This game features three top-6 picks in the past two years. Well, their teams at least.

No Nerlens Noel (rest). No Joel Embiid (out). No Alex Len (finger).

But we do have several recent first round picks from the Suns: Miles Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis.

Hopefully the Suns can finish 2-1 before playoff brackets start on Thursday.

Go Suns!

After signing Isaiah Thomas and drafting Tyler Ennis, the Phoenix Suns had no room for another point guard and wish Ish Smith the best in his future endeavors.

One of the pleasant surprises of last season was the emergence of Ishmael Smith as a spirited rotation player in the backup point guard role.

Ish made the league minimum, and his 2014-15 contract was going to be guaranteed if he was on the Suns roster after today (July 15). Ish being squeezed out is more a matter of numbers than anything else. There just wouldn't be minutes for him next season, barring catastrophic injuries.

"We thank Ish Smith for his contributions to the Suns," said President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby in the Suns press release. "He played with an infectious joy. We wish him well."

Ish came over to the Suns in the trade of Caron (we hardly knew ye) Butler to Milwaukee in late August along with Viasheslav Kravtsov and quickly earned the backup job from Kendall Marshall, who was later dumped to the scrap heap via Washington.

Smith quickly gained a connection with the team as a spirited lock room presence and speed demon on the court when he got a chance to play. His chance really took off when Eric Bledsoe missed half the season due to knee surgery, becoming the primary backup point guard to Goran Dragic.

Smith was a speed demon on the court with the ball, but was a real non-factor in scoring. He could not make three pointers and had trouble getting to the rim in traffic. But his open court game was perfect for the run-n-gun Suns who led the league in fast break points.

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.

Since then, the Suns have sandwiched a first round pick (Tyler Ennis) and free agent (Isaiah Thomas) between Ish and the Slash Brothers.

But with the Suns playing two point guards at a time, they need at least four to rotate throughout the game and cover for injuries. Dragic and Bledsoe only started 34 games together last year - less than half the season. So, the Suns decided to double down on the 2PG system by adding more talent.

The Phoenix Suns announced on Tuesday that they have waived point guard Ish Smith, effectively making him a free agent. The acquisition of former Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas combined...

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Jeff Hornacek told Doug and Wolf on KTAR that Bledsoe is actively testing the market, but it is only a matter a time before he reaches a deal with the Suns.

The free agency frenzy has begun to slow to a crawl, and Eric Bledsoe apparently has yet to receive a serious offer from anyone. Aside from a rumor that quickly evaporated about the Milwaukee Bucks preparing an offer sheet, Bledsoe's name has been surprisingly scarce among the daily onslaught of free agency rumors.

When fellow restricted free agents Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons received max offer sheets, logically one would have assumed Bledsoe to be the next in line. Yet nothing has happened, and suddenly it's looking like he may have to settle for something closer to the 4 years, $48 million that Kyle Lowry accepted to stay in Toronto.

Perhaps it can be chalked up to his'injury history, or saturation in the point guard market. Either way, the Suns are in no rush and seem to be just fine and dandy with Bledsoe taking as much time as he needs to test the waters, as expressed by Jeff Hornacek to KTAR's Doug and Wolf this morning.

"I think Eric and his people are just trying to find a place that gives him an offer sheet to see what we'll do with it," Hornacek said. "I think we're committed to do anything we can to keep him so I think it's probably just a matter of time until we work out a deal with him."

Clearly the Suns aren't bidding against themselves and haven't offered him a max deal, which they shouldn't. They're going to let the market dictate Bledsoe's price, and so far it's working in their favor.

Most of his potential suitors have already spent their big money and are now moving on to filling out their bench and role players. For Bledsoe, this could very well mean that the contract he ends up signing won't be quite what he had hoped for.

The more time that passes, the greater the chances that Bledsoe will lock up with the Suns -- possibly for cheaper than we thought.

More Hornacek

A few other quotes by Hornacek that you might find interesting.

When discussing Isaiah, more stuff came out about Markieff starting: "We're going to have to move Markieff (Morris) to starting now, so that's going to give other guys like Marcus (Morris) more time at the 4 with the second group, so we just felt that someone who puts on a little more pressure scoring-wise can open up some of those other guys."

And then later in the interview, he backtracked a bit: "When I say Markieff will be the starter, we're still at the point in the season where anyone can earn it."

On Isaiah: "He's going to help with the leadership that we maybe lost with Channing, so he's going to be a second voice."

On the development of Miles Plumlee: "The biggest thing for Miles is we want him to make a 15-foot jumpshot and not hesitate, so that teams have to honor that."

My take: If Bledsoe is in purple and orange for less than the max and Miles Plumlee is draining 15-footers without hesitation, color me one happy Suns fan.

Isaiah Thomas wasn't the glitziest free agent this summer, but that doesn't mean he's not a hidden gem. In terms of performance, fit and value Thomas promises to coruscate for the Phoenix Suns.

The first time that Thomas really caught my attention was back in January when I noticed that he was having a quietly spectacular season while writing about Goran Dragic's chances of being selected as an All-Star. At that point I slated Thomas as the seventh most deserving guard in the Western Conference behind Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard and Dragic. If he would have been performing at that level for a more competitive team instead of the hapless Kings I thought he would have received more attention.

Even noticing him there I mostly ignored him going into free agency.

I'll admit that Thomas wasn't really on my radar going into the free agency period. It wasn't a situation where I was dubious of his talent, but more that I was expecting the Suns to focus on different areas of need as the backcourt was already the team's greatest strength. It turns out that Phoenix seized an opportunity to bulwark it even further.


We spent a lot of time on this site last season discussing the historical significance of Dragic's stupefying volume efficiency, which culminated in him becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 20 points and five assists per game while shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from three point range. Goran absolutely earned the plaudits he received, and his selection to the third team All-NBA, but you might be surprised to see exactly how lofty of company Thomas found himself in the midst of.

This table is a list of the players that scored at least 20 points and dished out at least six assists per game last season. If the criteria was limited to players who averaged more points and assists than Thomas it would shrink to LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.

This is the type of offensive threat Thomas represents. Although he may give some back on the defensive end, not everyone on this list is known as a formidable defender.

Want some more evidence of what type of player the Suns are getting? In the history of the NBA the only other players under 6' tall to put up 20/6 are Calvin Murphy, Dana Barros, Damon Stoudamire and Michael Adams. Only Murphy did it twice. The Suns are getting a very unique talent that has the potential to thrive in their system.



Last season backup point guard wasn't an area of great strength... and by that I mean it was a crippling weakness. This deficiency was exacerbated by injuries to Bledsoe (mostly) and Dragic. Past those two there was no scoring threat.

Ish Smith (bless his heart) played 1,006 minutes for the Suns last season and made one three point shot (out of 23 attempts). Prorated across the same number of minutes Thomas would have made 50. The Suns were fourth in the NBA in three point attempts last season and emphasized that as part of their arsenal. With Frye leaving the fold Thomas can help replace those attempts, even though it doesn't provide the same spacing advantages. After the impressive shooting improvements several players on the Suns made last season Thomas may very well be able to improve upon his percentage under new guidance.

With Thomas in the fold the team should have much more even guard play. In fact, despite the distinct stylistic differences, the offensive numbers for Thomas, Dragic and Bledsoe were strikingly similar. All three guards can penetrate and create free throw attempts. While Dragic and Bledsoe were both successful at getting to the line last season, only Markieff Morris averaged more than 3.6 attempts per 36 minutes among the other seven regular rotation players.  That's not to imply that the team was bad at generating free throw attempts, though, because the Suns finished ninth in the league. The presence of Thomas should only improve another strength here.

The Suns wanted to push the tempo last season and were somewhat successful, finishing eighth in the league in pace. Thomas should also help the team improve in this facet since he excels in transition. The Suns second unit (with the current roster) will likely feature a lineup that includes Thomas, Dragic or Bledsoe, Gerald Green and Marcus or Markieff. That combination should have no problem playing breakneck basketball and scoring in bunches.

Thomas, Dragic and Bledsoe all averaged between 33-35 minutes per game last season. There is no reason to think this workload shouldn't be mollified... since with only 96 minutes per game to split at the two guard spots coach Hornacek's mission will be able to appropriate enough minutes to his guards instead of limiting them. Instead of trying to eke out a few minutes to get Goran a breather Thomas will play well enough at times that it will be hard to substitute him back out of the game. The Suns new depth at point guard also gives them insurance against injuries. Not just major injuries that cause a player to miss extended time, but nagging injuries that could be palliated by a night off. Having Bledsoe or Dragic out of the lineup wouldn't feel like a death sentence going into a game.



Contract information courtesy of Mike Prada with SBNation.

This is a list of free agents who have signed more lucrative deals than Thomas this summer. Not all of them are worth more total, but all are more money per year. I think you could make a case that Thomas outplayed all of them last season with the exception of Kyle Lowry.

Thomas actually has something going for him that not all of these other players do. He has an elite talent. Thomas is an elite scorer. Only 21 players in the NBA were able to score at least 20 points a game last season and only nine of those did so more efficiently than Thomas. This isn't a mirage, either, as his TS% has been .574 in each of his first three seasons. Isaiah Thomas is a firecracker.

Players like Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons are being paid based on hopeful future production rather than previous performance. It's hard to imagine Marcin Gortat being worth anywhere near the money he's getting paid in the last two years of his contract. Jordan Hill is getting $9 million to get a team 10 and seven. Avery Bradley is more limited offensively than Thomas is defensively, but still getting paid more.

The four year contract Thomas signed will take him right into his prime and should be easily movable over its duration. This gives the team flexibility to move him in a package deal or even keep him and move other players in the backcourt.

A short term solution like Pau Gasol doesn't really fit the vision of a young team growing together. Based on money and performance Thomas may be the best fit for the Suns of anybody on this list. Does the shift of point guard minutes from Ish to Thomas outweigh the shift of minutes from Frye to Marcus Morris? I'd say very possibly...

Isaiah Thomas has ascended all the way from being the last player selected in the 2011 draft by the Sacramento Kings to becoming a quality NBA player. He even managed this feat despite being drafted by a hellish, career-killing team. The fact that they let him go in favor of Darren Collison gives me even more confidence this was a win for the Suns.

I think Thomas will succeed in Phoenix... because apparently he doesn't know how to fail.

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