With a heavy heart, we bid adieu to the Phoenix Suns best center since Shaquille O'Neal made the All-Star team in 2009. If you count more than one year, Gortat was the Suns best multi-season center since the turn of the century and one of the best centers of all-time for the franchise.

To wit (among forward/centers, NOT including Amare Stoudemire):

  • 4th most games started at Center in Suns history - 139 (leader: Mark West, 349)
  • 11th most overall games at Center - 182 (Alvan Adams, 988)
  • MOST rebounds per game among Suns centers who started at least 1 game - 9.3
  • 5th in points per game at Center - 13.3 (Shaquille O'Neal, 16.5)
  • 5th in field goal % among Suns centers who played more than 21 games - 54.7% (Steven Hunter, 61.4%)
  • 4th most Win Shares among Suns centers - 16.1 (Alvan Adams, 73.5)

In video

In quotes

"You know what, I ain't watching ESPN anymore. I ain't watching ESPN unless there's a game. When the Miami Heat had this losing streak, people started talking less about them, and that was the right time to start talking about the different teams who are really good like the Boston Celtics, San Antonio. Now you've just got to hope that this losing streak's going to start today." -- on ESPN's coverage of the Miami Heat, December 23, 2010

"It's just a little bit frustrating when you come in the locker room and people are talking about the offense. That's not the way you're going to win NBA games. I don't know if it's just me, or maybe I'm just different, but I came from a team where everybody's competing and trying to do the stuff that coach is saying. We're just totally changing our rotations, changing our stuff that we set before the game. We're not playing hard enough and I've just got to tell you, there's a lot, a lot of work in front of us. The positive thing is? It can't be worse." -- December 30, 2010 (two weeks after trade)

"I'm trying to get some rebounds and stops, but unfortunately there's not too many opportunities for me to rebound because the team is scoring 120-something points. It's just frustrating; frustrating as hell. I'm not going to lie." -- December 30, 2010 (again, just two weeks after the trade)

"I always had the feeling Perkins was still mentally fighting Dwight, even when Dwight would come out of the game. He's a physical guy who won't let anything go. He's like a little dog that will never let go of you. They'll keep barking and running around you. You keep throwing the little ball, and they keep bringing it back. He'll grab a hold of your leg and never let go. He keeps fighting. At some point, you say, ‘Dude, haven't you had enough?' Honestly, that's character, and I respect that."-- on Kendrick Perkins, January 28, 2011

"People talk about him like he's some sort of joker, but in my second year, he asked me how my dad was doing. It was impressive to me that a guy like Shaquille O'Neal knew about my dad. Since then, I always had fun playing against him. I took a couple of elbows, too!"-- on Shaquille O'Neal, January 28, 2011

"Rajon Rondo is a great point guard, but he isn't better than Steve [Nash]. As many passes as he gave me today I think I had so many passes the entire season a couple years ago. It's just a great feeling to play with him." -- January 31, 2011

"I know what frustrates this guy. I know what moves he likes to do. So I would say I have a little advantage over the rest of the guys in the league. But still, (at the) end of the day, it's still about having big balls and holding your ground when the guy's trying to kick your ass. Seriously, man. It's not easy when you have a 280-pound guy with a smile on his face trying to crush your face. You've got to be tough, I'm telling you right now. His elbows are hard (as) rocks." -- on Dwight Howard, March 12, 2011

"This guy (Lopez) had such a big chance, such a big opportunity, to play in the best league. When I was Orlando, playing behind Dwight (Howard), I was praying to get a chance to play and he (Lopez) has had this chance for two years and he didn't take. So I thought, when you don't want it, there will be 50 persons behind you, waiting to take this chance, and then I came by and I took (it). Sorry, that's business, that's life." -- on Robin Lopez, July 2011

"I would like to make the playoffs. That is the most important thing. Personally, I would just like to be better than last year. I would like to make another step forward and reach that point of being a double-double guy and set a couple small records." -- December 6, 2011

"I just have to be a simple basketball player. Try and dunk the ball, not try to be a finesse player, you know, finish with the hooks, finish with the backboard. Just got to go in and dunk the basketball, that's it. Just be the simple basketball player." -- April 12, 2012

"Basically, I am going to try and prove that I can play without him. There was a lot of talk in the offseason about how I'm going to play and how I'm going to handle the whole situation without him. I believe I'm an experienced player already. I've been in the league a few years by now, and I have other point guards. I have Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall. I have great passers. I'm quite sure I'll be fine." -- on not needing Steve Nash, October 1, 2012

"I'm 100 percent sure I've become a better player and hopefully I show it this season. I'm in incredible shape. I'm definitely missing a few pounds because I didn't have enough time to get in the weight room. But we've got the new nickname 'Polish Gazelle.' Trust me, I can outrun everybody, even point guards." -- October 6, 2012

"Unfortunately, I don't think I'm even an option for Gentry. He doesn't even take me into consideration. The situation is critical. We're playing the same thing we've been playing last year, but the truth is we have a completely different set of players. I don't think it really works." -- on being frustrated, November 19, 2012

"I miss Steve. I'm not going to deny it. I do miss him, I miss him a lot. I didn't believe it was going to be like that this year. Last year when we were finishing the season and people were talking about Steve leaving the team, I was like 'at the end of the day, if he leaves, I'll be fine anyway'. Well, it's different." -- on missing Steve Nash, January 30, 2013

"I think we need some changes. We need some serious conversations. First of all, I'm going to look at myself. Hopefully the management and personnel guys will do the right thing. We are missing character. We are missing strong minds in the team. We are just weak mentally. I would say that we need more talent, more athletic energetic guys, people who want to compete and fight. That's the most important thing." -- end of 2012-13 season, April 23, 2013

"I want to leave this country [Slovenia] with a medal. If we get it, I can tell you right now, I am going be missing training camp in the NBA. I am going to be partying for three weeks right after the tournament!" -- over in Slovenia for Eurobasket, September 3, 2013

"We all know what's going to happen. It's a business. I totally understand that. I totally understand the situation. There's no hard feelings. I will try to do everything that's necessary to win basketball games, and whatever happens happens. I'm grateful for everything I had in this team." -- September 30, 2013

"We all fighting for bread, we all fighting for milk. I'm not letting anybody take my job. I'm gonna come here, and I'm gonna fight these guys just like I'm fighting everybody else. I'm gonna do whatever I can to stay in this league, and on this team, as long as possible." -- September 30, 2013

As we creep closer and closer into to the Top 10 most important people in the Phoenix Suns franchise there are no more trades, signings, or moves that can shake-up what we, the Bright Side Staff, have delegated as the most crucial elements to the teams success.

Sometimes people (or players) are not put in the best position to be successful. That was the case for the team last year from the players to the front office.

This year everything is starting to fall into place and the pieces are fitting. The team has an owner, a president, a general manager, a coach, and players that all know their role with the team. One is not trying to be the other and the others are doing their jobs, and doing them well.

Before we head into the Top 10 there are a few names to check off of the list:

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25-21 << 20-16 << 15-11 << 10-6 << 5-1

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No. 15: Marcus Morris (14.0)

Profile: 6-9 235 lbs. Forward -- Third Year Kansas

Stats: (Pre-Season) In 18.1 MPG 6.7 PPG 3.3 RPG 1.3 APG 42.9% FG 42.9% 3PT (9/21)

Interesting Fact: Marcus is the fifth twin brother to play for the Suns

Analysis: I had Mook ranked as the 9th player on my list, behind Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Marcin Gortat, Archie Goodwin, Channing Frye and his twin brother Markieff. I think that's pretty fair, although it's a toss-up with his brother. The other seven players ahead of him are either better now or will be more important to the team moving forward. Marcus has shown some potential as a corner 3-ball shooter, but his slow feet and spotty shot-selection means he still has a ways to go before becoming a regular rotation player and positive contributor. - Jacob Padilla

Important Question: Can Marcus become the third play-maker the team desperately needs?

No. 14: Lon Babby (13.0)

Profile: President of Basketball Operations -- Fourth Year Lehigh

Summer Stats: Fired Lance Blanks, Hired Ryan McDonough, and helped manage perfect game of a summer as the catcher to his general managers pitcher

Interesting Fact: Lon Babby was a defense attorney for John Hinckley Jr., the man who accused of attempting to assassinate Ronald Regan. Then, 30 years later, he defended Michael Beasley, the man accused of impersonating an NBA player.

Analysis: Babby is a numbers guy. He is a relationship guy. He is a people person. Agents, if you didn't know this, are very good talent evaluators for their sport. They are the scouts that found a different avenue to make money in the game they love. That is all relevant for Babby in particular because during his first few years he failed at leveraging his strengths and unfortunately that accentuated his weaknesses. He has an eye for talent that he knows will draw money, but in the role of deciding who will produce on the court for the Suns the past few years he fell short on evaluating the person, not the player, the fit, not the talent. Now he can step to the side and work with General Manager Ryan McDonough on the details, financial impacts, and value of a player. Right where he should have been a few years ago. -- Kris Habbas

Important Question: What kind of moves can the businessman make now that he has the flexibility and the basketball mind he needs?

No. 13: P.J. Tucker (12.0)


Profile: 6-6 224 lbs. Small Forward -- Second Year Texas

Stats: (Pre-Season) In 21.3 MPG 8.1 PPG 4.4 RPG 1.7 SPG 45.8% FG

Interesting Fact: Tucker's first name is Anthony Leon, but "P.J." stands for "Pop's Junior" after his father who was a hard hitting baseball prospect back in his time.

Analysis: Tucker is the embodiment of what hustle and hard work can do for not only the success of player, but a team as well. Tucker is essential in giving this group of young players a role model with a "never say die" attitude, and a shining example of how to play with a chip permanently embedded in your shoulder.  Tucker is a rare breed in the league, a rags-to-riches story of a player who earned his roster spot not on the merit of his talent or draft status, but through earning it consistently through pure effort and dedication.  Although Tucker won't provide the Suns with a game changer this season, I think he is an excellent example for the other young players around him....Which ultimately means more than just wins at this point. - Sean Sullivan

Important Question: Where does get his minutes with Green and Marcus Morris on board?

No. 12: Gorilla (11.0)

Profile: Mascot -- 34th Year The Jungle

Career Stats: Too many trampoline dunks to count...

Interesting Fact: Other than Slamson, an Evangelical Lion, the Suns are the only Pacific Division team with a mascot. Seriously, an Evangelical Lion?

Analysis: I ranked the Gorilla in the top ten, highest of all the staff writers, and I stand by that. While the Suns team loses, they need to keep their Brand strong. And the best way to do that is bring the Gorilla back to prominence. Back in the old days, the hairy SOB was THE timeout entertainment and he made himself a legend as the best mascot in the league. These days, he's getting lost amid the Solar Squad, dancers and Tom Zenner. He still has a role, but it's getting smaller and smaller. Make a comeback, G! Save us from the Zenner! - Dave King

Important Question: Can the Gorilla rise back to the top?

No. 11: Dancers/Hip-Hop Squad (11.0)

Profile: 18 Girls Dancing and 14 People Hopping -- Forever Phoenix

Stats: Dancing and hopping their ways into the hearts of fans for years.

Interesting Fact: One of the dancers, Carin Malm, is a former Miss New Mexico!

Analysis: I actually went on a run of six things, some were write-ins, that will make the games more interesting than (potentially) the Suns on court escapades.  I affectionately labeled this cluster the "making the bloodbaths more entertaining" section.  I actually went 6-11 with these and had the dancers a little bit higher.  Feel free to form whatever opinions you may knowing that other staff writers put them lower.  Music, verve and choreography from cheerful, scantily clad women with team spirit. They work hard and I enjoy it.  Sounds like a symbiotic relationship to me. - Jim Coughenour

Important Question: Do these girls have full medical to cover the depression medication they'll need to take to get through the season?

Come back tomorrow for 10-6 in the #SUNSRANK series and follow along on Twitter!

Ohhh....

Write-In Ballot: Michael Beasley's Empty Locker (Jacob)

Profile: About 6-7 feet tall, 3-4 feet wide, and full of the lifestyle of an NBA player.

Stats: Many memorable quotes, lots of negative energy, and a fair share of post-game meals.

Interesting Fact: The locker is now home to Eric Bledsoe.

Analysis: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Micheal Beasley was one of the worst players in the entire league last year and incredibly frustrating to watch (and play with too I'm sure). He's gone after agreeing to a buy-out (good luck to Miami, as he's their problem now) and that means the Suns made one of the biggest addition by subtraction moves in the NBA this offseason (I ranked it No. 3 on my list). The offense should be more free-flowing and the defense should be more cohesive without Beasley disrupting the Suns with his play on both ends. -- Jacob Padilla

Important Question: Has the stink worn off?

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

The Phoenix Suns will be young this season. Younger than they have been in a very long time. But historically young? No. Young compared to the youngest teams in the NBA? Not really.

After drafting Alex Len (20) and Archie Goodwin (19), acquiring Eric Bledsoe (23) and trading away veterans from last season's rotations ranging in age from Jared Dudley (27) to Luis Scola (32), while also letting 34-year old Jermaine O'Neal walk away, you'd think the Suns got a lot younger this season.

The numbers agree, but not as dramatically as you might think.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

After Friday's 5-player trade, and not counting the injured Emeka Okafor, the Phoenix Suns return only four players from last season's rotation: P.J. Tucker (now 28), Goran Dragic (27), Markief Morris (24) and Marcus Morris (24).

Every other player on the current 14-man roster was acquired this summer by incumbent President of Basketball Ops Lon Babby and new GM Ryan McDonough. That's 10 new faces, start to finish. Some were only here in spirit: Caron Butler (32) and Malcolm Lee (23).

  • The average age of last March's playing rotation: 26.1
  • The average age of players traded/released by McDonough this summer: 27.7
  • The average age of players acquired by McDonough this summer: 24.7

Projecting November's rotation

Based on final preseason games, the following rotation will likely play out in November (barring any more trades). The rotation excludes Emeka Okafor (neck) and only goes 11 men deep, despite a 14-man roster. Coach Hornacek said it's ideal to play no more than nine men a night, but that this roster would have to go further because of where they are. I went 11.

Screen_shot_2013-10-27_at_7

*the formula is quite simple. You just multiply the player's age by the projected minutes, then divide the totals

November's playing rotation will likely be about 25 years old. It's possible that some minutes are off, in fact it's highly likely. But the players are right, and their age is their age. So, the final number for November won't be materially different. Alex Len and Archie Goodwin won't start the season on big minutes, while veterans like Frye and Tucker will take the load.

How does that compare to the rest of the league? That's what I'm here to tell you.

Rotation Age last March

In the spring, I did a whole analysis of the every team's true rotation age using March 2013 stats.

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Just how young were the March 2013 Suns?

The 2013 Suns playing rotation was old by lottery standards

That analysis resulted in the following conclusion: even at 26.1 years old, the Suns playing rotation was second-oldest amongst lottery teams. Only Dallas was older. Even worse, three playoff teams were younger than the Suns, and that's not a good thing at all.

But look at the average age of last spring's lottery teams. The current Suns rotation of 25.2 years old, if applied to last year, would still only rank 10th youngest. Out of 14 lottery teams.

Now, of course, as lottery teams settle into the basement of the league, they start playing younger players. The Suns most likely will be playing Alex Len and Archie Goodwin much bigger minutes next March than they will this fall.

The current Suns rotation, if applied to last year, would still only rank 10th youngest in league

But even then, the Suns can't get much younger in a 10-man rotation. With only three players under 24 years old going into the season - Bledsoe, Goodwin and Len - the Suns would be hard-pressed to play the league's youngest rotation. In fact, it would be next to impossible, barring more than trades of veterans for youth.

Historically young

Still, this team is historically young by Suns standards. You'd have to go back 10 years, to the 2003-04 season to get a younger Suns rotation. Of players who logged more than 1,000 minutes that season, the oldest was Stephon Marbury (26) who was traded after only 34 games.

The March 2004 rotation - a team that finished 29-53 - included Shawn Marion (25), Joe Johnson (22), Amare Stoudemire (21) Leandro Barbosa (21), Casey Jacobsen (22) and Jake Voskuhl (26). Jahidi White (27) played spot minutes, and Antonio McDyess (29) played some at the end of the year while coming back from major knee issues.

That was a young group, to be sure. And as we all know, that group formed the core of the resurgent teams of the mid-2000s.

The age of the 2004-05 Western Conference Finalists skyrocketed with the inclusion of Steve Nash (30), Jim Jackson (34), along with Walter McCarty (30), Bo Outlaw (33) and Paul Shirley (27), while the young core got a year older.

Youth is relative

Yes, this is a young Suns team. But youth is relative. It's younger than any Suns team in 10 years.

But next year's team - buffeted by more draft picks - will be younger still. And hopefully, more successful.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Join us at 6 p.m. MST as we chat about the Suns’ trade of Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards. And feel free to ask us any questions about the Suns.

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In the last two days, the Phoenix Suns released James Nunnally and traded away Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee and Marcin Gortat.

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!).

Plumlee

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 Morrii

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

Exclusive Christmas Interview

Christmas has mad respect for McDonough

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.

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