for the game tonight. While not a Suns killer, he could be categorized as a Suns abuser, averaging 18 and 7 over 18 career games.

Marcin Gortat is coming off of one of his worst games in recent memory with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 personal fouls. Do you think Polish Heritage Night distracted him? Said Gortat of his poor performance in the Minnesota game: "After the game, I was in a big black hole because I didn't help the team," Gortat said. "I didn't play. It was bad. It was definitely like a wake-up call. Once in a while, you need a game like that to bring your ass back from the sky to Earth. It was a game to make me be sure to be humble again." The Suns will certainly need the Hammer if they hope to have success against the Jazz.

And now, a special feature, my brothers and sisters, 5 questions with SLC Dunk's very own, Amar:

WC: The Jazz and Suns are both in the midst of this crowded Western Conference race. How do see the stretch run playing out for the Jazz? Do you think they have what it takes to make the postseason?

A: I think that the Jazz brass have clearly put out a "Playoffs or Bust!" sign on their team plane. That's the message I get when they are turning down rumored offers for Josh Howard. Nothing else says 'win now' like starting Josh Howard. Sadly, for the Jazz brass, I don't think the Jazz are going to make the playoffs -- unless a couple of other teams start tanking. The front office expects a broken team with incompatible parts to overachieve. What Jazz fans are going to get is a gutsy performance down the stretch that solidly gets the Jazz the #13 or #14 pick in the draft.

WC: Obviously Raja Bell is a former Sun, and many people would love to have him back. So, what was up with the recent altercation between Bell and coach Corbin?

A: Before he was a Suns player he was a Jazz player though, and for the most part, a lot of Jazz fans still hold a lot of affection for the veteran guard. He's having a remarkable year shooting the ball when you look at his percentages. He's also starting and playing half the game -- while not clearly being identified as a long term asset of the team going forward. Some don't understand the whole tiff between he and Head Coach (and former Suns player himself) Tyrone Corbin. It's not a 'minutes' argument, but perhaps it's a 'usage' argument? Andrei Kirilenko had similar problems that playing a lot of minutes didn't solve. At times the Jazz offense seems to shun the guards while Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap are on the court. Bell plays a lot of his minutes on the court with those two guys. Bell's a vet's vet -- so he's not precisely asking to take more shots a game, but the only guy on the entire team with a lower USG% is Jeremy Evans. On the record I really do not know much except both parties always say the right thing, but perhaps there are other concerns that are only aired out behind closed doors? Maybe Bell used Ty's ointment and didn't put the cap back after he was done? (Yes, old age home joke)

WC: How has the absence of Jerry Sloan affected the Jazz organization? As a fan, have you all moved on?

A: Jerry Sloan was the one major stabilizing force that everything was built around. He wasn't the cherry on the top, he was the foundation stone. Removing him has caused a lot of problems, mainly in terms of trying to find a leader and a direction. In his absence there has been a larger power vacuum than even I expected, and it's been filled up by . . . no one. Moving beyond Sloan, on the court it makes a huge difference as Tyrone Corbin can't swear at referees all game long and not get called for technical fouls. Also, Ty can jump up and down on the sidelines and it doesn't affect the game at all. He's essentially a rookie too, and the refs don't give him the benefit of the doubt on the sideline. The result is that (even at home) the Jazz are getting less calls despite playing the same players in the same system with the same playbook. I actually did the math. Yes, I need more hobbies.

Jazz fans will never get over Sloan, I'm taking a break from tweeting about Sloan's departure with four Jazz fans (two bloggers) right now to write these answers. It's something we can't get over, and it's something we all end up rehashing and yelling about online every few weeks.

WC: Many Suns fans absolutely adore Paul Milsap. How valuable is he to the Jazz?

A:
Paul Millsap is even undervalued by his own franchise and the fans of this franchise. He's a second round pick who played behind three guys who were PF All-Stars (Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur) who despite no development from the coaching staff built himself up to be a complete player who could do so many more things than he could as a 'hustle guy' from a small school. He's a great story. Sadly, people seem to overlook him still because Al Jefferson takes 20 shots a game and the Jazz have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings. His value with the team is decreasing, despite the fact that he still does all the things you love. It is beyond reason. Clearly, Millsap's value is not based upon any logic; to me he is invaluable. But I do not speak on behalf of the Jazz.

WC: Thoughts and predictions on tonight's matchup?

A: I predict that if Alec Burks gets another DNP-CD I will drive to Utah to start shooting people.Other than that, I think it will be a very fun game where I get to see this improved Suns Defense ! : )

I was asked who was better, Nash or Stockton. I thought it was only fair to retort and then ask the same of my counterpart:

A: Who's better? Nash is one of my favorite players, favourite even as I was born in Canada, and he's super impressive on offense. A total maestro. Even in the most mundane of metrics (the guys who played 50+ games in a season who finished it shooting 50 / 40 / 90 ), Nash excels. Yes, his name eclipses those of Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki in that regard. You call your agent every day to try to get him to get you on a team with Nash starting on it. I would. All of that said, homer hat fully on -- Stockton is better because the refs gave him more leeway on defense in terms of being "scrappy" (aka fouling). You don't end up leading the NBA in Total Steals without getting the respect from the refs. And in that regard, Stockton is way ahead of Nash. Is it fair? Obviously not. Stockton is better, but in the end there really is no 'loser' in this debate. Both are Epic Point Gods.

Check this out if you're interested in my point of view on some further Suns related Q&A




Bye bye , Monta, it's been nice knowing ya.

Well, the 2012 NBA Trade Season is officially under way. The Golden State Warriors finally broke up their undersized back court and sent Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown's expiring contract hands to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson.

I'm not exactly sure I like this trade for either team and I definitely think both teams took some big risks. The Warriors gave away Udoh who I really like and are still stuck with Andris Biedrins' $18m owed over the next two year and they gave up one of the league's best scorers to get Bogut and Jackson.

Jackson is a head case but maybe he'll be OK back in Oakland where he was last seen leading the "We Believe" Warriors to a first-round upset over the Mavericks in 2008 before demanding a trade the following year. Some how, I don't see he and Mark Jackson getting along.

Bogut is out with a broken ankle for the rest of the season. He's a top five center when healthy but hasn't been healthy. Bogut hasn't played more than 70 games in a season since 2007-08. Maybe he's unlucky with a fall that broke his elbow and this year's ankle break. The Warriors better hope so since he's owed $27m over the next two seasons.

If GSW is paying over $20m a year for two centers, they better get some production...or at least some court time.

For the Bucks, they dump Jackson and give Bogut the trade he wanted as well. But on the flip side, the end up with the same problem the Warriors had, and undersized back court. Monta Ellis might be smiling now, but a few weeks with Scott Skiles will likely change that. It's hard to see this ending well for them either.

Meanwhile, if Bogut comes back healthy next season, consider the Pacific Division with Andrew Bynum, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan and Bogut. Marcin Gortat is a pipsqueak next to those beasts.

Two more day until the deadline which is at 3pm ET / noon AZT on Thursday.

Oh, and if you believe the likes of Peter Vecsey (who's not very reliable in these matters), the Suns were almost part of this deal:

Peter Vecsey: Dwight Howard’s days with Orlando Magic numbered ... or not - NYPOST.com
Last week, it looked like the two-for-one deal (Robin Lopez would have been obtained from Phoenix and rerouted to Milwaukee) was almost 100 percent approved by both sides.

IF, and by that I mean IF, this rumor is true, it would signify that the Suns aren't keen on matching offers for Lopez this summer so he could be moved before the deadline. Then again, who the hell knows.

Poll
Who won this trade?

  437 votes | Results


Hey everyone, here is the second video in my college players to watch during March Madness series. In this video I listed my four favorite small forwards and shooting guards (Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb, and Bradley Beal) who I believe could be of interest to the Phoenix Suns in the up-coming draft.

Like I mentioned in my last post, with the draft still months away it's impossible to know exactly what direction the Suns will choose to go regarding the players they may be interested in. This purpose of this video is to identify some of my personal favorite shooting guards and small forwards in college this season that the Suns could pick in the first round. Unlike the point guards, all of these wings are projected to be first round picks due to the number of talent at the position this year, so I wanted to focus on the players that would likely make the biggest impact.

I believe all four of these players could be great additions to the Phoenix Suns for various reasons, and I believe that they are all going to be realistic possibilities for the Suns in the coming draft.

Read on after the jump to view the video...

One more thing...as I explain in the video, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is not featured in this compilation because he recently guaranteed that he will be returning to Kentucky next year instead of entering the draft. He is my favorite overall player at the wing position this season, but I didn't want to spend time covering a player that I knew would not be in this year's draft, so I spent that time focusing on the other players instead.

Take a look at the video below and let me know what you think!



Photo

Excuse the side note here, but as I'm rewatching the Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves game from Monday night, I'm less concerned about the Suns and more impressed with the Wolves. That is a dangerous team with only a few holes to fill. With a couple of smart moves, they are going to be good for a long, long time.

Up front they have two bigs who can both score inside and Kevin Love gives you range as well to spread the floor. With Rick Adelman's offensive genius and Luke Ridnour's passing they clearly know exactly how to get the most out of those two playing off each other in the pick and roll. Add in Love's excellent passing either out of the double team or the high post and that's solid a solid tandem.

This team can attack you in the low post, from the high post with Love (playing the role Chris Webber filled in Sacramento) and in the pick and roll. That's impressive.

Pekovic can bang and defend on the defensive end while Love can focus on his rebounds. The two of them together are probably as good as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

When Rubio comes back, you have a great play-maker and chemistry guy who also is an above average defender. He might not shoot the ball well, but offense really isn't the issue on this team with Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea off the bench. Either of those guys are capable of changing games by taking advantage of opponents' second unit weaknesses.

The problem, obviously, is on the wings. Martell Webster, Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington all do pretty much the same thing and none of them are great defenders. Ellington is a good spot up three point shooter. Johnson has the ability to score but still looks a bit lost. Webster is a vet but seems to have lost his edge.

What they need is a lock down perimeter defender who can cover shooting guards and small forwards and is good enough that you can't completely ignore him at the three point line.

A guy like Trevor Ariza would be perfect for them. Shawn Marion as well. If the Wolves are shopping Michael Beasley as has been reported, they should definitely give the Hornets a call. Ariza, or a guy like him, makes that team top five in the West next year.

And now back to the Suns who have far more holes to fill.


Avery can fly -- 6-3 with a 6-7 wingspan and 37.5 inch vertical.

Let me start by making two things very clear: First, this is a totally speculative discussion between two buddies shooting the breeze via email that we decided to open up to the greater communities of Suns and Celtics fans. Two: I don't advocate trading Robin Lopez.

As we've seen recently, and on occasions before, Lopez brings a unique combination of size, mobilty and physicality and while his playing time has been reduced by the emergence of Marcin Gortat, he's still a valuable player. The Magic were smart to keep Gortat when he was an RFA even though he was buried on the bench behind Dwight Howard. The Suns should do the same in my opinion.

However, I don't know how the Phoenix Suns front office views Lopez and with his restricted free agency coming up this summer, they may be inclined to move him now before the March 15 NBA Trade Deadline if they feel like they won't want to match offers this summer.

They should get something for him now instead of losing him for nothing later....IF they have evaluated the market and feel like Lopez will garner an offer sheet from another team this July that they won't match. Obviously, they don't know exactly what the market for Lopez will be, but Lon Babby prides himself on being prepared so there's no question that his staff has looked at this question with great detail.

IF they decide to move Lopez now, here's an idea that might make sense: Avery Bradley, the second year guard who was drafted 19th overall in 2010 by the Celtics. (Here's his basketbal-reference.com and Draft Express pages so you can look up his numbers.)

I threw this idea out to Jeff Clark from Celtics Blog to see what he thought. Here's our discussion:

Seth Pollack: Jeff, my man from the Green Land. When I say Robin Lopez for Avery Bradley trade, what's your reaction?

I read where you need a center (or two) and Lord knows the Suns could use some young options to develop at the point guard position. But I really don't know much about Bradley other than he's more of a defender than scorer and doesn't seem to have much range either. Is he basically a young Rondo? What's up with this kid?

Robin will be an RFA this summer. He's had an inconsistent career in Phoenix but I still think with consistent playing time and a coach and team that believes in him that he can be a very good NBA player. His size is legit and when engaged properly, will give you energy and toughness on defense and shows occasional flashes on offense that are enough to tease you into believing that he could be a regular 10 ppg guy. He doesn't have the natural touch that his brother Brook (has), but he's far more active and physical and he's surprisingly good on the pick and roll. More than anything, I think Robin needs a change of scenery and a chance to play.

Who says no?

Jeff Clark: Only one question before I answer - can he rebound?

Seth Pollack: Rebounding? Is that important?

Look, his individual rebounding numbers aren't impressive but I've watched this guy since his rookie year and here's the deal -- he hits people and blocks out BEFORE going after the ball. Several times over the years I've calculated the Suns rebounding +/- with Robin on and off the court and the team always rebounds better when he's playing. This passes the eye test as well since you almost always see him find a body when the ball is in the air and usually that body is the other team's best boarder.

He doesn't have great instincts for the ball but he works HARD and hits people and doesn't care about his stats. Don't you call that, "UMBUNTA" or something?

Oh, and he's also BIG and tips balls volleyball fashion that don't always show on his stats.

Tell me more on Bradley. What's his deal?

Jeff Clark: Here's the deal with Bradley. I certainly wouldn't call him a young Rondo unless you are only focusing on the negative aspects of Rondo's game. Bradley simply isn't a floor general point guard (few are). Early in the year Doc even went so far as to say he was better suited at the 2. He's a shooting point guard who's super power is on the ball defense. The better comparible is Tony Allen with a little less height and a lot less crazy.

Like your boy Robin, the stats aren't going to tell the whole story here. He has struggled with his jump shot, but he's got very good form and he's gaining confidence in it day by day now that he's getting consistent playing time. He's also getting points off of back cuts and fast breaks off of turnovers.

He is sometimes used as a one-man full court press, which puts pressure on the opposing point guards and forces teams into shorter shot clock situations to run their offense. He's going to be in the league a long time just because of that defense.

He's a capable backup point guard and I think he's a nice fit behind Rondo. With that said, we desperately need a center and based on your scouting report, he might be a guy we could use. The rebounding still scares me but we are talking a youngish center that could contribute both now and for years to come then I'd at least have to think long and hard about it.

Shall we put it to our readers and see what they say (yay or nay)?

Seth Pollack: Let's do it. Everyone knows the fans are way smarter than the people running these teams.

Jeff Clark: Pandering to the audience? I like it.

What do you think?

Poll
Robin Lopez for Avery Bradley straight up --- do you like this deal for the Suns?

  246 votes | Results


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