At this point, the Suns apparently just want to take a breath and make some simple decisions. None of the Morrii or Plumlee will be cut loose after the season the way they were about to cut loose Kendall Marshall if he had not been included in the Gortat trade (instead, Washington did the cutting after absorbing his 2013-14 salary - win!).
Miles Plumlee, making only just over a million this year and next, is projected to play big minutes this season while rookie Alex Len recovers from ankle surgeries. Already, Len is in question to start the season due to soreness in the left ankle (according to Paul Coro on twitter after morning practice). Len had not played any basketball for six months, but jumped right into regular minutes in preseason and stands as the team's leading preseason rebounder (since Gortat was traded). The Suns want to take it really slow on Len.
With Frye and Okafor (just over from Washington) unready to play big minutes, Plumlee and second-year player Viacheslav Kravtsov are the only completely healthy centers on the roster. Frye will play, but likely can't handle more than 20-25 minutes per game and will play some PF as well. Okafor has a herniated disc in his neck and is out indefinitely.
Plumlee has shown great energy this preseason and has been touted as the team's biggest surprise. We shall see if he can hold up to playing the league's best centers.
The Suns also decided that twins Markieff and Marcus Morris have played well enough in the NBA to earn just about $3 million next year after making just over $2 million this season. They have shown an ability to play in an NBA rotation, and were "ranked" in ESPN's #NBARank in the mid-200s, meaning they rank as 8th-9th men in any NBA rotation. This means the 24-year old Morrii can play, but also that they have trade value if necessary.
The Morrii worked hard this offseason to get into the best shape of their careers. Marcus played very well in summer league, while Markieff has played well in the preseason. Marcus has shown the best 3-point stroke, while Markieff is spending a good deal of time in the paint now to take advantage of his size and quickness.
Each Morris brother, taken one spot apart in the 2011 draft, will make about $2 million this season and $3 million next season.
Dionte Christmas is a great kid who's been trying to make the league for years. He first came out of college as a shooter only, but has since really improved his game to the point that he can make an NBA roster. And thanks to the Suns, that dream has come true.
I'll tell you one thing. The NBA has no respect for deadlines or drafts as made apparent by the Phoenix Suns trading their entire roster yesterday and turning #SUNSRANK on its ears!
The initial rankings had five young roster hopefuls that had virtually no chance of making the roster, or at least three fifths of them, but now the roster stands at 14 and they can all call Phoenix home. The game is the game so naturally, the rankings move on.
Let's get to it.
Profile: 6-4 210 lbs. Shooting Guard -- Eighth Year Michigan State
Stats: (Pre-Season) In 10.3 MPG 3.0 PPG 1.3 APG 1.3 RPG 37.5% FG 33.3% 3PT (2-6)
Interesting Fact: Appeared in Nelly's "Just a Dream" music video... At the 3:15 mark, Brown has a drive-by moment.
Profile: Many people want to #letShannonfly but I'm not one of them. I just don't like dribble tantrums, and Brown can't help himself. His dribbles always end up in a contested shot for himself instead of a pass to a teammate in scoring position after he draws the defense's attention. I like Shannon personally, and he definitely got screwed last season, but I just really wish he'd go somewhere else to play basketball. He can be a key reserve on a good team, but suffers from overexposure on a struggling team. If it's a question of Shannon Brown or Archie Goodwin, I'd say Goodwin every day of the week and twice on Sundays. - Dave King
Important Question: Can Shannon catch-and-shoot without dribble tantrums first?
(Editors Note: Brown was traded to the Washington Wizards and waived on 10/25)
Profile: 6-8 210 lbs. Small Forward -- Seventh Year High School
Stats: (Pre-Season) in 12.4 MPG 2.8 PPG 2.5 APG 1.8 RPG (0 total steals) 27.8% FG 20.0% 3PT (1-5)
Interesting Fact: He will forever be know as the last ever first round pick that jumped from high school directly to the NBA...
Analysis: Tasked with giving my thoughts on Gerald, my first thought was that I didn't have any. Upon deeper reflection I decided that I hope Green is basically irrelevant, which is very probable, because if he plays a significant role that will mean he's producing and if he's producing he's helping the Suns win games... which is bad. Green turns 28 halfway through the season and is a six year NBA veteran who also spent two years in Russia - every NBA player's dream destination. He started more games in 2006-07 (26) then he did in his other five combined (24). The two players he is most similar to through his career to date are Darvin Ham and Cliff Meely. The best case scenario is that Green rattles a few rims with electrifying dunks in the brief intervals he isn't affixed to the bench. - Jim Coughenour
Important Question: Does Green become the new Shannon Brown? #letGreenFLY
Profile: 6-11 255 lbs. Center -- Second Year Duke
Stats: (Pre-Season) In 18.6 MPG 6.4 PPG 4.6 RPG 1.14 BPG 51.4% FG
Interesting Fact: Do you think you have a family trade? Miles' father, mother, both brothers, grandfather, and two uncles played basketball at the college level, minimum.
Analysis: I ranked Plumlee lower than all of my esteemed colleagues. There is no doubting Plumlee's athleticism and motor; however, I have never been impressed with his basketball ability, even back in his college days at Duke. I was one of the many laughing at Indiana when they drafted him with their first round pick, and I was proven right at least in the first year as Plumlee coudn't even get on the floor for the Pacers. I see Plumlee as a fringe NBA player; a Lou Amundson type that can be effective at times but overall really doesn't have much of an effect on a team. He'll make the team and get some minutes, but I don't think he has a long-term future in the Valley of the Sun. - Jacob Padilla
Important Question: How long will this older brother last with the Suns?
Profile: 6-4 195 lbs. Point Guard -- Second Year North Carolina
Stats: (Pre-Season) In 10.4 MPG 3.0 PPG 2.0 APG 46.2% FG 42.9% 3PT (3-7)
Interesting Fact: Kendall has already found another job! Don't believe me?
Analysis: So I get to cheat as I am writing this after the trade, but in these rankings I was higher on Marshall than the rest of the staff, but not by much. He has been the most talked about Sun since 2012, not always in a positive way, and is now free to find a situation that better suits his skill-set. If the Suns were to have kept Marshall he would be the third point guard at best, without him, the dynamic does not change. He was not going to move the needle regardless. Now the Suns are down to three Team Options for their rookie scale players. On the most recent podcast both Jim and I predicted Marshall would be on the outs this year, not get his option picked up, and have a new team before the trade deadline. All of which happened 24hrs after the podcast aired.
Important Question: Over/Under 0.5 total NBA minutes played for Marshall this year?
(Editors Note: Brown was traded to the Washington Wizards and waived on 10/25)
Profile: 6-10 245 lbs. Power Forward -- Third Year Kansas
Stats: (Pre-Season) In 20.7 MPG 8.9 PPG 5.1 RPG 49.1% FG 66.7% 3PT (2-3)
Interesting Fact: Markieff was born seven minutes before his twin brother and draft about that many minutes before his "little" brother. Big brother problems.
Analysis: I've been fairly critical of Kieff for the past few years...but it's mostly because of what I believe he could turn into if he just set his mind to it. Keiff was drafted to be an enforcer of sorts, a hard-nosed defender as well as a rebounder and an inside scoring threat. Kieff possesses all of the qualities to be just that, but somehow modeled himself more after Channing Frye. But unlike Channing, Kieff doesn't possess the natural three-point shooting ability, which hampers his efficiency on the court. At times we see flashes of what he can bring, like his 12 point, 10 rebound performance against the Nuggets in the final preseason game. If he could find his true identity as a big man and play like that consistently, he could be a part of the future with this organization. - Sean Sullivan
Important Question: Can Markieff maintain the discipline and efficiency he showed in the pre-season from three-point range?
Come back tomorrow for 15-11 in the #SUNSRANK series and follow along on Twitter!
Profile: Arizona Sports 620, The Arizona Republic, and other outlets will try to keep the fan-base happy, engaged, and excited through 82 rough games.
Stats: Millions of words written to say the same thing, in a different way, but not really.
Interesting Fact: There has been more turnover on the Suns roster than in the Al McCoy Media Room. Phoenix, where loyalty gets you 20-25 wins!
Analysis: Guys like Paul Coro and our outstanding staff here at Bright Side of the Sun will continue to be an important part of the Suns this season as they cover the team and help spread the latest news about the inner workings of the organization, as well as analyze the various moves or changes that will inevitably take place along the way. This coverage helps forge a connection between the team and the fans, by keeping the very people who support the team interested and invested in them.
Important Question: Two Parter: Does Coro get his suits at the same place as Jeff Hornacek? And, is that a good thing for Coro or an insult to Coach?
The inclusion of Indiana's lottery-protected first round draft pick was the main selling point when the rebuilding Suns sent their second leading scorer, Luis Scola, packing to the Pacers back in July. Of course, Gerald Green had to be included, too, for salary-matching purposes.
And then there was 25 year old, 6'11" Miles Plumlee: a player who was labeled as everything from a throw-in to an afterthought in the transaction.
But Plumlee used distinctly different words when describing his move to the desert.
"I looked at it more as a promotion because I'll get more of a chance to play," said Plumlee.
And play he will. After Marcin Gortat was traded to Washington on October 25, and while Channing Frye and Alex Len build up their stamina for long minutes, the Suns resident pogo stick and Energizer bunny will play a lot. In fact, it's possible that Plumlee will exceed last season's action by the fourth quarter of Bright Side Community Night - game two of the season, Friday, November 1. That is, if he can stay out of foul trouble.
After his first season with the Pacers, Plumlee's palpable hunger for playing time is understandable.
Indiana turned some heads when it made Plumlee the No. 26 overall selection in the 2012 draft. In four years at Duke, Plumlee never averaged more than 21 minutes in a single year and his best scoring season came out to 6.6 points per game.
The Pacers believed in him but didn't reciprocate with a rotational role. Plumlee only saw 55 minutes in his rookie season and was instead sent up and down from the Developmental League six times.
Despite his draft pedigree, Plumlee took a positive outlook on the constant stream of demotions.
"It was good to work on some things when you weren't getting to play at all in the games," said Plumlee, who averaged 11.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 15 D-League appearances.
When he was up with the Pacers, Plumlee made it a point to learn all he could from Roy Hibbert and "especially" David West. He carried that quiet hunger into the Orlando Summer League and on July 7, he tied the league record with six blocks in a game against the Thunder. But with Hibbert, West, Ian Mahinmi standing ahead of him in Indiana's rotation, Plumlee would have needed a few more record-worthy performances to be taken seriously.
Newly-christened Suns GM Ryan McDonough had the foresight to realize that too. And just a few weeks later, he came calling with a "surprise."
"You never really see it coming," said Plumlee on the trade. "But the more I got to talk to the staff and management here, I was just really excited about it."
Plumlee used that excitement as fuel on the practice court and made an impression on rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek.
"Miles is a guy with his athleticism...he's fast enough where he gets into the pick and rolls quickly," said Hornacek. "Guys are looking for him and if you give him a little space, he's going to go dunking."
But throwing down isn't Plumlee's bread and butter. In college, Plumlee made a name for himself by banging the boards. And that's precisely what the fast-break oriented Hornacek is looking for.
"We need somebody who can get some big rebounds," said Hornacek, who emphasized Plumlee's ability for quick outlet passes. "If we don't get the rebounds and teams are getting those offensive boards, it's going to kill us."
For that reason, Plumlee was given an opportunity to start at power forward last Tuesday against the Clippers. After a getting the jump ball nod over since-traded starting center Marcin Gortat, Plumlee went on to score Phoenix's first points of the game on a quick dribble-drive. But with the Clippers building a quick nine-point lead, Plumlee was relegated to the bench.
The second-year big man got another chance late in the fourth quarter. Plumlee was part of a unit that helped dig the Suns out a 14-point deficit with just under five minutes remaining. His finest moment came on a shifty move around the rim that cut it to a 95-94 game with 38.6 seconds remaining.
Ultimately, his late-game heroics weren't enough as the Suns were downed 102-96 for their first loss of the preseason.
Two days later, he was back to coming off the bench in Sacramento, and a week later he put up 8 points and 10 rebounds off the bench against Denver.
Regardless of his role, Plumlee promises to bring his trademark intensity to whatever is asked of him.
"I think in the NBA you learn that it shouldn't be much of a difference. You have to come in with the same energy...If you're coming off the bench, you have to treat it like you're starting. That's what works for me."
Now that Marcin Gortat has been traded, Plumlee will most likely be the team's starting center for the near future. Channing Frye is still getting his wind and legs after not playing basketball for 16 months until three weeks ago (heart condition) and rookie center Alex Len is getting into shape himself while recovering from double ankle surgery that kept him out of action for six months. The acquired Emeka Okafor is out indefinitely with a bulging disc in his neck. Add in Markieff Morris' one-game suspension, and Plumlee is sure to jump center to kick off the 2013-14 season.
"It's going to be kind of trial and error when [Plumlee] goes with another big guy such as Alex [Len] or Gortat," said Hornacek, before the Gortat trade. "But if he's in there with a Channing Frye or even Markieff...teams are going to have to make a decision: ‘Do we leave the shooters? Or Miles is going to get a dunk?' So that will be a weapon."
To help his cause, Plumlee has been proactive about upgrading his offensive repertoire. According to Hornacek, he's been working on his post ups and shot selection with former pros and current Phoenix assistant coaches Mark West and Kenny Gattison.
"Now when he catches the ball and he's within 15 feet, we feel comfortable with him making a move or taking a shot. I'm not sure we could have said that a month ago," said Hornacek.
And as an evolving player on an evolving team, Plumlee is eager to get his first considerable taste of the NBA alongside a collection of unproven commodities.
"I just want to have a great year and grow every day," said Plumlee. "I feel we're going to improve each day and that's a great feeling."