In the summer the most important thing for NBA fans is simple; Rankings.
Not singling out the mother-ship, because all major outlets do these, but ESPN.com had their yearly rankings going 500-1 previewing the NBA by having a panel of experts rank every player in the NBA and then put together a composite. Two things from the rankings stood out as obvious. One, LeBron James is the best player in the NBA and 26 teams saw a player named before the Suns had their first in the 60's with Eric Bledsoe.
There were 26 teams that had a player named before the Phoenix Suns heard their best players name called. Teams including Sacramento, Toronto, Boston, Dallas, and Charlotte. Charlotte.
Of those 26 teams there were 19 that had at least two players ranked ahead of Bledsoe and the Suns. This all means very little considering each individual franchise goes on their own path to get to the same ultimate goal. There are a few teams that are one or two players ahead of the Suns at this point in the game. The organization as a whole is realistic. They want to compete, progress as a team, and develop the type of team that will eventually be at the adult table (more on that here) making waves in the playoffs again.
For #SUNSRANK as we are dubbing this five part series the entire BSOTS staff ranked what we considered the most important 25 figures in the organization 1-25 to create a composite.
This is 100% original and in no way is copying (or mocking) other rankings. Seriously.
Profile: 6-7 205 lbs. Small Forward -- Rookie UC Santa Barbara
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: Avid bowler.
Profile: Nunnally has earned the dubious distinction of finishing dead last in this diversion. Somewhat surprising considering he's scored a grand total of nine points through five preseason games. We could dress it up with a litotes and assert that isn't terrible in the least considering he at least made it into the conversation, but it's still last and it's still the Suns. At 23 (which, coincidentally, is where I ranked him - I cleverly used alphabetical order of the first names of the final five... Dionte, Ish, James, Malcolm and Viacheslav... due to their relatively similar "value") years of age Nunnally will likely still have opportunities to make a roster at some point if he doesn't do so here... After all there's always Philadelphia, right? - Jim Coughenour
Important Question: Where will he end up playing this season? I actually had this typed before the news he was waived. It was funnier then...
(Editors Note: Nunnally was waived by the team Thursday, October 24th)
Profile: 6-0 175 lbs. Point Guard -- Fourth Year Wake Forest
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: Brother-in-Law is a former Deacon, played for the Demon Deacons, and graduated with a degree in "religion."
Analysis: The Suns ended up with Ish Smith as part of the Caron Butler trade that saved the Suns over $6 million in salary. Smith was never a need for a team with an already crowded back-court, but they gave him a shot in preseason just to see what they had. Unfortunately, it seems as though Ish is destined to be cut as he doesn't seem to bring anything unique to the team. The only way he may stay is if the Suns find themselves in need of a another point guard if they happen to trade Marshall, but even then, the odds aren't in his favor. - Sean Sullivan
Important Question: Is an undrafted Ish Smith a better option than 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall?
Profile: 6-11 254 lbs. Center -- Second Year Ukraine
Stats: (Pre-Season) In 8.4 MPG 3.4 PPG 1.8 RPG 0.4 BPG 100.0% FG (6-6)
Interesting Fact: As basically a nod to the tough spelling of his name, Slava was referred to by some as "Ctrl+V" or "Ktrl+V" because his name is a candidate to be copied-and-pasted by people consistently.
Analysis: "Slava," as his teammates and coaches call him has been a quiet, steady presence in the paint for the team. He is not a flashy player or a prospect with a high ceiling, but he is a serviceable big man that plays the center the way it used to be played. If the team had not drafted Alex Len or made a move for Miles Plumlee then Slava would be higher up on this list as a rotation player. During the pre-season Slava and Plumlee have basically been auditioning against each other for the third big man slot on the roster and other than shooting the ball (dunking the ball) efficiently, Plumlee has won this battle... - Kristofer Habbas
Important Question: What does Slava do well that his peers at the center position do not?
Profile: 6-5 200 lbs. Combo Guard -- Third Year UCLA
Stats: (Pre-Season) N/A
Interesting Fact: Lee's sister is an assistant women's basketball coach for the Oregon Ducks and was with the Army Knights before, Shandrika Lee-Gerch.
Analysis: Malcolm Lee has yet to suit up for the Phoenix Suns after the Warriors forced Phoenix to take him off their hands when the teams swapped picks so that the Suns could draft Archie Goodwin. He was drafted out of UCLA in the second round a couple years ago and has appeared in just 37 games and scored just 140 points in two seasons. Lee flashed some defensive potential in Minnesota as a combo-guard, but his career has been derailed by injuries and he still hasn't healthy. I wish him well as he continues his recovery and looks for a new team. - Jacob Padilla
Important Question: How many games will Lee play this year, over/under 10.5?
Profile: 6-5 205 lbs. Shooting Guard -- Rookie Temple
Stats: (Pre-Season) In 9.8 MPG 4.5 PPG 1.3 APG 1.3 RPG 50% FG 50% 3PT
Interesting Fact: Out-dueled James Harden in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, despite the loss, 29-9 in Christmas' last college game and Harden's second to last. Things have gone different for each since then, but Christmas has that to hang his hat on.
Analysis: Despite Christmas' respect for GM Ryan McDonough, the only way he makes this roster is if the Suns make a many-for-one trade right before cut-down day and he's left standing. It's too bad, since Christmas is PERFECT for promotional stuff in December. The most likely outcome is that Christmas is one of the Suns' late cuts and is eligible to be drafted by the Suns' D-League team to allow the Suns to keep Christmas' rights this season for a later call-up. Christmas can shoot the rock as an instant offense off the bench, but he just can't beat out the other guys at that position. It's a logjam that Christmas loses. -- Dave King
Important Question: Can a guy named Christmas play on Christmas?
Come back tomorrow for 20-16 in the #SUNSRANK series and follow along on Twitter!
Each ranking will also include one write-in ballot from the writers. We have five tremendous write-in's starting with Dave's:
Profile: A group of 15-20 fathers and 15-20 grandmothers that are so passionate about the art of dance that they come to most Phoenix Suns home games to entertain. And entertain they shall with an array of moves that are like the love child of Master P (see dancing with the stars the two minute mark should do) and a high school dance breaking into an impromptu Electric Slide with contemporary music playing.
Stats: Twenty old men dancing and no hamstrings pulled. Success.
Interesting Fact: They are actually the best dance team in the NBA.
Analysis: I've got the Gorilla and Suns Dancers ranked in the top ten, and I rank the Dancing Dads/Grannies higher than half the Suns current roster. The Suns need to entertain their fans at the highest level possible this season, and these crazy dancers, along with the other squads, can only help the cause. In full disclosure, I don't overrate all the Suns entertainment. The blow-up dolls (Hairy and Harrison) are way down the list, and Ced Ceballos' replacement Tom Zenner didn't even make it. -- Dave King
Important Question: Can the Suns keep the fans interested during timeouts?
The Class of 2010 - NBA players taken in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft - can be extended beyond the 2013-14 season if they sign that extension before November. That leaves only a week for negotiations to solidify into a deal.
Newly acquired Eric Bledsoe is one such player up for extension, despite never being a regular starter in the league. No details have surfaced but conventional wisdom says that Bledsoe's agent, Rich Paul, would expect an eight-figure annual salary (10+ million per year) for his client because that's the size of deal signed a year ago by guards Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson.
Steph Curry and Ty Lawson, though, had already been starters in the NBA and proven their big-minute production. Bledsoe has not, though he's shown glimpses this preseason that his production can translate. On the down side, Bledsoe turnover rate remains high on big minutes, while his spotty jumper has not improved.
Therein lies the dilemma:
You can guess that Rich Paul, Bledsoe's agent, wants the "more" category while the Phoenix Suns would prefer to hedge their bets and get him to sign in the "less" category. He really hasn't proven himself yet, so the chasm is understandably there.
McDonough toed the line well on KTAR the other day.
"With Eric, there's more projection. Some would say there's more risk, but I'd also counter that there's more upside," McDonough said on "Burns and Gambo". "He does some unique things athletically. I think he's the best shot-blocking guard in the league. If he plays extended minutes, which he will for us, I think he might lead the league in steals. He has a unique potential."
Again, that's all projection. In the end, Bledsoe is likely to be overpaid for his work.
A perfect solution just might be an incentive-laced contract. Under the CBA, there are two kinds of incentives: those that are "likely" and those that are "unlikely".
The determination of whether an incentive is likely or unlikely is based on whether the criterion was achieved in the previous season. For example, if a player had seven assists per game the previous season, then an incentive based on seven assists per game would be classified as likely to be achieved, but one based on eight assists per game would be classified as not likely.
This is a gold mine for Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns. With Bledsoe never having played starter minutes, any incentives based on per-game averages would be deemed "unlikely"...at least in 2013-14. Every year, the likely/unlikely incentives are re-evaluated for the next season.
There is a cap though.
Unlikely bonuses in any season are limited to 15% of the player's regular salary in that season. In the first season of a contract the base salary, likely bonuses and unlikely bonuses must all fit within the salary cap or exception.
That's two minor gotchas in one sub-quote from Coon's FAQ on the CBA.
Unlikely bonuses are limited to 15% of a player's base salary. Let's assume the Suns signed Bledsoe to a base salary of $8 million per year. A 15% bonus would then be $1.2 million, making his 2014-15 salary $9.2 million. There's no reason for Bledsoe to accept a $9.2/yr contract right now. Better to wait for RFA offers next summer, in a summer with very few point guards on the market.
But, that 15% kicker bridges the gap between $10 million/year and $11.5 million/year, stretching a potential extension from $40 million over four year to a potential $46 million over that same period if all incentives are met. The former number can more easily be swallowed by the Suns, while the latter is more palatable for Bledsoe and his agent.
This is where the negotiations might just lead, and are likely the only way a deal can get done. The Suns could offer up to 15% in incentives if Bledsoe just does what he's supposed to do - actually hits 15-5-5, or if he is top-5 in steals, or something along those lines.
Still, the agent would like it all guaranteed in case of injury or other factors out of Bledsoe's control, like playing time and scheme. That's why you don't see a lot of stats-based incentives.
All bonuses, likely or unlikely, must fit under the cap in year 1. So, even though a goal of 6.5 assists/game might be considered unlikely, that 15% kicker still counts against next summer's cap room.
"If we're not able to work out a deal (by Oct. 31), we would start next summer with Eric as a restricted free agent, but obviously we're hoping to get something done before that," the general manager, Ryan McDonough, said on the "Burns and Gambo" radio show the other day.
An incentive-laden deal that varies Bledsoe's future earnings up to 15% based on production would be the best deal for the Suns this fall.
If they wait until next summer to match another team's offer, that offer is much more likely to be full guaranteed.
Still, the Phoenix Suns still hold all the cards even if Bledsoe plays out the year, and his contract, without signing anything. He will be a restricted free agent, and those guys just don't leave their teams without the team initiating it through a sign-and-trade deal. Two summers ago, Nicolas Batum and Roy Hibbert became RFAs, along with Eric Gordon, and all got matched by their team despite the offers being high. This summer, Tyreke Evans was a goner but Sacramento still got Greivis Vasquez for him because they held Evans' rights.
The Suns will be fine either way. No need to overpay Bledsoe.
When: Friday, November 1st @ 5:30 prior to the 7:00 game against the Utah Jazz
Where: Majerle's Sports Grill in downtown Phoenix - 24 N. 2nd St. Phoenix, AZ 85004
At this point I've only gotten a few solid rsvps (thanks to those that did) with some other loose commitments. If you do plan on attending and didn't want to commit two weeks ago when this was originally posted I encourage you to do so now. At this point I just plan on showing up at Majerle's and grabbing some tables (I'll probably be there a little before 5:00 - since I have time to kill after I get off work at 4:00), but if more of you show up than I've planned on there's no guaranteeing we'll all have seating together.
I also haven't planned on any type of group seating at the arena. Once again, feel free to show up at either Majere's or the game (or both). I will be sitting in section 104, row 27, seat 20. It's just in from the corner. There were still 18 seats left in this row if others are interested in sitting together. They are pretty decent seats. Here's a link to the 3D seating chart for USAC if you want to check out the view. I paid $45 on NBAtickets.com ($35 for the ticket and only $10 in service charges), which is linked in the tickets tab on the homepage. I'm sure there are cheaper ways to get tickets, too, but I didn't bother to ferret them out. Second level seats should be damn near free. Please feel free to share any discount opportunities in the comments below.
Hopefully we will have strong attendance and a good time. Please don't leave me standing at the altar.