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The 2013 NBA Draft has been widely rumored to be shallow in upper-end talent. At this point, there is no clear franchise-changer like Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, or even Brittany Griner.

But there certainly are potential boom-bust guys out there. We don't know if a James Harden (#3 in his draft) or Stephen Curry (#7) or DeMarcus Cousins (#5) or Damian Lillard (#6) will emerge as All-Star talents after the fact, or if teams at the top of the draft will be stuck with a Derrick Williams (#2), Hasheem Thabeet (#3), Tristan Thompson (#4), Jan Vesely (#6) or a Wesley Johnson (#4) or Michael Beasley (#2).

All we know is that the more chances you get to draft a star, the better your chances to land one. (Cap'n Obvious reporting for duty!)

The Phoenix Suns have the potential for two lottery picks in the 2013 draft, plus potentially a third pick in the 20s.

The Suns have their own, which lately projects to be anywhere from #1 overall to #7 depending on how lucky the Suns are in the lottery ball tournament.

The Suns also have a pick from the Lakers. If the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns get their lottery pick outright. If the Lakers make the playoffs, the Suns get the worst of theirs and Miami's. Miami's projects to be in the bottom 2 or 3 of the first round.

The Suns also have Memphis' pick this year, but only if Minnesota MAKES the playoffs. If the T-wolves miss the playoffs, the Suns will get their pick as soon as they do make it (hopefully in 2014).

Let's take a look at each team's projected chances to make the playoffs with nearly half the season left to play.

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Basketball-reference runs a 1,000-plus simulations on every team's schedule for the rest of the season and predicts playoff chances. Obviously, the fewer remaining games the better the prediction.

However, they've been really accurate in recent seasons. Teams with a 90+% chance at this point in the season are virtual locks for the playoffs. That leaves only the 8th spot open.

The Suns

As of today, the Suns project to be second-worst in the West because they have a much easier schedule than Sacramento down the stretch. March is a particularly easy month for the Suns.

The Lakers

The Lakers have a better chance today to make the playoffs than they did a week ago, but still less than 1 on 3 shot to make it. The Jazz appear to be their only true competition for the 8th spot and have a tougher remaining schedule, but their current 5-win lead gives them the final edge.

Note that it currently only appears to require 42-43 wins to make the playoffs in the West this year, after needing a full-season average of 48 wins the last several seasons. It's a down year in the West.

If the Lakers can go 24-14, they have a good shot to make the postseason.

Even those of you wanting the Suns to tank should definitely root for the Suns to somehow beat the Lakers this season at least once.

The T-Wolves

The Timberwolves appear totally out of the postseason picture, with only a 1.5% chance of making it at this point. They have endured lots of injuries, which has caught up with them big time.

This is a good thing for Suns fans though. The Wolves lottery-protected pick rolls over for up to 4 years. As soon as the Wolves make the playoffs, it's the Suns' pick. With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio healthy for only one full season, that should be an easy target.

If Minny had made it this season, the Suns would get the WORST of theirs and Memphis - which is currently projected to be a pick in the 20-25 range. If Minny makes the playoffs next season, the Suns get Minny's pick outright which should be in the teens (in a better draft) rather than the 20s of a weak draft.

With eight games to go until the All-Star break, the Phoenix Suns have added some depth at the point guard position. Well, sort of. The team recalled point guard Diante Garrett from Bakersfield...

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Getting started with the second era in Phoenix Suns (15-30) in the past seven months has to be tough, but they handled it as well as Eric Bishoff handled the final years of World Championship Wrestling. For the ten of you that got that reference, you're welcome.

Game Recaps

@ Sacramento Kings - W (106-96)

vs. Los Angeles Clippers - W (93-88)

@ San Antonio Spurs - L (108-99)

@ Dallas Mavericks - L (110-95)

In hindsight it will be the looked at as simply a 2-2 week with two sets of back-to-backs on the schedule. For those without a sense of revisionist history (rarity) this was a week of ultimate highs and very familiar lows. The team charged out to a 2-0 start under Interim Head Coach Lindsey Hunter before dropping the next two on the road in Texas.

Before heading on the road to Texas it seemed Hunter was able maximize the effort from his team. They came out playing great defense and scoring well in the first quarter, which has been a problem this season.

The issue the previous regime had with the roster was consistency. That does not seem to have changed as they won two games behind defense and lost two games behind defense immediately after. That balance of effort on the defensive end while still scoring enough to be competitive in the fourth quarter is the item behind mystery door number three, but the Suns keep choosing doors one, two, or falling short in the speed round just before.

Key Stats

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Through 41 games the Suns were -16 overall (468-484) in offensive rebounding as a team. Over the last four games they were -16 (35-51) in that five day window alone. One of the staples of a good defense is the ability to shut the door on the possession with a rebound or forced turnover.

Coincidentally they won the first two games despite being aggressively mauled on the offensive glass, but as a whole the team does not have an enforcer in the paint to put the finishing touch on what have been very good overall defensive possessions. Instead they are giving up multiple shots most possessions making the defense work even harder while allowing the same amount of points to the opponent, just in more attempts.

They are currently on pace to be out-rebounded -164 on the offensive glass over the second half of the season. That is unlikely, but the pace is being set.

The Highs

Lindsey Hunter became only the fourth Suns coach to begin his career 2-0 joining the fraternity of Jerry Colangelo, Scott Skiles, and yes, Alvin Gentry. The winning was short lived, but showed signs of potential.

In the two wins the Suns were a +15 overall in the scoring column holding two Divisional rivals to a combined 43.8% from the field, 37.9% from three, and forced a combined 39 turnovers. All three of those intangibles are reflective of the way the defense played.

The Lows

With three days of practice and against a struggling Kings team and a Chris Paul(less) Clippers team the Suns shined. On no practice the team was picked apart by a Tim Duncan (and Greg Popovich) less Spurs team and a struggling Mavericks team. That pretty much sums up the week.

There has to be consideration to the lack of practice time because Hunter is a new coach, but the Suns were outplayed from the jump in each game.

In these two games in particular however the team was simply outplayed by teams that were more prepared, coached better, and knew what to do to win games. That is going to happen often to the Suns and it is not meant as a knock in the slightest, but expectations should be realistic. The team is struggling and is going through the growing pains of a reboot.

Practice Report

Hunter was able to run three practices before the teams first game and they were ready to play. He emphasized defense, which the team delivered in those first two games.

Here are the highlights from practice.

There was a clear tone to Hunter and how he was going to handle things. This team is going to play defense, play hard, and make the philosophy switch never seen here in the valley before; Defense. So far that has been the case as they held their first two opponents to 92 PPG, but they were run out of the gym in Texas giving up 109 PPG. The learning curve seems to go up-and-down.

The team played hard under Alvin Gentry and gave effort on defense, but it wasn't to be. Seems Hunter is getting about the same out of his guys on that end.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • A- for Michael Beasley: The confidence is clearly there as Beasley averaged more points (+6.0) and rebounds (+1.4) this week, but more importantly he shot over 50% from the field and from three. Two areas he was struggling in all season.
  • C- for Shannon Brown: In getting the younger players on the court there are going to be some minor sacrifices and Brown's minutes seem to be one of them. He is the main bench scorer, but in order to get minutes for Marshall, Johnson, and others he is the odd man out early in the rotation.
  • C+ for Markieff Morris: With an increased amount of playing Morris struggled. Hunter applauded his defensive effort, but his shooting, rebounding, and scoring are all down getting about 6+ minutes more a game.

    Player of the Week:

    Goran Dragic - 15.75 PPG 2.25 RPG 9.25 APG 43.4 FG%

    An aggressive Goran Dragic is what the Suns need and that is exactly what he provided early in the weeks two wins. He was attacking the rim going in with a purpose looking to score or distribute. On the defensive end he has spearheaded the noticeably more opportunistic defense.

    Dragic is the straw that stirs the drink for the Suns so when he is aggressive and making plays the rest of the team has more of a pep in their step. They go after it harder on defense and become a better overall team.

    Previewing the Week Ahead:

    Wednesday, January 30th vs. Los Angeles Lakers (19-25)

    Friday, February 1st vs. Dallas Mavericks (19-25)

    Saturday, February 2nd @ Golden State Warriors (26-17)

    ****


    What keeps the Phoenix Suns from contending is not their ability to play top tier basketball. Their back-to-back victories over the Kings and Clippers showed they can win games and play at a high...

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    Well, Lindsey Hunter, it seems that the Suns ascent to being on the same level as the Spurs (seriously, why on Earth would he say this?) might take just a tad bit longer than you imagined. Also, it turns out, that a bad team playing their fourth game in five nights, on the road against a team who's season is on the bubble might not end well. Go figure.

    Oh, and that improved defense you've been talking about? We've been hearing about that for like five years now, so don't worry about delivering. We're used to ignoring all that talk.

    The Suns started the game well enough. The ball was moving. Goran Dragic had four assists in the first six minutes. But things fell apart really fast when the bench came in.

    A 16-16 tie game at about the five minute mark of the 1st was quickly turned into a rout thanks to a Mavericks 22-5 run over the next seven. It started when Michael Beasley came in the game and wasn't helped at all by five uneventful minutes from Kendall Marshall. (An air-balled three is not considered an event, right?)

    Shawn Marion, playing in his 1,000th NBA game, reminded us what a mistake it was for the Suns to trade him. This guy is a special player and can still impact the game with his energy, hustle and crazy ability to find net with his array of "shots".

    Lindsey Hunter's Phoenix Suns cut the lead to six in the third and were down "just" nine going into the fourth. But once again, the bench was horrible and Michael Beasley was Badsley. The Mavs used a 14-5 run to put things to bed.

    Goran Dragic was the best player on the court. He finished with 18 points and 8 assists along with some blocks and rebounds and stuff. Everyone else was pretty forgettable except KENDALL MARSHALL HIT A THREE!!!! TWICE!!!!! WOOHOO!!! Get that kid signed up for the Shooting Stars Contest!

    I except to see a Lindsey Hunter quote telling us how it's not long now before he's in the All-Star Game. That's how it works, right?

    Vince Carter lit the Suns on fire with 15 points on 5-8 shooting. At least Dragic managed to kick him in the balls at one point. That was fun.

    The Suns head home and get a couple of days off before welcoming Steve Nash back to Phoenix on Wednesday. Will/would you boo Steve? (Expect to hear that question asked a few thousand times between now and Wednesday.)

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