After an eventful offseason the Suns now have a pretty crowded backcourt with returning starting point guard Goran Dragic, shiny new acquisition and former back-up to Chris Paul at the point in Los Angeles Eric Bledsoe, lottery pick and distribution specialist Kendall Marshall heading into his sophomore season, and newly drafted and raw project Archie Goodwin.
However, how many of these players are actually point guards? Who is good at what? Can they play together? Let's look at the numbers to find out.
**Disclaimer: In typical Jacob fashion, this ended up really long. I included tables with all the relevant numbers (stats taken from Basketball Reference and MySynergySports) if you'd like to come to your own conclusions.
First, let's take a look at the physical measurements.
|Goran Dragic||6'4"||200 lbs||Unknown|
|Eric Bledsoe||6'1.5"||192 lbs||6'7.5"|
|Kendall Marshall||6'4.25"||198 lbs||6'5.5"|
|Archie Goodwin||6'5.25"||189 lbs||6'9.5"|
With the exception of Bledsoe, Phoenix's point guards have excellent size for the position. All three of them can add some strength to their frames, but they have the height to match up with plenty of shooting guards. As for Bledsoe, at just under 6-foot-2 he lacks the height of the other three. However, he has the longest wingspan among the group and is the most athletic by far (no disrespect to Dragic or Goodwin who are great athletes in their own right, but Bledsoe is a freak). He could pester some of the more ball-dominant shooting guards in the league for stretches.
The Suns' backcourt might be a little undersized against teams that can throw bigger two-guards like Joe Johnson and Kobe Bryant out there, but in general I think these four guys have the physical tools to play at the same time.
Here's what these guys produced this past season stretched out to NBA starter's minutes to make an apples to apples comparison. Well, as apple-y as possible considering Goodwin's numbers are from playing with and against college players, but we'll make due.
Looking at these averages, Dragic comes out looking like the most impressive point guard. He gives the best combination of scoring and distributing of the four. 16 and eight are very solid numbers for a point guard, and Dragic has the best assist-to-turnover ratio of the group.
Bledsoe isn't as good offensively as Dragic is, putting up just a 15-5 per 36. He doesn't score as much as Dragic and his assist-to-turnover is pretty poor for a point guard. However, his athleticism really shines through in some of his other stats. 5.2 rebounds (including 1.8 on the offensive end) and 1.3 blocks for a 6-foot-2 guard are insane, and 2.5 steals is a really solid number as well.
Marshall is the closest to Dragic in terms of pure point guard numbers with 7.3 assists and a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. However, this number is a bit skewed. Marshall saw plenty of two to three minute garbage time stints during the season and it's hard to accumulate stats like that, especially considering who he was playing with. We saw Marshall's assists numbers hit double-digits when he was given starter's minutes when Dragic was held out. However, that doesn't quite make up for his complete lack of scoring ability. 7.3 points per 36 is just awful and he only attempts 7.7 shots. We all know Marshall has a long way to go to learn how to score, so I'm not telling you anything new.
While the numbers for the first three look at least somewhat similar, Archie Goodwin's don't look like the others at all. In fact, they look like the numbers of a shooting guard. The highest scoring average, by far the lowest assist average, a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio, good rebounding numbers... I don't see a point guard at all. To be fair, he did play most of his minutes at shooting guard when Kentucky's real point Ryan Harrow was healthy so it makes sense. One area where Goodwin shines is the ability to get to the free-throw line, with over seven attempts per 36. Too bad he wasn't able to capitalize as much as he should have with his shooting struggles.
The advanced stats reinforce most of what we see in the basic numbers above. Dragic looks good, with the highest assist percentage and lowest turnover percentage. The athleticism of Bledsoe, and to a lesser extent Goodwin, shines through in the rebounding, block and steal percentages. Dragic is tops in offensive rating and offensive win shares, while Bledsoe and Goodwin both look good on the defensive end.
One thing that all four have in common is mediocre to poor shooting percentages. Kendall Marshall can't shoot at this point and we know it; however, the others aren't much better. Dragic really struggled this year, particularly from 3-point range. Bledsoe shot a good percentage, but as you can see in the per 36 table, he took less than two threes per 36; it's not really part of his game and he's not a great shooter. Marshall and Goodwin both have broken jumpers that need plenty of work. This will be the biggest obstacle for these players to overcome in order to play together.
Let's take a closer look at how these guys play and what they're good at using numbers from MySynergySports.com.
|P&R Ball Handler||37.1||0.78||80||0.406||32.0||6.2||19.6||38.3|
The Suns ran the pick-and-roll more than any other play, with the P&R making up more than 37 percent of Dragic's offensive possessions. Unfortunately, the Suns' pick-and-roll kind of sucked this year. Spacing and great chemistry between ball-handler and roll man are the keys to the pick-and-roll, and the Suns had neither. Dragic and Marcin Gortat never really connected, and Jared Dudley was the only good 3-point shooter on the entire team. The result was teams packing the paint, and in turn a low field goal percentage and high turnover percentage for Dragic. Even so, he ended up scoring 0.78 points per possession which Synergy has ranked 80th among qualifiers. My guess is he'd be more effective under better circumstances.
Dragic is good in transition with solid numbers across the board, but he's not anything special as indicated by his PPP rank of 175. If Jeff Hornacek is able to get this team running as much as he wants to, I'd expect a bump in that 21.1 percent in terms of how many of Dragic's shots come in transition.
Where Dragic really looks good is in isolation. Iso is one of the lowest percentage types of offense, yet Dragic scores almost one point per possession in isolation and is ranked 20th overall. Dragic's athleticism and craftiness really help him here. Another thing I like here is that Dragic only isolates on 7.9 percent of his possessions. He usually moves the ball or looks to make a play rather than holding it and forcing something himself.
Dragic is decent off the ball as a spot-up shooter and running off screens. He shot almost 40 percent from deep as a spot-up shooter, although he struggled with his jumper in every other facet of the game.
|P&R Ball Handler||30.8||0.75||101||41.0||44.4||4.0||17.8||37.2|
Bledsoe didn't run the pick-and-roll quite as much as Dragic did, but he was almost as effective. The biggest difference between the two is Dragic's ability to draw more fouls than Bledsoe. Bledsoe shot much better from three, but only took nine attempts.
Despite his athleticism, Bledsoe really isn't very good on the break. His wild style of play and lack of control at times leads to a high turnover rate and tougher shots than you'd like to see.
Bledsoe isolates more than Dragic, although he's not nearly as good at just 0.77 points per possession.
Bledsoe isn't very good as a spot-up shooter either. It appears as if he has some redeeming value with his 3-point stroke, but again, those attempts are limited and selective.
Bledsoe is really effective as a cutter off the ball, however. He shoots over 65 percent and scores 1.29 points per possession. He's a real weapon off the ball.
|P&R Ball Handler||27.8||0.41||197||26.2||18.2||0.0||28.8||18.6|
Marshall was surprisingly effective off the ball as a spot-up shooter and running off screens. His on the ball numbers are horrific however. He really is awful at scoring the ball right now.
I unfortunately don't have access to college Synergy numbers. However, the guys over at Draft Express do. Here's the relevant numbers that I was able to find in DX's write-up on Goodwin.
Transition made up 27 percent of Goodwin's offense, which means he should fit right in to what Jeff Hornacek wants his team to do. His athleticism and ability to get to the rim make him dangerous in the open court.
He only ran the pick-and-roll on 14.7 percent of his possessions, much lower than the other guys. However, he was the most effective of the group scoring 0.84 points per possession on 51.2 percent shooting.
In isolation, Goodwin ranks between Dragic and Bledsoe with 0.83 PPP. His ability to get to the rim at will is his greatest strength in this area, although he also settles for bad jump shots at times and forces penetration when there's no room. He has potential here but still has a lot of room to grow.
Dragic is the best of the group at creating offense with the ball in his hands, and is also decent playing off the ball. Bledsoe is best off the ball. Kendall Marshall is terrible on the ball and hasn't done much off of it. Archie Goodwin is good in attack mode with the ball in his hands.
Do the Suns really have four point guards? The numbers say the answer is "not really."
Goran Dragic is the best overall player of the bunch. He's the most versatile in terms of being able to create offense with the ball and play off of it. He's definitely a point guard.
Eric Bledsoe is a bit different. He's more of an athlete than a true point guard. He does all kinds of crazy stuff for someone his size and his game is unique. He can run the point, but he appears to be even more effective off the ball.
Kendall Marshall technically is a point guard, but he still needs to learn how to score before the rest of his game can be effective.
Archie Goodwin may be a point guard some day, but he certainly doesn't look like one now.
Judging by the numbers, Dragic and Bledsoe should be able to play together just fine and could potentially be a lot of fun to watch. That pairing allows each player to play to his strengths.
It sounded like the plan after the draft was to have Marshall and Goodwin compete for the back-up point guard job. However, neither player is ready for the job based on what they did last year. Dragic and Bledsoe's playing time could be staggered with each of them getting a chance to run the point while the other rests, and if that is the case than either Marshall or Goodwin could earn minutes at the two.
This Suns backcourt is versatile and gives Hornacek plenty of options to try out. There may be four point guards on the roster, but that position label really doesn't mean much with this group.
Place In Standings: Third
Points Per Game: 84.8
Points Against: 85.4
After starting the season 0-3 the Phoenix Mercury have found the right formula for winning over the course of the last 10 games going 8-2 in that stretch. They where never playing bad basketball as a team, but rather had a universally timid approach on the offensive end as a team. The timidness steamed from each individual not wanting to step on the toes of their teammates, but lead to a lack of cohesion.
Since then a pecking order has been established within the team allowing them to take the next step in the natural progression of any great team. Diana Taurasi has taken the reigns of the team and everyone is falling in line.
At this point in the season the team has five losses already and are 1-4 against teams that are above .500 so far on the season. They are doing what they are supposed to against the teams beneath them (7-1) winning games and doing so in convincing fashion at times against teams with lesser records. The problem is against the likes of Minnesota and Chicago.
In order to reach their potential the Mercury are going to have to beat the Lynx (0-3 this season) just to get to the Finals where they might meet the Sky. Those two teams are 4-0 against the Mercury beating them by an average score of 93-71.75 in those four games. Average margin of victory of 22.25 points in those games and the closest the Mercury have come in those games was against the Lynx in the second game between the two where they entered the fourth up 60-56 before a 24-9 quarter crushed them.
Winning games against the best teams in conference and across the league in general is paramount to the team being seen as a legitimate contender.
Although it has not forced her to miss a lot of games, an early season left knee injury has plagued Griner to the point where she has been on a minutes limit. That has not derailed her from having an impact on the game, but it does prevent chemistry from being formed. She has moved from a reduced three minutes per quarter up to five minutes per quarter and is getting closer to being out there for 30 minutes a night to show her true impact on the game.
This season she has six games of 4+ blocks already and has done a great job intimidating scorers from entering what is rapidly becoming her domain -- the paint.
As a rookie Samantha Prahalis started all 28 games she played in proving to be one of the better rookies overall in the 2012 Draft Class. She dazzled as the compliment to DeWanna Bonner scoring 11.6 points and dishing out 4.5 assists per game as a rookie. Was that all out of sheer necessity and opportunity?
This season Prahalis has five DNP Coaches Decisions as she has struggled with her new role relegated to the bench. She has been open about her personal struggles on the court acknowledging that she is not playing as well as she could and learning how to play with Taurasi. After the first two games of the season where she played 51 minutes total (6 PPG 3.5 APG 2 TPG) she has only appeared in six other games (50 minutes collectively) totaling 6 points, 9 assists, and 7 turnovers.
Is Prahalis the odd one out of the rotation? Is this a funk that can be resolved in house? Will she be moved to another team to gain more of an opportunity? All questions that will be addressed over time...
Wednesday vs. San Antonio Silver Stars at 12:30pm AZ Time
Sunday vs. Los Angeles Sparks at 3:00pm AZ Time
With NBA free agency on its way, there has been plenty of news about player movement over the course of the last week (thank god the Dwightmare is finally over). Use this open thread to discuss any NBA free agency or trade news/rumors.
The NBA July moratorium officially ends this Wednesday, July 10th. At that point, we'll start to see a lot of these free agency deals that we've been hearing about officially go through. For Suns fans, this means that we'll likely see an official statment about Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler coming to town and Jared Dudley leaving. Expect to see a press conference at some point this week (or perhaps next week) to introduce the Suns' new acquisitions. I, for one, am very excited to see what McDonough and Hornacek have to say about how Bledsoe will be utilized on this Suns roster and look forward to hearing Bledsoe's thoughts as well.
Summer League play began today in Orlando and will continue for the next couple weeks. The Suns aren't playing in Orlando but they will debut in the Vegas Summer League on Saturday, 7/13. Summer League will not only give Suns fans a chance to watch some of the young players on the roster (including one of the youngest players in the league - Archie Goodwin) but it will also mark the debut of Jeff Hornacek's Suns coaching career.
Last week was an exciting one for NBA fans and although this one may not be quite as eventful, there are still plenty of free agents to be had. We also can't rule out the possibility of some trades - Suns fans found out all about that last week. There's currently news about the Cavs' interest in Andrew Bynum:
Team to watch in chase for Andrew Bynum: Cleveland. Hearing Cavs not only have legit interest but can also make lucrative one-year offer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 8, 2013
I actually think Bynum on a one year deal is a great move for a team like the Cavs. They're trying to make the playoffs but they're a young team with several good pieces so they can afford to take a risk on Bynum for one year. What do you guys think?
There's also a rumor going around that the Lakers are interested in Chris Kaman:
Y! Sources: The Lakers and free agent center Chris Kaman have mutual interest. http://t.co/OOEEBf5un2— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 7, 2013
I think this would be a hilarious move for the Lakers so I really hope they sign him. I'm not sure how they can sign him though (unless he takes the vet minimum).
Post any rumors/news in the comments section and discuss all throughout the week!
Bright Side of the Sun is extremely fortunate to get input on this story from two long-term NBA scouts who really have been dialed into the NBA Draft for every year covered in this article.
Kris Habbas is the Managing Editor for nbadraftinsider.com. You all know Kris best as a contributing writer on BSotS and for SBNation NBA, but Kris' real full-time NBA-related job is scouting college basketball. Kris spends all year watching and interacting with players as well as their agents and NBA front office personnel.
Amin Elhassan is currently a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com, who's been working there for the past year, but previously worked several years in the Phoenix Suns front office as a video coordinator before working his way up to NBA scout and then Assistant Director of Basketball Operations.
We looked at the top three drafted C or PF/C in each of the last four drafts including 2013, twelve players total. Only under consideration are those who will work most of their time in paint on each end of the court.
The first takeaway is that 7-foot pivot men with basketball skills are not that common. Eleven have been taken in the top ten since 2010 and only a handful later than that, despite the NBA's love of size and length.
Many of these players can play the PF position but can also play C in the NBA much like Amare Stoudemire did for the Phoenix Suns and Tim Duncan has done for the San Antonio Spurs. In this group, only Meyers Leonard, Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo are pure centers due primarily to a lack of a reliable jumper and/or mobility to defend the other team's PF.
Of course, there were a lot more pivot men taken in these four drafts, and a few of them are better than those listed above. But the chances of a full-time starter at C taken after the 10th pick is pretty slim. I count two since 2010: Larry Sanders and Nikola Vucevic.
So evaluating the top ten is a good, simple place to start. More than half of the 7-footers taken in the Top-10 since 2010 are already starters or should become one on opening night this year.
Trying to ignore hindsight where possible, Kris and Amin separated the cream from the crop in terms of NBA upside at the time of the Draft.
**The players within each tier are listed alphabetically. They don't necessarily think Davis is better than Drummond, for example.
Kris Habbas commentary: "Basing this solely on potential; Anthony Davis (2012) and Andre Drummond (2012) are the top two centers selected in the last four drafts. They each have unique skill-sets that will allow them to dominate the game."
Amin added DeMarcus Cousins (2010) to this top tier based solely on skillset and potential. Cousins dropped in his draft due to maturity concerns, which have since played out in the NBA just as feared.
Each of these bigs mentioned will be under perennial consideration for All-Star nods, and have separated themselves from the rest of the pack of big men drafted in the last four years.
**The players within each tier are listed alphabetically. They don't necessarily think Monroe is the lesser of the two.
Kris Habbas: "The next tier consists of Monroe and Cousins. Neither are great athletes, but on the offensive they have the potential to impact the game and dominate the competition. Monroe is more versatile as a passer and face-up play-maker while Cousins can score over the shoulder and is physically imposing inside."
Amin already had Cousins in his first tier, and now adds Derrick Favors to the second tier with Monroe. This ranking is based solely on potential (as requested for this article), as Favors has not forced himself into the starting lineup for the Jazz while they kept playing veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to fight for the 8th seed in the conference.
Here is where the evaluations start to really differ.
While everyone else drafted top ten of the last four drafts are clearly behind the four horsemen - Davis, Drummond, Monroe and Cousins - their ranking based on "NBA potential" is partially in the eye of the beholder.
None have the ceiling of those top four, though admittedly Greg Monroe's ranking up there is based partially on his excellent NBA play since being drafted in 2010. Otherwise, his potential would arguably not have separated him from the group.
**The players within each tier are listed alphabetically. Amin doesn't necessarily think Len is better than Kanter, for example.
The Favors pick coincides with Amin's take, making a consensus Top 5 (Davis-Drummond-Cousins-Favors-Monroe).
Amin drops Nerlens Noel all the way to his bottom group due to lack of offensive repertoire and partially on his injury and the pre-draft maturity issues that scared off some teams.
He instead puts the Suns' Alex Len in his third tier along with Kanter and Cody Zeller to go with Jonas Valanciunas, while Kris rates those three lower than Noel.
Kris Habbas on the third tier: "Favors and Noel are both very limited prospects offensively, but have tremendous athletic potential and defensive impact. Their athleticism and ability to make an impact on the defensive end separates them from other one dimensional players that can either shoot, score, pass, or just block shots as singular talents. Both of their flaws on offense are evident, but over time can be developed into strengths."
Habbas on the fourth tier: "Len, Leonard, and Kanter all have upside as two way players, but it has not been shown consistently. All three have requisite skills on both sides of the ball as defenders and offensive players, but whether it be strength, conditioning, injuries, or all three have held them back to this point. At any point in their careers they can leapfrog the one dimensional athletes ahead of them.
On Len: "There is no question on the upside of Len as a prospect with his 7-1 frame, mobility, and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, but the same can be said for Valanciunas and Leonard. These three are the safer prospects to develop because they have a high basement.
On Cody Zeller: "Cody can score out inside and out to 15ft which is a skill his brothers do not have. If he maxes out his offensive potential Cody can be a solid 18pt 7reb a game center, but he falls short in length and on the defensive end. In a good system that can be masked to allow Cody to be a solid offensive weapon at the NBA level."
As you can see, there are not a lot of 7+ footers with big skills coming into the NBA anymore. Probably, this has to do with the fact that there aren't many basketball-skilled 7+ footers in the entire world, but I'm just spit-balling here.
And once those talented 7-footers hit the NBA, they don't always dominate the game. It takes a big man a while to get into the rhythm and catch up to the speed of the NBA.
But opportunity is still a huge separating factor on performance. Only three of the twelve top-ten picks reviewed here were regular NBA starters since their rookie year (Monroe, Cousins, Davis). Each team created the room at their position to take all the minutes they could handle.
Kanter and Favors, both with Utah, did not get that luxury. They were not able to outplay the veterans in front of them (Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) while the Jazz fought for playoff contention the last two seasons. Even now, with both veterans gone, it appears that Kanter and Favors have the opportunity going forward but may still be best suited playing the same position due to their lack of offensive skills.
Valanciunas stayed in Europe for another year and just barely got his feet wet as a 2012-13 rookie. Look for him to become a regular starter for Toronto going forward.
Drummond got better and better as his rookie season progressed, and now projects to be a long-term starter next to Greg Monroe in Detroit.
Meyers Leonard and Bismack Biyombo, both ranked in the bottom tier by our NBA scouts, have a lot more growing to do if they want to become NBA starters. Yet they have the talent to have 10-15 year NBA careers.
As expected, the big men in the 2013 Draft do not have the potential of the top tier of big men in the 2010 and 2012 Drafts.
But they do compare favorably with anyone else taken in those years. Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller may not make any All-Star games, but they should be quality big men and long-term starters in the NBA once they mature and get their opportunity.
For one thing, none of them will be expected to start at center on opening night.
Nerlens Noel will likely miss most of the season with his knee issue. He was traded on draft night for an All-Star (Jrue Holiday) and now plays for a team already hitting the reset button. By the time he sees the court, it might be Summer League 2014 right next to the Sixers' pair of 2014 high draft picks (theirs and New Orleans').
The Bobcats just signed Al Jefferson and still have Bismack Biyombo at center, so Cody Zeller will have to transition immediately to the power forward position to get big minutes. Zeller never played forward in college and almost never took a shot outside ten feet from the basket. Yet, Al Jefferson now owns the offensive paint for the Bobcats, so Zeller will have to completely change his game to succeed in the NBA.
The Phoenix Suns have incumbent starting center Marcin Gortat on hand, allowing Alex Len to slowly adjust to the rigors of the NBA himself. He should be the first center off the bench and could even play next to Gortat in some lineups because he can shoot a jumper. Gortat himself picked Len in a mock draft, projecting him as a PF in a twin tower lineup. The Suns have no incumbents other than Gortat who will take minutes from Len if he appears ready to play.
Kris Habbas parting thoughts on Alex Len:
"Len has the potential to be every bit as good or better than every true center that has been drafted in the past three years. He has the size, can develop the strength, and has flashed the ability to score at and defend the rim. Doing that with consistency at the NBA Level is a different story and will be a challenge for him as it has been for most of his peers. Len does not have the upside of Davis, Drummond, or Cousins, but he has a much higher basement despite his foot injury."