Greetings and a belated Happy 2014, Bright Siders! It's a new year with a new winning team, which means new fans, which means more traffic, which means it's time for a guidelines refresher... and a whole new section of Bright Side of the Sun for you to run wild in!
By way of quick introduction, I'm Mike. I've written on and off for Bright Side of the Sun since 2008, and I'm back on again. Way back in 2009, I helped Seth Pollack (former BSotS editor and current SBNation NBA League Manager) draw up these guidelines. And given the increased traffic that's coming from the Phoenix Suns' early season success (Woo hoo!), it seemed like a good time to remind everyone that we do in fact have some rules in place here at Bright Side of the Sun.
Below is a video created by former (?) Bright Sider Leiland Tanner (aka Eutychus) that breaks it down nicely if reading ain't your thing. Here is a link to the text version. You can always find the guidelines by clicking "Library" and then "Community Guidelines" at the top of the page. Bet you didn't even know that was there. And if you're too lazy to do any of that (but really, please do), here's the TL;DR:
Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: trade ideas, new from around the league or what you had for dinner last night. It's all fair game here. Get crazy, y'all.
Goran Dragic has had to shoulder the load before without Eric Bledsoe, but he needs his teammates to start stepping up for this to work again...
Another 2-1 week for the Phoenix Suns (20-12) a float in the Western Conference Standings despite playing two games without emerging star Eric Bledsoe. This is not the first time the team has been without Bledsoe in the line-up due to injury and have tread water in those games going 4-4 overall.
This week Head Coach Jeff Hornacek had to create a last minute gameplan against the scrappy Grizzlies which resulted in a tough loss at home, but with a few days to prepare they were able to knock off the underachieving Bucks despite being shorthanded.
The highlight of the season so far came with a knockout blow type victory over the "rival" Clippers who lead the Pacific Division.
Getting a resume win like that with the style points that go along with it is important for a young team trying to wave waves. The wins against the Blazers earlier in the season where great, but this was a statement win. Chris Paul described the loss to the Suns as the "worst loss" he has had in a Clippers uniform. That says a lot because the Suns roughed them up. They played tough and took the flashy and fun Clippers out of their element. Sounds a bit familiar, right Suns fans?
With Eric Bledsoe out the team is missing 18.0 points and 5.8 assists per game. Not going to deep into advanced stats, shooting numbers, and overall impact on the game. He impacts the game in ways that stats cannot describe for this team. Here is a look at the scoring distribution for the eight games that Bledsoe has not played in this season:
Gerald Green: 16.8 points 2.1 assists per game (+4.6 points w/o Bledsoe)
Channing Frye: 16.0 points 1.2 assists per game (+6.2 points w/o Bledsoe)
Marcus Morris: 11.6 points 1.0 assists per game (+1.7 points w/o Bledsoe)
Markieff Morris: 10.3 points 1.5 assists per game (-2.5 points w/o Bledsoe)
P.J. Tucker: 9.0 points 2.0 assists per game (-0.2 points w/o Bledsoe)
Miles Plumlee: 8.3 points 0.25 assists per game (-2.1 points w/o Bledsoe)
In total, without Bledsoe the role players have accounted for +12.5 points and are nearly dead even, +0.205, in assists per game. The team is leaving 5.5 points and 5.6 assists per game on the bench in a suit making life for Goran Dragic that much tougher. Having a consistent secondary scorer or multiple role players step up and score 4-5 points more per game helps relieve the pressure...
Quote of the Week
We need everyone to play well for us to win. We do not have that guy that we can go to and say, "Hey, carry us tonight," -- Coach Jeff Hornacek on getting secondary scoring without Bledsoe in the line-up
2014 NBA Draft Update
Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, none of which are in the lottery. A slight change of pace from pre-season projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:
Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17) -- No. 13 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) James Young, Freshman Wing Kentucky -- Very good lefty shooter that has drawn comparisons to a young Michael Redd with athleticism.
Washington Wizards (14-17) -- No. 18 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Adreian Payne, Senior F/C Michigan State -- Dynamic stretch-four that has show the ability to score inside, score outside, and defend the interior as well.
Phoenix Suns (20-12) -- No. 22 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Sam Dekker, Sophomore Forward Wisconsin -- Skilled prospect that can play the three in a traditional line-up and small-ball four as well with his shooting and ball-handling/play-making ability.
Indiana Pacers (27-6) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Troy Williams, Freshman Forward Indiana -- Raw young athlete that is starting to gain more responsibility as a ball-handler, but overall is an elite athlete, quality defender, and rebounds his position well.
Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.
News & Notes
Suns History Lesson
This week in Suns History: January 9th, 1972: In a loss to the Baltimore Bullets at College Park the NBA's 2,000,000 point was scored. By who? Who knows? Connie Hawkins and Dick Van Arsdale led the way with 22 points each in the loss.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Tuesday, January 7th @ Chicago Bulls (14-18)
Wednesday, January 8th @ Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17)
Friday, January 10th @ Memphis Grizzlies (15-18)
Saturday, January 11th @ Detroit Pistons (14-20)
It feels like every week is a test for the team that has crashed the party, but proven that they belong there with everyone else who came with bells on. Their invitation was three years in the making and they decided to show up early, like a freshman at the senior dance.
Here is another opportunity for the Suns as they hit the road for five games in seven nights with four of them this week. The Bulls and Pistons are playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, but would be slotted No. 11 and No. 9 respectively if they were in the Western Conference. While the Bulls are struggling, they are feisty, like the Grizzlies which will be another stop on this trip. Without Bledsoe with for all these games it is not expected that the team will sweep through a road trip like these even with teams that are struggling. Getting back home with a 2-2 week would be acceptable while a 3-1 week would be admirable.
It's great that the Phoenix Suns have dipped into the good-will pool to sign Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract, but how will that impact other young guards on the roster?
Just when you thought the good vibes were as high as possible, the Phoenix Suns pull a blur out of the hat to raise the bar a bit higher.
The Suns cannot officially sign former fan favorite and one-time "Sixth Man of the Year" Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract until today, the first day allowed by the NBA's CBA, but that's just a formality.
Just like Goran Dragic and Channing Frye remember great times in Phoenix, the Brazilian Blur had this to say back in 2012 after helping the Raptors beat the Suns in Phoenix:
LB after the January 24, 2012 game, on 'Suns Live', saying what he misses the most about Phoenix:
(after a long pause) "The fans was really great for me, man. The fans was unbelievable, and I miss that. It was 7 years here, and 7 great years for me in my life and my career and I can't forget about that. And definitely my teammates, and the organization too that helped me, you know, to be where I am right now, so I... I miss... I miss a lot in Phoenix."
LB looked like he was about to choke up at this point as Mark McClune wrapped it up and wished him well with his new teammates.
Welcome back, Leandro!
Expect the Suns brass to talk about veteran influence in the locker room and on the floor while Eric Bledsoe recovers from a sprained knee. Per Paul Coro, the Suns did perform an MRI on Bledsoe and determined that he only needed rest, while Bledsoe himself said the knee was progressing. I wouldn't expect a long-term injury here.
And even if there IS a long-term injury to Bledsoe, there's no way a 31-year old Leandro Barbosa is the answer. You simply don't replace Bledsoe with a guy who was playing in the Brazilian league. More likely, Ish Smith and Gerald Green will continue to get more minutes in Bledsoe's place. It's when Bledsoe returns that Barbosa's long term role will be defined.
Ish Smith, by the way, is one of only three Suns backups since the 80s to collect at least two 8-assist games in less than 20 minutes of playing time in a single season. The others: Jeff Hornacek and Goran Dragic.
My expectation is that the team will mostly use this 10-day period to assess Barbosa's health (which seems fine, per video from recent games) and his ability to play at NBA levels this season (the bigger question). He will likely get small minutes - maybe in Archie's place - but won't take Smith's PG role.
If he's good, then he's veteran "fourth guard off the bench" over the team's inexperienced backup guards - Archie Goodwin, Dionte Christmas and Ish Smith - for what looks like a playoff run, once Bledsoe returns from the knee injury.
Barbosa can produce more offense in terms of catch-and-shoot threes than Ish Smith in two-PG lineups (lifetime 39% 3-point shooter), and Goodwin and Christmas have not been producing big numbers in limited time lately.
Goodwin (still only 19) and Christmas, both rookies, are great for a rebuilding team looking at the future, but if you're in a playoff run it's best to have guys who have been to and produced in the playoffs. And it's best to have someone who will do it consistently. A 10-year veteran gives you the same game every night.
As far as trade flexibility is concerned, the Suns will certainly have more roster flexibility.
Already, coach Hornacek only gives about 10 minutes a night to guys outside the top-8 in the rotation (again, with Smith taking Bledsoe's minutes in the top 8 during injury). Barbosa makes for a full 15-man roster. Why have a full roster if you're not going to play them?
But to surmise that a Barbosa signing is a definite tea leaf for an impending trade is no different than surmising any trades a week ago. Barbosa is more about veteran insurance than major rotation piece.
We all love Dionte Christmas, but not as much as the team in the locker room. He's a refreshing influence among the guys, really ingrained in their fabric of good will and hard work.
Yet, Christmas is on a non-guaranteed contract, which becomes guaranteed for the season if he's on the roster after tomorrow. He is the only player on the roster with a non-guaranteed deal for the entire season.
The Suns aren't hurting for money, but you can't forget that owner Robert Sarver is paying nearly $13 million this year to players no longer on the team (Childress, Beasley) and Christmas doesn't really have a rotation spot on a full roster.
Still, he's good to have around and you don't yet know if Barbosa can even play at NBA levels anymore. I'd vote to keep Christmas, but it's not my money.