The Suns try to win their second road game in a row on a long road trip to the East and Midwest. Tonight, it's the Motor City where the Suns try to top the Pistons.
The Suns are 6th in the league in pace, while the Pistons are 25th. The Suns play a three-headed point guard monster, while the Pistons play a three-headed big man front court. The Suns will try to run hard while the Pistons will try to slow it down by rebounding every miss and winning the battle of second-chance points.
The Stan Van Gundy era has not gotten off to a great start. If you think it's hard for Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to manage three point guards, how about managing three power forward/centers who all have the chops to start and have proven as much in the past? I'd rather be Hornacek.
Stan is starting the three-headed big man monster and it's not going well. They lost to the Orlando Magic the other night in ugly fashion, losing 107-93.
The Detroit Pistons are not a playoff team. They are not a good team. They are not even an average team.
They are a bad team. Right now, they are a very bad team. So it's no surprise that the Orlando Magic were able to pull away late and coast to a 107-93 victory.
--DetroitBadBoys.com, our SB Nation partner
Oy. When you've got Josh Smith and Andre Drummond on your team, and yet your best players are Jennings, Butler and Monroe (who is guaranteed to leave next summer), you're in trouble.
Andre Drummond has taken a step back this season while Josh Smith has remained "back" as Van Gundy continues to start all three of the bigs in the same lineup.
Tucker missed the team bus in LA over the weekend and was benched for Monday's win over Boston. That's four games missed due to suspension out 11 possible games for what many believe is a team "leader". But the team is waving it off like no big deal.
"He just missed the bus," Hornacek told Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "We have rules and we want to try to establish those for guys, especially the young guys.
"P.J. is our leader. It was a one-time thing and I'm sure it's not a big deal."
In one rating of second-year players from the historically bad 2013 Draft, Alex Len has risen to the fourth best player from that draft so far this season. numberFire.com does all kinds of player rankings based on proprietary formula using box score data current and past to rank player effectiveness. Len currently ranks 4th, behind Kelly Olynyk, Otto Porter and Dennis Shroder, and ahead of the Greek Freak. Of course, it's early, but Len is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Len's last two games have been the best two-game stretch of his career: 17 and 11 against the Clippers and then 19 and 7 against the Celtics. He leads the team in dunks this season with 12 (Markieff Morris is second with 10), a dunk-a-game pace that would have led the team last season as well.
The Pistons and Suns split the season series last year.
The Pistons won the only game in Detroit 110-108 when Josh Smith played out of his mind, making clutch shots including a long-two game winner. Smith made 11 of 16 shots, mostly jumpers, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished 5 assists. Brandon Jennings had 18 assists in that game, nearly all of them by halftime. Monroe and Drummond combined for 33 points and 25 rebounds. The Suns were missing Bledsoe, but got great offensive contributions from the whole starting lineup as well as Marcus Morris. Markieff was a complete non-factor in the land of trees. Ultimately, the Suns lost on Josh Smith's wild night of being an effective 20-foot shooter.
Later in the season, the Suns won 98-92 in Phoenix. Markieff Morris was much more effective (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) and the Slash Brothers had their way with the Piston back court. Rodney Stuckey had a good game, but he's gone to Indiana now.
Certainly, the Suns need to make the game about the perimeter rather than the front court. They proved last season they can win even if Drummond, Monroe and Smith gobble up 40 rebounds between them. It's when those three combine for 50+ points that the Suns are in trouble.
Alex Len has progressed tremendously this season and his size will be a welcome site against the trees from Detroit. Len just has to stay out of foul trouble, as does Markieff Morris.
My guess is that Alex Len has a crash-to-earth game against size of Drummond, even though Drummond has had a bad year so far. Miles Plumlee will start the night on Drummond, but Len will get plenty of opportunity to face up against these guys.
This is exactly the kind of game the Suns lose. Detroit plays at a slow pace (check) and rebounds like crazy (check, check). And they just got embarrassed by Orlando the other night.
I hope the Suns come out to play and use this road trip to start getting on a roll. But tonight will be a tough test of wills. Can the Suns run up the score? Or will Detroit grind it down?
It appears Phoenix Suns' point guard Goran Dragic will figure prominently in a strong free agent class when he opts out of the last season of his contract next summer. The reason he will figure prominently is because he's apparently keeping his options open.
Another month, another Goran Dragic free agency story.
This time Sean Deveney of the Sporting News wrote an article that included (per league sources):
Dragic will have an "open" free agency. When Dragic opts out and becomes a free agent next July, he will be a sought after commodity, and while Phoenix would get the first hearing, Dragic will have options.
This isn't really breaking news... or any kind of logical leap.
What would be the alternative?
"Goran Dragic has said he will not meet with any other teams before re-signing with the Suns."
I mean, really... sources don't have to help us out by stating the completely obvious. Although I was completely blindsided by the suggestion that the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets would be potential suitors... Shocker alert.
This story seems like a palpable and monumental waste of time (as Jim types away at his story reporting on the waste of time), but maybe the Suns should be taking heed of this tocsin. Are these murmurings just phantasmagoria or are they substantive?
I would argue the latter... and there are still things that may compromise Dragic's faithfulness to the Suns.
While Dragic has (repeatedly) expressed his fondness of Phoenix and the Suns organization the business of basketball is still an undeniable part of the equation. Goran is headed toward his last big payday. Dragic has "only" made ~$30 million dollars through his career so far. While that might be a staggering number in ordinary terms it's really not that much in the enchanted realm of the NBA. Goran figures to fetch at least double that number with his next contract.
As Dave King has already reported here on Brightside, the Suns will have no problem paying Goran that kind of money to keep him in Phoenix (cap situation explained in linked article). GM Ryan McDonough has expressed this is the team's desire at this juncture.
"We have every intention of keeping Goran in a Suns' uniform as long as possible. We know he loves Phoenix. There's plenty of money for Goran next year or when it comes up. We fully anticipate taking care of him."
The team already took care (using that as a big time euphemism for last summer) of Eric Bledsoe. After a protracted "negotiation" Eric was given a five year, $70 million dollar contract which was pretty much unanimously considered more than fair.
I'm not asserting that Goran is rapaciously drooling while he slumbers at night gleefully dreaming of pushing around sweaty piles of cash in a wheelbarrow on his way to practice, but I don't think it's any stretch to concede that Dragic has already considered he should get paid on the Bledsoe scale.
While Dragic still contends he will give Phoenix the home field advantage in negotiations next summer, don't expect a home team discount.
Unfortunately, there are already the nefarious possibilities of pitfalls lurking in the shadows of dark corners that could undermine some of the equity the Suns have built with Dragic.
The Suns' logjam in the backcourt has already affected Goran's playing time and production in the early going. If things don't coalesce between the guards this won't cultivate an environment ideal to seducing Goran to return... especially if this results in the team missing the playoffs again.
Dragic has been trying to say the right things, but even in doing so he reveals that he is frustrated. Dragic recently gave a particularly revealing answer to a query on why the team has struggled:
"Because there's only one ball and we're all point guards. That's an easy answer. It's hard. That's sacrifice. If Isaiah's playing well, he's going to stay in. Me and Eric, it depends who is playing better and who is going to be on the court. The other guy is going to be on the bench. It's the way it is. We need to embrace that."
That definitely suggests to me that trouble may be brewing on the horizon. The ramifications of this statement may be mitigated as the trio gains cohesion, but there will never be more than one ball. Of course with a trade there could always be one less point guard. But who would be the odd man out? The $70 million dollar man? The Suns' prize free agent acquisition? This is definitely a complicated situation.
The frustrations over the on-court issues could boil over into another area.
This is (obviously) a contract year for the Dragon. A year after posting 20.3 points and 5.9 assists he is down to 15.6 and 3.2 in the early going. Last season he was third team All-NBA. This season he's been a very average player. If the system in place stymies his production it could cost Dragic millions. If he hasn't thought of it already, he will if things continue along this road.
It's still early now, so expect lots more on this as the season progresses. Let's just hope that the likelihood of re-signing Goran, which has mostly seemed like a Gerald Green slam dunk, doesn't evanesce as it does so... because once money and flattery start flying around this summer the Suns don't want the Dragon to slip through their fingers like an Eric Bledsoe turnover.