It’s fitting really that the two greatest shots in Phoenix Suns’ history came in playoff losses — not to mention playoff series losses, as well. The first was Gar Heard’s ‘Shot Heard...

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S : Best in the game (LeBron)

A+ : Right on heels of best player (Durant)

A : Top 5 player

A- : Top players at their position/Potential All-NBA players

B+ : All-Stars

B : Good starters/fringe All-Stars

B- : Good starter

C+ : decent starter

C : fringe starter/bench player

C- : good bench player

D+ : average bench player

D : Fringe rotation player

D- : bad player

F : not NBA caliber

Factors: production+efficiency+talent (emphasis on this year but whole career taken into account)

*Note: There is no specific order within each tier

- Previous Position Breakdowns -

For the purpose of these grades/rankings, I am not looking at last season in a vacuum. I am trying to give an idea of where each of these players stands in regards to each other after last season. One poor season doesn't sink a player's stock if the rest of his career paints a different story, the exact opposite is true as well. However, I am not factoring potential into my rankings, meaning rookies are graded as NBA players and do not garner special consideration because of their youth.

I'm probably making this more complicated and subjective than it needs to be, but I suppose that only makes for more discussion. With that being said, on to the rankings.

Tier 1 (A-)

Duncan_mediumMandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

These guys are the best in the game right now. What Duncan did last year was incredible; putting up his best season in years and being named First Team All-NBA... at 37 years old. Wow.

Tier 2 (B+)

Nowitzki and Randolph are starting to slow down as they age, but they're still pretty darn good. Lee and Aldridge are very productive players in the prime of their careers. Griffin hasn't progressed as quickly as some might have expected, but he's a double-double threat every single night and one of the most exciting players in the league. Bosh has sacrificed his individual numbers to play with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but he's still one of the best in the game.

Tier 3 (B)

Pau_mediumMandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. There are a lot of good power forwards in the NBA. STAT is difficult to place because when he's been on the court, he's still been pretty effective. He's just been hurt so much and with his history it's hard to see him bouncin back to consistent health.

Tier 4 (B-)

Anthony Davis is going to be incredible in a couple years. Millsap is a cagey vet and Ibaka has had a few years to develop, and Davis was on their level as a rookie. The only thing that held him back were injuries. Let's all hope he can get past them this coming season.

Tier 5 (C+)

Scola_mediumMandatory Credit: Christian Peterson-Getty Images

Solid, solid players that can bring plenty to a team. A lights-out shooter, a crafty post player and a few double-double guys round out the group.

Tier 6 (C)

These guys are productive players that would look really good coming off the bench but can also start and hold their own if necessary. It's a diverse group, but a pretty talented one. Again, there a re a ton of good power forwards in the league.

Tier 7 (C-)

Diaw_mediumMandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This is a mix of young players with potential, useful journeymen and veterans nearing the end but still effective. All these guys can really bring something to a team coming off the bench.

Tier 8 (D+)

These guys all have their own skills and are rotation-worthy players.

Tier 9 (D)

Atrain_mediumMandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

These guys can be rotation players in the right situation. They've proven they belong on a roster at the very least.

    Tier 10 (D-)

    Kieff's inability to be effective consistently lands him in this spot. I haven't completely given up on him, but I'm close.

    Tier 11 (F)

    Yuck yuck yuck.

    Plenty of current and former Sun on this list. Unfortunately, most of them are pretty far down the list. Here's to hoping for a giant step forward from Markieff Morris and a complete return to health for Channing Frye.

    More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

    Archie Goodwin's own vision for his NBA future with the Phoenix Suns is brighter than any of us have opined since watching him excel in Summer League. When we spoke at the Suns' recent jersey-reveal Fashion Show, Goodwin appeared more at ease with the media than the kid I interviewed just two months ago before Summer League started.

    "It wasn't a surprise to me how well I played. It was a surprise to everybody else." -Archie Goodwin

    "It wasn't a surprise to me how well I played," Goodwin said of Summer League. "It was a surprise to everybody else. I just feel like I got the opportunity to do the things I was able to do and I showcased it."

    Goodwin doesn't pound his chest or squint his eyes at you when he speaks. He is quiet and respectful, though his answers clearly suggest he has a lot of self-confidence.

    Some of his bravado can be discounted as coming from an 18 year old who doesn't know what he doesn't know yet. Every rookie thinks they know it all, until they realize how wrong they were. He doesn't know how much better the league is than anything he ever saw in college. He doesn't know how easily opposing defenses will take away his favorite moves, leaving him to adjust or rot on the bench.

    For his part, new coach Jeff Hornacek isn't worried.

    "Archie's going to pick up on things," Hornacek said before SL even began. "He's got that ability to get to the basket. But when he really attacks the basket, not just think shot. He's got to think ‘is it open for the shot?' If not, do something else.

    "And those are things that are a little different in the NBA. Things collapse a little bit quicker than in college. In college, once you make the turn those guys can pretty much get to the basket with no problem. In this league, they get around that turn and all of sudden, in their heads they're thinking "I'm gonna get to the basket" and all of a sudden it's closed off.

    "They'll adjust to that."

    Goodwin was able to attack the basket easily in Summer League. He often drew the foul when he wanted. Goodwin amassed 48 free throw attempts in just 7 SL games (6.8 per game), accounting for nearly 1/3 of his 13.1 points. He led the team in attempts, besting teammate Marcus Morris by 14, but only got to the line 7 times in the last two games combined as teams began to play for the drive.

    He also passed the ball a bit, but his assist numbers were lower than they might have been because guys weren't making the shots after Goodwin's dump off. Goodwin finished SL with less than 1 assist per game.

    Still, Goodwin was pretty happy about his Summer League coming-out party.

    "It wasn't what I learned about myself," Goodwin said of SL. "It was moreso what I showed everybody else. I was showing everybody else I could do more things than they thought I could."

    Like, hitting 57% of his three point attempts after making less than 30% of them in college? When he commented that he likes the sleeved jerseys they wore in SL, I quipped that the sleeves might have helped his shooting range. He didn't take the bait.

    "Nah, that's just me working."

    I asked Goodwin what drills he's working on since Summer League, hoping to hear some insights into a summer program designed to add new skills to his repertoire. We often hear that players improve their games during the summer, that it's too late once the season starts to learn a brand new skill.

    But Goodwin gave an answer similar to Bledsoe's answers on the same question.

    "It's not one aspect," he said of his summer work. "I'm not a one dimensional guy. I just want to get better in every aspect that I can."

    When asked if Hornacek had left him with a task list or workout schedule, he replied in the negative.

    "Not specifically," Goodwin said. "He knows I'm a gymaholic. He's knows I'm going to get in and work on the right things. Once he gets here I'm sure he'll have his set things, but he's not here right now so I'm just working on things that I know personally I need to get better at."

    Asked about his expectation for a rookie season in which he will be the youngest player in the NBA, Goodwin was quiet but confident.

    "We'll see," he said. "I always feel like I'm the best player on the court no matter who's on the court. It's just a matter of me taking care of opportunities."

    That may sound like empty machismo, but there's not a player in the NBA or any professional sport who would say otherwise when asked where he fits among his peers.

    Goodwin has the body type, the demeanor and the skills to excel in the NBA. He is a willing and talented defender who can attack the basket and draw fouls. He can absorb contact and use it to his advantage. Those two skills will get him playing time in the NBA all by themselves. At the very least, Goodwin showed in Summer League that his game belongs in the NBA and that he has no physical weaknesses to hold him back.

    NBA skill development guy and ESPN contributor, David Thorpe, had this to say after SL: "Someone needs to explain to me how Archie Goodwin of Phoenix dropped so far in the draft. How can someone that young, that quick, that long, and that energetic fall that far? GMs will have some explaining to do, as will lots of scouts."

    If Goodwin can add a consistent three-pointer, a floater in the lane and start to pick his head up on drives to the hole for easy dump offs to keep the defense honest, then the league may just be looking at a new star.

    A new star that somehow dropped to 29th overall in the "weak" 2013 NBA Draft.

    More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

    The cast is back after a week off for me to attend to non-basketball related issues.  As we rush towards the end of the summer and the resumption of basketball activities Kris and I will embark on our second season as co-hosts.  In our effort to continue to provide the absolute best coverage of all that is Suns we would like your feedback on what we could be doing better.

    Answering questions from members via email?

    Name change?  Separate logo and branding?

    Too long?  Too short?  Frequency between shows?

    Anything else?

    Just let me know in the comments or shoot me a separate email.  I would greatly appreciate any feedback you may have!

    Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 34

    More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

    Those who know my writing on the Phoenix Suns over the years, know that I really don't like playing the "What if" game. I've fought hard against those who like to re-write history based on a single pivotal moment in time, as if what happens next can only be wonderful. What is Amare and Diaw hadn't been suspended? What if Joe Johnson, or Raja Bell, or Amare, or Kurt Thomas hadn't been injured at pivotal times?

    Let's go back in time to the first pivotal "What if?" in Phoenix Suns franchise history.

    What if that timeout was called in the 1976 Finals?

    In what is often dubbed the Greatest Game Ever Played, the Celtics' Paul Silas tried to call a timeout with 3 seconds to go and the game tied 101-101. The Celtics didn't have a timeout. If the timeout had been called, a technical foul would have ensued and the Suns would have had the chance to take a lead with three seconds left.

    "I'd put my money on Paul Westphal making that free throw," [head coach John] MacLeod said.

    [Guard Paul] Westphal said he saw [Paul] Silas call the timeout.

    "And so did Richie Powers," Westphal said, laughing.

    Silas...said he tried.

    "That's what everybody still talks about 25 years later," he said [in 2001]. "That's all right with me. I did. I tried to call one and Richie Powers didn't see me or didn't want to see me.

    "He didn't acknowledge it. I know they feel if he had, it would have been a different ending. Bottom line is that he didn't and we got another ring."

    The game eventually went three overtimes, with the Celtics winning and taking a 3-2 series lead. The series ended the next game, in Phoenix, at the hands of the Celtics.

    What if the timeout had been called, resulting in a technical free throw for the Suns?

    Well, the Suns might have taken a commanding 3-2 series lead in the 1976 Finals. The Suns might have won Game 6 at home to close out the series. And the Suns might have won their first NBA Finals in only their 8th year of existence.

    As it was, the Suns lost that game and the series. And that team, who'd made a Finals run after only going 42-40 during the season, never sniffed the Finals again.

    Yet that game, that Suns loss, still reigns as one of the greatest game ever played. And that game, so early in the Suns run in Phoenix, cemented their hold on the town. The Suns still don't have an NBA championship. But that game, and a remarkable playoff run, left an indelible imprint on the Valley.

    "There is no doubt that season, that year, that team, that series and that game specifically galvanized the community," said [former] Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo, then the general manager. "It brought a community together. People of different persuasions and different parts of country rallied around that team, and we were becoming a melting pot even then."

    That game has since been introduced to even more fans as a staple of classic sports broadcasts.

    "I never knew I'd be making history," said Ricky Sobers, a rookie guard on that team. "They've actually immortalized us. Nothing wrong with that at all. I still go out and continue to meet people that remember that game. It feels like half the people in the world have seen it."

    Two of the luminaries on that team you can see in the youtube clip above are still with the Phoenix Suns organization to this day. Center Alvan Adams and forward Dick Van Arsdale just walked the runway last week at the Suns Fashion Show wearing their original Suns jerseys from that era, and still work for the team all these decades later.

    What if the Suns had won Game 5?

    There is no guarantee the Suns would have won either of the next two games. Red Auerbach's Boston Celtics were already the league's most storied franchise and a recent Finals winner. Phoenix was an upstart that needed luck to win any of those games.

    As it was, Boston came into Phoenix with a 3-2 lead won the game cleanly. The Suns, with their backs against the wall, couldn't muster a series-tying win at home. Who says they could have closed out an NBA Finals at home?

    Nay, if the Suns had won Game 5 there less than good statistical chance that they would have won Game 6 or Game 7 (back in Boston). There were the heavy underdog with no playoffs or Finals experience.

    If the Suns had won Game 5 102-101 on a Westphal free throw, the game would not be recognized as the Greatest Game Ever played. The Suns earlier wins in the series are never mentioned. It's because the Celtics somehow won Game 5 that it's been immortalized.

    What if the Suns had gone on to win the 1976 NBA Finals?

    If the Suns had found a way to win Game 6 or 7 after closing out Game 5 on a Westphal free throw, it's quite possible the entire Phoenix Suns franchise trajectory would have been altered forever.

    The Suns might now be one of the league's elite, with Finals wins to top off their NBA 4th best winning percentage. if the Suns had closed out the NBA Finals in 1976, they might have had the moxie to win in 1993 too. The sky could have been limit.

    Oh, the riches! Oh, the wonder!

    But what if our "what if's" were actually answered?

    A championship early in a team's existence. Hmm... Sounds like Colangelo's Diamondbacks of 2001. That World Series win defined the D'backs franchise in many ways. Not the least of which is that what's come since has been a huge disappointment.

    Partly, it's because the "What If's" have already been answered.

    What if Brenly had put in Randy Johnson to close out Game 7 of that Finals after Schilling got them to the 7th?

    What if little Luis Gonzales had gotten a hit, even a blooper, off the mighty Yankee closer Mariano Rivera?

    DBacks fans got those "what if" prayers answered before they could even get the questions out of their mouths. With those "what if's" answered, the Dbacks would go on to a great future right?

    Wrong. That World Series win for the DBacks was done in unsustainable fashion . The Dbacks were incredibly lucky in many ways, and their veterans were at the apex of their careers all at the same time. Everything went downhill from there.

    But has it? In the 12 seasons since 2001, the DBacks have reached the NLCS twice. Both times, they boasted a bevy of young, upstart talent that appeared to be on the rise.

    Yet, the stands at the BOB have never since been as full as they were in the early DBacks years leading up to the Series. Fans love an underdog. They love a lovable loser. Just check out the Cubs fans in Chicago for instance. Or those Suns fans in Phoenix.

    Once the DBacks won a World Series early in their existence, the fans no longer see an underdog franchise. Even today, while fans like the gritty DBacks who are fighting an uphill battle for the playoffs once again, there's no mystique. No wonder. No don't hear DBacks fans say "we never get a break" or "if we could just win that ring, just once".

    The Suns were sold out for years while reaching no further than the Western Conference Finals. Every game a sellout, from opening day forward.

    The Cardinals were sold out for years after opening UoP stadium in Glendale while Warner led the Cards to a Super Bowl loss and one other early playoff exit. Every game a sellout, from opening day forward.

    The DBacks have fielded quality teams in many of the seasons since that World Series, twice reaching the National League Championship series. Yet sellouts, which came so easy in 2000 and 2001, have been few and far between.

    Been there. Done that. Mystique over.

    Sometimes you get what you ask for

    Sometimes, you get what you want. And, you realize it wasn't exactly what you wanted at all.

    What if the Suns had won the Finals in 1976? Who knows. What we do know is that nearly 40 years later, fans still love the Suns and would sell out the arena if the team were on the rise again. No need for a championship to bring back the fans, just the smell of potential is good enough.

    I prefer underdogs. I prefer anticipating things going right for once. I prefer getting excited over possibilities to come, rather than lamenting what could have been.

    I like the idea of a winner, and I like knowing it can always get better. I'm not saying I'm glad the Suns lost that 1976 NBA Finals. But I am glad there's still a chance to see the Suns win their first championship. Lame, I know. But it's who I am.

    Your turn

    Let's spend this hot, lazy August day discussing "what ifs" about our beloved Phoenix Suns.

    Add a comment. Make a fanpost. Let's talk.

    What if Paxson had missed that 3-pointer in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals?

    What if Antonio McDyess had re-signed with the Suns after the 1999 lockout?

    What if Joe Johnson had stayed healthy through the 2005 playoffs?

    What if Amare Stoudemire, or Kurt Thomas, or even Raja Bell, had been healthy all the way through 2006?

    Page 1022 of 2081


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