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As an NBA franchise, you don't want the double-whammy of being one of the oldest teams in the league AND fall short of the playoffs. And yet, that's exactly where the Suns were last season and the season before that.

Barely missing the playoffs got the Suns marginal prospects in the late-lottery that Seth Pollack already detailed were okay for where they picked, but certainly not good enough to revitalize a franchise. In fact, the Suns have not drafted a franchise-revitalizing player since 2003 (Amare Stoudemire).

Last summer, the Suns let go of their oldest players - Grant Hill (39), Steve Nash (37) and Michael Redd (32) - in a concerted effort to get younger when their contracts expired.

How much younger is younger?

By letting go of those three players and six others, and bringing in nine new players in their place, the Phoenix Suns dropped the age of their 11-man playing rotation by three full years - 29.2 years old to 26.1 years old* - despite bringing in 32-year old Luis Scola and 34-year old Jermaine O'Neal.

*I multiplied the ages of the Suns' actual playing rotation this March 2013 by the number of minutes they played this month, and compared that to a year ago March 2012.

2013:

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*those shaded RED denote players whose minutes have declined this month, while those in GREEN are those seeing more minutes.

And here's your 2012 Suns rotation:

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The Suns are still not that young

I did the same calculation for the entire league this March, to see where the Suns rank on the list.

Yet, a playing rotation that averages 26.1 years old is still just smack dab in the middle of the NBA for games played in March.

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The Suns are still the second-oldest non-playoff team in the NBA, in terms of who's playing minutes in March. The oldest, Dallas, is fighting the Lakers for the right to be the very oldest lottery team this season, sparing the Suns of ignominy.

Last season's Suns, if kept together as some suggested, would now average over 30 years old - right at the upper edge of all NBA teams.

What does age have to do with success?

While age is not a primary, determining factor in success of NBA teams, it is quite instructive and interesting to me the nearly direct trajectory of age vs. success in the league.

How the best and worst NBA teams stack up in terms of age

Tom Ziller looks at how winning teams age.

For the most part, the youngest teams in the league miss the playoffs and get younger with a high draft pick. And the oldest teams, by and large, make the playoffs and stay just as old as they've always been.

Only three "young" teams (Houston, Golden State and Indiana) are projected to make the playoffs this season while a fourth, Utah, is dying on the vine while playing their younger players as Jefferson and Millsap have both battled injury this month.

In fact, the youngest teams have been bad for a long time. Look at the 'Last 5 years' column and nearly every one of them is a fixture in the lottery.

How to get even younger?

The problem is that there are only two pools of quality NBA players: free agency and the collegiate draft.

Part of the problem with getting truly younger in one summer is that unrestricted free agency only kicks in when guys reach about 25 to 26 years old (four years after their draft year). Anyone younger than that still is controlled by their drafting team, unless the team lets them go.

To a get a full rotation of guys younger than 25 or 26 requires a lot of draft picks and/or signings of young, un-drafted free agents.

If the Suns go this route to get younger, then don't expect a great deal of success in the win column. So, it's no wonder the Suns front office is trying to straddle that fence between too young to win and too old to rebuild.

The Suns will add a couple of young players in this year's draft, likely replacing a couple of middle-aged guys. But whether they bring back Jermaine O'Neal and Marcin Gortat, and even Hamed Haddadi, will indicate whether the Suns want to win games or if they just want to wait another year.

Don't count on the latter. The arena is getting emptier and the natives are either restless or, worse yet, losing interest. Expect the Suns to continue to straddle the fence on being too young vs. too old.

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There's been much talk about Kendall Marshall and his shooting stroke. Both Suns President Lon Babby and coach Lindsey Hunter have recently insisted that he's made huge strides since the beginning of the season. Perhaps this is true if you are starting from a point of hopelessness and consider his current state as poor.

I guess that's progress?

Passes like this are why Kendall was drafted.

Here's the numbers looking at all Kendall's three-point attempts since February 1. This includes a stretch of 24 games with Marshall in the primary back-up point guard role.

Marshall is 15-47 from three (32%) during that stretch. That's not horrible for a rookie who struggles with his shot. It's a number you look at and go...hmmm, OK, maybe we can live with that.

The problem comes when you look at each of those shots and the context they are taken.

For example, did you know that ALL 15 of his makes were assisted and ALL were wide open like this:

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Marshall's threes, which account for 55 percent of ALL his field goal attempts, almost always come from either a pass out of a post double team or from a drive and kick pass from Dragic. On a few occasions, his defender simply backed up off him so far that Marshall felt the need to take the wide open shot he was given. I have no real way to count how many times Marshall turned down wide open shots, but anecdotally from watching him, I think that number would be high...and understandably so. At least he's not forcing shots he's not comfortable taking.

Here's an example of Marshall's defender showing him no respect. Hands down, backed up a few steps -- Kendall took (and missed) this shot.

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I watched video of 28 missed Marshall threes. 21 were open shots. Four were guarded or at least moderately contested and three were late in the clock heaves. Only twice, Kendall pulled up from the dribble and took a three when his man went under a screen. Twice.

Let's go to the tape and look at Marshall's shooting mechanics which explains why he has to be wide open to take a shot. We know he has a low release point and a funky delivery but that doesn't explain why he's slow getting the shot off.

In this clip you'll see the defense sell out to collapse on Goran's drive in the lane. Marshall's man (Jason Terry) leaves him in the corner and comes all the way across the lane to help on Dragic. Goran makes the right pass and hits Marshall, who's wide open when he catches the ball. But notice how he drops the ball and gathers himself before rising up to shoot. This gives the defender additional time to recover. Kendall still gets this shot off before Terry's hand is in his face, but only because Terry is so far away and is not exactly the most athletic wing defender in the NBA.


In this next clip, the Suns run Marshall off some screens on an in-bounds play (no idea why) and you'll see how open he is on the catch but how long it takes to get the shot off which allows Garrett Temple to fight through and get his hand up. Result = airball.

And finally, Marshall is 0-4 from the corners and 15-43 from above the break with a slight improvement from straight on.

Perhaps I'll look at Marshall's two-point attempts next but I really want to look at all his assists because according to Synergy, he's rated "poor" as a pick and roll ball handler with only .476 points per possession.

March Madness is in full effect, and the Phoenix Suns have lost seven of their last eight games. It’s officially time to start looking toward the NBA draft. As of today, the Suns own the fourth worst...

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As an athlete, or as a person, the one thing you can control is the effort you deliver in your day-to-day function. That is why it is called "effort." It is intangible in nature and unfortunately not something that everyone is just gifted as the Phoenix Suns (23-48) have learned this season.

Having an elite level of talent, athleticism, and physical traits does not make one a great basketball player on this level.

Game Recaps

vs. Los Angeles Lakers- W (99-76)

@ Houston Rockets - L (88-79)

vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - L (117-86)

vs. Brooklyn Nets - L (102-100)

So far this season the effort has been spotty at best from some of the key players in this transition year as the old guard left town.

Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris are all talented enough to be impact players every game for the Suns. Instead they take quarters, games, and entire weeks off leaving the team void of options on the court. You cannot coach effort, which is why those three are quick to the bench and Jermaine O'Neal, P.J. Tucker, and Wesley Johnson have ascended to the top of the rotation.

Against the Lakers and Nets the effort and energy were evident. They routed the Kobe-less Lakers and nearly stole one from the playoff bound Nets. Small victories in an otherwise dismal season.

2013 NBA Draft Update

With the NCAA Tournament in full swing it is the time of year where NBA fans and writers start watching college basketball and formulating an opinion on the next wave of prospects based on a game or two. Luckily, I cover the draft year round and can provide analysis rather than reaction.

Over the past four days I have reviewed the tournament from the perspective of how the prospects are doing.

Right now there is a lull between the first two rounds and the beginning of the Sweet 16 on Thursday. There will be lot's of analysis here on BSotS regarding the prospects to keep an eye on and those declaring for the draft.

How is your bracket doing? How u?

The Highs

Knocking off the (Kobe Bryant-less) Lakers was a big moment this season for the team as they are 2-0 at home against their rivals. The Suns are no longer in a position to thwart the Lakers playoff rise, that burden has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the Utah Jazz, but this win was more about pride.

The Lows

See: Timberwolves, Minnesota

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 Wesley Johnson: Another quality week for "Smiling Wes" as he put up 15.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG and even took control as the go-to scorer against the Nets.
  • D+ for Marcus Morris:Two DNP-Coaches Decisions and 1-13 shooting from the field in the games he was able to get into. In 28 minutes Marcus grabbed a total of 5 rebounds.
  • B+ for Luis Scola: He stepped in as the teams starting center in place of the injured Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal, the results have been hit or miss for the veteran.

Player of the Week:

Goran Dragic - 18.5 PPG 10.8 APG 5.0 RPG 1.5 SPG 47.1% FG (30.0% 3PT)

Five straight games with a double-double (11 in 18 games overall) while shooting 40% or better for "Gogi" as he has been on another level as of late. As our Dave King detailed, this has been a special run for Dragic. He has always been seen as the teams best player, but is too good of a teammate that he can be passive. This is the player the Suns envisioned for 82 games when they signed him this summer.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, March 27th @ Utah Jazz (34-36)

Thursday, March 28th vs. Sacramento Kings (24-46)

Saturday, March 30th vs. Indiana Pacers (43-27)

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A loss is a loss, but the effort and energy the team played with was worth of applause and praise. As professionals they should play like this every game, but in a dismal season this loss is a highlight.

The Phoenix Suns (23-47) have been teetering with franchise history all season, but records that a team never wants to break like the least amount of points in a game, and most losses in a season. They are safe in terms of the worst mark ever (16-66), but if they drop the game tonight to the Brooklyn Nets (40-29) they will match the seventh worst mark in franchise history.

For the Nets, they are in a position that they would have never thought imaginable three months ago with an opportunity to win the Pacific Division.

Each team is playing for something different, but something that is equally important to each.

As the Nets climb the standings the Suns are descending the same standings into the high end of the lottery. They are two different teams with different trajectories, which does not bode very well for the fate of the Suns. What interim head coach Lindsey Hunter is looking for is effort and energy from his players, something a few of them are learning the hard way.

(Recent) History Lesson

Lost 99-79

The Suns were able to keep pace with the Nets in the first half last time out, in Brooklyn, and they were even up seven at the half. A barrage of two's in the paint and free-throws brought the Nets back and then allowed them to put the game away as a lid was firmly placed on the basket for the Suns offense in the second half.

Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)

Suns: 106.3 PPG (4 wins)

Netss: 103.3 PPG (2 wins)

The Nets have won the last two games (104.5-to-91) taking control of this series, but over the past 10 years the Suns have dictated the pace and were the victors in this cross-country series. Before the last meeting the Suns had scored 100+ points in nine consecutive games with the exclamation point being a 161 point effort in double-overtime in 2006.

Head-to-Head (career)

Joe Johnson vs. Suns: 17.5 PPG 5.1 RPG 4.4 APG 1.05 SPG 37.7 FG% (17 games)

Luis Scola vs. Nets: 15.3 PPG 7.2 RPG 2.5 APG 0.5 BPG 56.3 FG% (10 games)

In his career against the Suns Johnson shoots his second lowest percentage overall, but still puts up his normal stat-line. He gets after his old team when they square off. Scola does not do anything special against the Nets traditionally, in fact he shoots it low for his standards against the other New York team and will be an important factor tonight.

Starting Line-Ups

PG - Goran Dragic v. Deron Williams

SG - Wesley Johnson v. Joe Johnson

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Gerald Wallace

PF - Markieff Morris v. Reggie Evans

C - Luis Scola v. Brook Lopez

Potential Suns Inactives: Marcin Gortat (Foot), Jared Dudley (Flu), and Jermaine O'Neal (Strained Left Calf)

Potential Nets Inactives: N/A

Key Match-Up

Markieff Morris vs. Reggie Evans

Over the past few months all Hunter and the Suns have been mentioning and talking about is energy and effort. That is something an individual can control without the help of a coach or his teammates. Some players are giving it and others are not. In this case Evans is pure energy and if Morris does not show up with energy then a role player like Evans could go off and beat the Suns himself, with energy.

Interesting Stat: 0-9

The Suns are 0-9 on Sunday, but score the third most points on this day of rest.

Meaningless Stat: Sweet Sixteen

During their days in college Shannon Brown, Marcus Morris, Kendall Marshall, Dudley, Markieff, and Johnson have all played in the Sweet 16. As the NCAA Tournament currently sits, Johnson (Syracuse), Brown (Michigan State), Marcus and Markieff (Kansas), Marshall (North Carolina), and Diante Garrett (Iowa State) all have something to cheer for still.

(Update: Sorry Diante)

There is that.

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