The Phoenix Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs 106-99 behind strong performances from Gerald Green, Dionte Christmas and PJ Tucker.

The Suns began the game with a starting five of Goran Dragic, Archie Goodwin, Gerald Green, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. Meanwhile, the Spurs didn't rest any of their big three (Duncan, Parker and Ginobili) but surprisingly elected to give young Kawhi Leonard the day off, rolling with a starting group of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Corey Maggette, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.

The Suns began running from the very start, with Gerald Green and Marcin Gortat leading the way. Both teams' "stars" played sparingly today. The Suns dynamic duo of guards didn't play much and weren't great in their limited minutes. Goran Dragic went to the bench after 07:32 of play and an 0-3 shooting start and got the rest of the night off. Eric Bledsoe then checke din and struggled mightily with his shooting and shot selection initially, missing all of his first eight shots before finding some rhythm and making his next three shots to finish with 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 16 minutes of play.

Tim Duncan played 22 minutes (more than any Suns starter) and finished with 12 points and 4 rebounds. Tony Parker went for 11 points in 19 minutes and Manu Ginobili came off the bench in his sixth man role to play 22 minutes, tallying 11 points, 5 assists and 2 rebounds.

Highlights:

  • Marcin Gortat was very good in his limited playing time, tallying 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in 17 minutes.

  • Gerald Green took the most shots of any player in the game, finishing with 19 points in 19 minutes on 8-15 shooting and making some difficult shots he'd probably miss most of the time. He also had the easiest-looking windmill dunk I might have ever seen.

  • Dionte Christmas provided a great spark off the bench and finished with 14 points in 19 minutes, including 3-4 from beyond the three point arc. If he can keep making those threes, he'll have a great shot of sticking to this roster.

  • PJ Tucker bullied his way to 14 points off the bench in just 14 minutes in typical PJ Tucker fashion, finishing strong drives and bulldozing his way to the hope. He even made a couple jumpers!

  • Alex Len played the most minutes of any Sun and although he struggled and looked tentative initially, he finished the game in strong fashion and looked better overall tonight than in the last two games. He finished with 6 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25 minutes, finishing inside and making a long jumper. That rebounding rate is the most impressive sign at this early stage of his career.

  • Archie Goodwin started the game alongside Goran Dragic and played nearly 20 minutes, finishing with 6 points and 3 rebounds on 3-7 shooting from the field. He looked great on a strong drive and while finishing an alley-oop pass from Marshall but understandably needs to improve his feel for the game.

  • Kendall Marshall didn't stand out statistically (5 points and 1 assist in 12 minutes) but he played well and showed an improved jumpshot (1-2 from the three point line).

The biggest takeaway from the game is that these Suns, no matter what, will look to run and push the pace against anyone. It remains to be seen how much success they'll have in the regular season but so far, they're undefeated. Andrew Wiggins who?

The 2-0* Phoenix Suns will take on the 1-0* San Antonio Spurs, the reining Western Conference champions, in a rivalry-fueled game with great consequences. Well, not really...but a Suns-Spurs match-up should be enough to get you excited, right? Even last year's abysmal season featured a fantastic duel between the two teams in which Wes Johnson made perhaps the only memorable play of his Suns career.

*Preseason records

Who: Phoenix Suns vs. San Antonio Spurs

What: An NBA preseason game

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

When: 11:30AM PST, October 13, 2013

Why: Because Suns vs. Spurs

How: Listen live on AZ Sports 620. Follow the game live on this game thread!

Probable Starters

Suns:

The Suns went with a fairly normal starting five in their first preseason game, then shuffled pieces around in their second by moving Goran Dragic to the bench and starting Marcus Morris for the sake of experiment. Since it's pointless trying to predict what changes Hornacek will make to his lineup today, let's just go with the probable regular season starters (this will not likely be accurate).

PG - Eric Bledsoe

SG - Goran Dragic

SF - PJ Tucker

PF - Markieff Morris

C - Marcin Gortat

Spurs:

The Spurs have only played one game thus far in the preseason, an overtime thriller against CSKA Moscow in which Patty Mills hit a game-winner to lead the Spurs to victory. Yes, CSKA Moscow. Yes, Patty Mills. There's another reminder that this is preseason.

PG - Tony Parker

SG - Danny Green

SF - Kawhi Leonard

PF - Tim Duncan

C - Tiago Splitter

Key Match-ups

  • Eric Bledsoe vs. Tony Parker - This is the match-up I'm most excited about. Both players are small, quick guards with somewhat similar offensive styles. Obviously, Parker is far more experienced and is the better player at this point in their respective careers but this should be a good (preseason) test for Bledsoe.

  • Goran Dragic vs. Danny Green/Manu Ginobili - Dragic is sure to see at least a few minutes against both Green and Ginobili. The former is a catch-and-shoot guard with size who loves shooting off screens, which is the type of player Dragic and the rest of the Suns team often had trouble defending last season. Meanwhile, Ginobili is a crafty veteran who plays similarly to Dragic. The contrast between Green and Ginobili greatly helped San Antonio last year.

  • Marcin Gortat vs. Tiago Splitter - Splitter received a nice extension from the Spurs this offseason, while Gortat hopes to earn a contract at least in the same range in 2014. Although this is just preseason, match-ups like these are the ones Gortat needs to use to showcase his skills and prove his worth in this season of audition.

  • Alex Len vs. Tim Duncan? I'm not sure if we'll get a chance to see this match-up at all today but it would sure be an intriguing one. It probably wouldn't end well for the rookie but it would a great learning exercise for him to go up against one of the best big men of all time and one of the players he personally loves to watch.

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The Suns participation in this year's NBA Rank edition ended at spot #63 with the appointment of new acquisition Eric Bledsoe. The Suns actually weren't even the first team to bow out of the convivial collaboration, though. Shockingly, they were fourth. But more on that later. Let me begin this examination with a history lesson.

*The NBA Rank system is a predictive tool (a very shaky one). All rankings are based on expected player performance for the upcoming season.

2012_rank_roster_10

This chart depicts the rankings of last season's opening day roster. I know many of us are trying to efface the memories of last year's ineptitude, but this is unfortunately necessary to illustrate my ultimate point.

Allow me to introduce a mechanic I will employ to assign a player's position in terms of roster depth. If all of the players in the league were subject to a fantasy draft by virtue of their NBA rank score, given 30 teams, the top 30 players would be the best on a team, 31-60 would be the #2 starter... 151-180 would be the sixth man, etc. By this metric, the Suns (according to the geniuses involved with the NBA Rank compilation) nearly had five starter quality players last season and sported eight players worthy of top eight rotation spots. With the obvious exception of top end talent, one could construe that the Suns may have had at least a marginally competitive roster...

But that would have been specious logic. And the vast majority gave no credence to this type of perspective as the prevailing opinion was that the Suns would be one of, if not the, worst team/s in the Western Conference. Despite the clamor from the Brightside that some of these people were ignorant haters (We couldn't be that bad, right?), they ended up being right (for a change).

And these doom merchants predicted our chthonic descent without suggesting that Michael Beasley would be the very worst player in the entire league that was given a significant number of minutes! I sanguinely slotted the Suns higher than the basement, but ultimately gave myself an escape route noted that the play of Beasley and Markieff Morris would be the most important factors in the Suns' success results. Dammit.

Interestingly, every single Suns player who returned from last season received a lower ranking than the previous year. I disagree with a couple of their decisions (which I will elaborate on below) that seem to be misinformed snubs, but I think they kind of got it right even though they may have took a circuitous route. And while the Suns muddled their way to 25 wins last season, the new rankings reveal that the Suns would have been even worse if they kept the band together....

Also, how in the hell can they justify the claim that there are 122 players worse than Beasley?

2013_rank_roster_10

Now we move on to the upcoming 2013-14 season. This is where things get even more insulting interesting. The Suns median and mean drop from 191 and 196 to 306 and 311, respectively. The team goes from eight players in top eight roster spots to three. Three. The Suns only have three players on this team worthy of meaningful minutes. While the Suns traded for their predicted best player, they also acquired four of the bottom 105 players in the league. And while four players are expected to improve this season, double that (eight) are expected to erode.

Arbitrarily using the mean value to augur wins this season (311/196 = 1.58, 25/1.58 = 15.82) the Suns should be on the orange and purple brick road to 16 wins. Keeping the band together would have made the team worse, but this accomplishes the feat in even more spectacularly catastrophic terms.

Now I get to disagree...

Goran Dragic should be ranked higher than #107. Point guard is the deepest position in the league and Goran should probably be 15-20 at that spot (maybe higher). By that logic, the #83 ranking from last season should be pretty apt. I really don't see him regressing and I'm assuming those that do (I believe incorrectly) think that Bledsoe will stymie his production.

A healthy Channing Frye is not the 292nd best player (10th man) in the league. Considering his progress to this point I think he will easily be a top 200 player. This slotting embarrassingly reveals that the national crowd isn't familiar with the situation. Frye apologists man your stations.

P.J. Tucker (#354) is better than a 12th man who should never see the light of day except in circumstances where there is a +/- 20 point disparity on the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter... His energy and tenacity are valuable enough to overcome his offensive limitations and at least make him an 8th or 9th man that can contribute to a team. But... the proposition of him starting for the Suns this season is telling of the team's woeful nature.

The encouraging play of Miles Plumlee reveals that he may be able to have a positive impact in limited minutes. He does not appear to be a guy who would be damn near the worst player on any roster in the league. Seriously, he's ranked 36 spots below Beasley...

However, I agree that many of these players are just not that good and won't be surprised if Gortat (the Polish Pillow) underplays his ranking (again). The Suns are likely to duplicate their performance of being a bottom five team. That being said, I still take a little bit of exception to this ESPN/True Hoop compilation (mostly because they truly are ignorant haters).

Like I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Suns still had a top end talent (Bledsoe - #63) higher than three other teams. The nadir of the league is the Orlando Magic (Nikola Vucevic #97), followed by the Philadelphia 76ers (Thaddeus Young #89) and Utah Jazz (Derrick Favors #68).

Below are the 62 players ranked above Eric Bledsoe

Atlanta Hawks - Al Horford, Paul Millsap

Boston Celtics - Rajon Rondo

Brooklyn Nets - Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson

Charlotte Bobcats - Al Jefferson

Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer

Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao

Dallas Mavericks - Dirk Nowitzki

Denver Nuggets - Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried

Detroit Pistons - Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond

Golden St. Warriors - Stepehn Curry, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Klay Thompson

Houston Rockets - James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons

Indiana Pacers - Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West

Los Angeles Clippers - Chris Paul, Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol

Memphis Grizzlies - Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph

Miami Heat - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh

Milwaukee Bucks - Larry Sanders

Minnesota Timberwolves - Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic

New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson

New York Knicks - Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler

Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka

Orlando Magic - worst (Nikola Vucevic #97)

Philadelphia 76ers - second worst (Thaddeus Young #89)

Phoenix Suns - fourth worst (Eric Bledsoe #63)

Portland Trail Blazers - LaMarcus Aldridge, Damiam Lillard, Nicolas Batum

Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins

San Antonio Spurs - Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard

Toronto Raptors - Rudy Gay

Utah Jazz - third worst (Derrick Favors #68)

Washington Wizards - John Wall

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