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It was another tough, grind it out performance that was epitomized by P.J. Tucker leaping into the third row after a steal that Goran Dragic created in the third quarter. There is no understatement there, Tucker leaped over two rows of chairs, about six people, and landed on the stairs. That is hustle.

When Tucker got up and walked to the bench the Phoenix Suns clearly fed off of that energy and chipped away at the Washington Wizards lead that was once as large as 18 points.

The toughness of the Suns was on full display as Dragic (18 points 11 assists), Tucker (10 points 10 rebounds), and Luis Scola (11 points 5 rebounds) were going all out in this one. Those three played tough despite the deficit helping them grind it out and cut the Wizards lead to four points with under 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Grinding and playing tough basketball is quality every team currently in the lottery should exhibit, at the bare minimum at this level, and the Suns did just that. It was not enough to get the win, but showed heart on the court. Something that has been sporadic at best all season.

The Wizards closed out the game with a 88-79 win dropping the Suns to 23-46 on the season.

Tonight the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, and the Wizards all won, meaning in a round about way the Suns actually won tonight. They get another full game of separation on Washington and own the opposite of a tie-breaker on them in case of a tie. That is a good thing.

Bradley Beal left the game in the fourth quarter with a left ankle sprain, Jared Dudley played despite being under the weather, and they let Shannon Fly. Just another night at U.S. Airways Center.

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Every win by the Phoenix Suns (23-45) is detrimental in their mission of getting the best possible pick in this years draft. That is the carrot that has been dangled all season in-front of the fans with the poor play on the court and accelerated drop in the standings.

Hosting the Washington Wizards (23-43) gives the Suns a peek at a team a few steps further along in the rebuilding process and a chance to move a little higher in the lottery standings.

(Recent) History Lesson

Lost 127-105

In their first meeting either the Wizards coaching staff did an exemplary job scouting the Suns porous three-point defense, or they just didn't guard Martell Webster. His seven made threes tied a career-high and was the fourth time this season he has hit 5+ threes in a game. The game was over early in the second half as the Wizards came out on fire and the Suns didn't.

Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)

Suns: 111 PPG (5 wins)

Wizards: 99.8 PPG (1 wins)

Make no mistake, before this season's blowout in Washington the Suns owned the Wizards. As of late they were able to get over 100+ points in every game torching the defense. Those were Nash-led offenses, hence the dramatic change this season.

Head-to-Head (career)

John Wall vs. Suns: 12.5 PPG 4.3 RPG 10.8 APG 2.45 SPG 42.8 FG% (4 games)

Jermaine O'Neal vs. Wizards: 15.4 PPG 8.4 RPG 1.6 APG 2.0 BPG 42.6 FG% (36 games)

Wall averages 10+ assists per game against five teams and the Suns are No. 2 on that personal list for the potential star point guard. He picks apart the Suns, but does not score at a high rate despite the clear athletic advantage for him against the previous regime. O'Neal has a lot of experience against the Wizards in his career from his days in Indiana, Miami, and Boston.

Starting Line-Ups

PG - Goran Dragic v. John Wall

SG - Wesley Johnson v. Garrett Temple

SF - Marcus Morris v. Martell Webster

PF - Markieff Morris v. Nene Hilaro

C - Jermaine O'Neal v. Emeka Okafor

Potential Suns Inactives: Marcin Gortat (Foot)

Potential Wizards Inactives: A.J. Price (Groin) and Chris Singleton (Personal)

Key Match-Up

Markieff Morris vs. Nene

If Markieff is engaged on the offensive end his defense has struggled this year. Taking Nene out of the game is important in beating this team as he is their only offensive threat in the paint. This season Markieff has not been able to put together strings of good games, but off the heels of his solid offensive performance against the Lakers this is a chance to build on one good game. Last time out Markieff got the better of Nene in points, rebounds, and shooting.

Interesting Stat: 0-4

This season the Suns have lost by 20+ a total of 11 times overall. Seven of those occurrences have come on the road, giving the team some level of motivation in the return match-up, but that has not manifested into one win this year. When the team gets leveled on the road they are 0-4 with the chance at some level of redemption losing by an average of 13.7 in those return games.

Meaningless Stat: 10+

Before the loss earlier this season the Suns typically have taken out the whipping sticks on the Wizards to a tune of 10 straight wins, the last seven by 10+ points per game. There is that.

Time: 7 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ If there’s one thing to take solace in what went down on Saturday — a 127-105 thumping of the Phoenix Suns by the Wizards in Washington — it’d be...

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The lucky numbers this week will be the score of the Suns/Timberwolves game Friday 3/22 and the points scored by Nikola Pekovic. Here's the skinny on this weeks contest, which is open to registered members of Brightside of the Sun.

Guess the score (and winner) of the Suns/Timberwolves game this Friday (3/22), e.g. Suns 107, Timberwolves 101. Once someone has picked a score the same score cannot be picked by another contestant.

Guess Nikola Pekovic's points. This will be used as a tiebreaker. For example, if the score is 107-101 and one person guesses 109-103 and another guesses 105-99 they will both be off by four points. In that event it will go to the tiebreaker.

Your entry should be in the form of a comment below. Example entry: Suns 107, Timberwolves 101 Nikola Pekovic 21 points

This week's prize is a Brightside of the Sun t-shirt (shipping included). The winner will be declared in the comments and notified by email to arrange for delivery of the prize.

Keep checking in as we will continue to have more contests like this (with various prizes) moving forward! Thank you all for listening, reading and participating. You guys rock. Good luck!

Here are the full legal terms and conditions for the contest: Contest Rules.

And here is this week's show: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 14

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Last summer, Phoenix Suns fans spent a lot of pre-draft time focused on the shooting guard prospects that might go to the Suns with their #13 overall pick.

This year it's more about getting the best overall talent at ANY position. The Suns still have a gaping hole at the shooting guard position going into the offseason, but they have gaping long-term holes at just about every position.

Still, a young and dynamic shooting guard would be a boon to any franchise and the 2013 draft offers a number of quality prospects in the lottery.

A season ago, the Suns were hoping at least one or two of Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross, Dion Waiters and Jeremy Lamb would be on the board at #13 overall. In fact, many Suns fans (including me) thought the Suns would have their choice of at least two of those guys.

Bradley Beal, who was always out of reach, went #3 overall. Beal, by the way, started slow this season but has come on recently to show clearly that, yes, he was the best shooting guard prospect in that draft. On the small side in terms of measurables (6'3" and 207), Beal has shown real talent this season - averaging better than 15 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 33 minutes per game since January 1. That's a good start.

Then Dion Waiters - projected as low as the 20s in April 2012 - went #4 overall to Cleveland. Waiters was known for his ability to create his own shot at the rim or on the 3-point line and had the physical tools to play defense (though not the evidence at Syracuse). Waiters' rookie reason has been up and down, but he's gotten a lot of minutes on a young team: better than 14 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 30 minutes per game since January 1.

Terrence Ross went next at #8 overall. Ross promised a good 3-point shot and tight defense, but little ability to create his own shot off the dribble and was allergic to contact in college. As a rookie, he's been a regular rotation player for Toronto but started only 1 game. On the season, he has put up 6 points and 2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game (drawing a two-shot foul every third game or so).

Austin Rivers was popped next at #10 overall by New Orleans. The combo guard with ice in his veins had what's been reported as a disaster rookie season on a team that needed him, yet he put up virtually the same numbers as Ross in a few more minutes per game - 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 23 minutes a game - before going down with a bad hand injury.

So, far not one of these guys' new NBA teams have won more games than the Suns this season (23).

The Suns' final chance at landing a shooting guard was Jeremy Lamb. We all know what happened with Lamb - he was taken at #12 overall, one spot ahead of the Suns, and later included in the famous James Harden trade. I won't belabor this any further than to say Lamb's rookie season has been non-existent on the bench of good teams. Lamb came out with a rep of being a sweet shooter who could defend, but was as allergic to contact as Terrence Ross.

Results for rookie guards in the NBA (including Damian Lillard who went #6 overall, after Waiters and Beal):

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Where am I going with all of this?

Let me tell you: this year's crop of shooting guards may be BETTER than last year's, according to draft experts like our own Kris Habbas who runs the site nbadraftinsider.com and talks to scouts every day of every week and twice on Sundays.

Asked where he would rank the last two years' worth guard prospects at draft time (if they'd come out together):

Kris' rankings would be:

  1. Beal (Best SG prospect since Harden)
  2. Ben McLemore (Wait until he has an NBA PG passing him the ball)
  3. Marcus Smart (a little Baron Davis/Harden/Foye in his game; BIG strong combo guard)
  4. Otto Porter (Five tool talent, can do everything well)
  5. Shabazz Muhammad (Poor offensive body language, selfish scorer, limited)
  6. Victor Oladipo (Great energy, good athlete, Barbosa type, with vice grip D)
  7. Waiters
  8. Lamb
  9. Rivers
  10. Ross

Different talents of course. Last years group were primarily scorers, this years group has more complete players with versatile games. Example, Porter may not score 20 points a night, but he defenders, passes, and plays off the ball well.

Kris offered more on the drop-off between Bradley Beal and Ben McLemore.

Beal has better ball skills, play-making and overall offensive talent.

McLemore has the frame, athletic, and size advantage on Beal, but is limited outside of shooting/transition offense. Don't get me wrong, McLemore is going to be a very good pro, but Beal has a higher ceiling in my opinion.

If the Suns win the Lottery, McLemore would be their guy, but he would also be Charlotte, New Orleans, Sacramento, Minnesota, and Cleveland's guy too.

Well, I'm not sure about Cleveland taking either Smart, McLemore or any of the shooting guards this season after taking Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the last two drafts. Unless they see Waiters as a super-sub 6th-man long term, that is.

But certainly, those other teams will be fighting the Suns for the best prospects, with the Suns being new to the crowd while the others are wily lotto veterans.

Kris has some final comments on last year's shooting guard prospects:

I was not enamored with Waiters, Rivers, Ross, or Lamb last year as Top 10 picks. Thought there was value in Waiters in the teens, value for Ross in the 20's, and that Lamb/Rivers were lottery type talents. By the way, Rivers career is not over. He is not playing well know, but could come back and be a very good player. My take on him was always Antonio Daniels, so I am not shocked he is playing average-to-below-average this year.

Here is Kris' Final Big Board before the 2012 draft. He says Waiters was only listed that high because so many scouts had him going up at the top like he ended up going.

If you're a fan of shooting guards, then you can look forward to this year's draft. If the Suns want to a guard, they will get a better prospect this year than they could have had last year.

But I don't expect the Suns to hone in on one position. They need the best talent regardless of position.

The best player this year from the 2012 draft was PG Damian Lillard. The players with the highest upside might be Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond.

Here's the top 20, sorted by scoring average in their rookie season (what the Suns need no matter what the position):

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Finally, here's Kris' 2013 Big Board. He has our top guards currently ranked as such:

2. McLemore

3. Smart

4. Porter

9. Muhammad

17. Oladipo

Of Oladipo, he says: People love the story and the energy of a guy like Oladipo, but he is undersized and will hit an athletic wall in the NBA with equal talent.

Ranked #1 overall: Nerlens Noel

Chew on that, Suns fans!

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