Both the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks came into the season with brand new rosters around an incumbent star (Al Horford for Atlanta, Goran Dragic for the Suns), and both teams exceeded expectations this season. But while the Suns are just about to get healthy, the Hawks are falling apart.
The Hawks had reached a high-water mark of 25-21 on February 1, staying strong even after Al Horford went down to a season-long injury. In the Eastern Conference, that was good enough for home court advantage in the first round.
A once-promising season in Atlanta is now teetering on the edge of disaster. The Hawks have lost 10 of their last 11 games.
To imagine the Hawks without Horford AND Millsap is to imagine the Suns without Bledsoe AND Dragic. Oh yeah, we don't have to imagine that. The Suns without Dragic and Bledsoe were 23-point losers to lotto bound Utah four days ago.
Check out Peachtree Hoops for more on the Hawks
Boy did the Suns need that win on Friday night. After a very disappointing week marred by Dragic's injury, they needed every bit of the Dragon's 40 points to upend the hot-shooting New Orleans Pelicans.
Now the Suns are boosted by a couple more pieces of good news. On Saturday, the Suns signed a veteran energy guy for rebounding down the stretch. Our own contributor, Bryan Gibberman, was there to catch all the quotes. While Shavlik Randolph hasn't even played in the NBA this season, some already see him as a better option than Miles Plumlee. Let's not go that far. Yet.
"He said the knee felt really good and has recovered well every time he has pushed himself harder," Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. "Today, we did primarily 5-on-5 and it will be interesting to see how he responds tomorrow. You still see the explosiveness, see the burst and the ability to get by his guy and finish at the rim. We are optimisitic he will help us down the stretch."
Dionte Christmas last week said Bledsoe looks just as good as he always has. Coach Jeff Hornacek said Bledsoe has had zero soreness or swelling since ramping up his workouts prior to Saturday's 5-on-5 test. The only issue now is when Bledsoe can run up and down the court full speed more than a few times before getting too winded to play full out.
Barring any setbacks, expect a promotion to the active roster any time now. Maybe Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, or Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both games are on NBATV, in case you go for that kind of thing.
Since Paul Millsap has already been ruled out of this game against the Suns and Al Horford is out for the season, I only listed the active Hawks players among the leaders in scoring, rebounding and minutes.
The Hawks are 28th in total rebounds for the whole season, a problem only heightened by missing Millsap tonight.
The Hawks are a real mish-mash now, with a patchwork front line of DeMarre Carroll and Elton Brand. Carroll has been the small foward all season and played fairly well, but is now forced to play PF with Millsap out. The Hawks just signed second round pick and former college phenom Mike Muscala, so we might see him get some time on that front line tonight.
The Suns really need to win the battle of the boards tonight, and control the Hawks' three-point shooting which remains strong thanks to Kyle Korver getting 34 minutes a night.
I have a hard time seeing the Suns lose this one, unless Dragic takes the night off. The Hawks are reeling. The Suns just need to keep that foot on their throats.
The Suns had an ugly week, going 1-2 overall, but punctuated by a big win on national TV to end it on a high note. Several players made their mark this week, including Mr. 40 points, but one player is really starting to come into his own and could soon become another play maker on both sides of the court.
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Weekly Stat Averages:
Minutes: 17 Points: 8.6 FG%: .385 Rebounds: 4.3 Steals: 1.0
Although this week will be remembered for the way that Goran Dragic played, and how he dominated the New Orleans Pelicans on a sore ankle to score 40 points, there was another player who also turned some heads.
Archie Goodwin, the 29th draft pick in the 2013 draft, has always been considered an investment for the future since he was first picked by the Suns. The Suns' front office believed that the then 18 year-old Goodwin had blue-chip talent and would have been a lottery pick in the 2014 draft if he had stayed at Kentucky another year.
Knowing that it would take time to develop Archie's skill set and polish his game was part of the plan. The Suns have been bringing him along very slowly this season, without expectations or pressure, giving him mostly spot minutes on the court and sending him to the D-League on a couple of assignments to give him extra playing time.
However, in the last few games, the Suns have begun to give Goodwin a few more minutes, and his improvement over when he first began playing this season has been apparent.
Looking at the stats above, nothing seems spectacular about his play based solely on the numbers alone. However, when you watch him play, you can't help but notice the raw talent and immense potential.
Archie had his break out game against Utah this week, in one of the worst overall games the Suns played this season.
In that game, Goodwin played 27 minutes and scored 16 points on 6-10 shooting. He also grabbed 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and registered a block as well.
Goodwin also scored 10 points in the game before against the Timberwolves, where he went 5-9 from the field in his 16 minutes of play.
Although Archie only played 8 minutes last night and failed to score against the Pelicans, this has definitely been his best week as a Sun. If nothing else, it is giving him valuable experience competing against NBA talent, and will help him continue to develop into the player the front office envisioned him becoming when they drafted him.
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The Suns made a change to the bottom of the roster today...Here's the scoop.
In an unexpected move today, the Phoenix Suns waived 3rd string center Slava Kravtsov, and signed the 30 year old, 6'10", 240 lb Shavlik Randolph in his place.
Randolph is best known for his collegiate career at Duke University, where he played for the Blue Devils from 2003-2005. After going undrafted in the 2005 NBA Draft, Randolph was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia 76ers where he remained on the roster for three years but has bounced around the league ever since.
Randolph last appeared in an NBA uniform last season for the Boston Celtics, where he played in 16 games. In those games, he averaged 12.4 minutes, 4.2 points, and 4.4 rebounds.
This season, he had been playing overseas in China for the Foshan Long Lions, and is now headed to Phoenix where he will be available for tomorrow night's game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Slava Kravtsov played in 20 games for the Suns where he averaged about 3 minutes, 1 point, and .9 rebounds.
Here are some quotes from the team...Including the new big guy himself: