Because the last thing the Suns need is another wing...Right?
Or just maybe we really do.
Consider this. Although the Suns seemingly had an over-abundance of wings last season that created incongruity and instability due to an ever-changing rotation, we may still have a need here. Vince Carter and his $18 million dollar contract will be leaving us this season in exchange for a $4 million buyout. That's one less SG, and one less headache for Gentry to justify giving unearned playing time to. But this actually leaves us a little thin at two-guard with only Dudley (who's actually more of a three) and Pietrus left at that position. Perhaps the real problem was never too many wings, but too many wings who weren't consistent or the right fit for our team?
Is it possible that there's a young un-drafted free agent who could instantly provide us with quality minutes at the two without hardly adding to our payroll? Could that same player also possess the exact skill-set we have been desperately seeking in the other wings we have either traded for or signed in free agency? It may sound too good to be true...but I believe the answer is yes.
Introducing...The Curious Case for David Lighty.
For those of you who don't follow college basketball, David Lighty played for five seasons at Ohio State including the 08/09 year where received a medical red-shirt due to a broken foot. He played very sparingly in his freshman year, but was promoted to the starting lineup his sophomore season where he made an instant impact, especially on the defensive end. After recovering from his injury that kept him from playing all but seven games the following season, Lighty returned to the starting lineup for his junior year playing over 36 minutes a night and again providing "shut-down" quality defense against players ranging from PGs to PFs. Along with his defensive prowess, Lighty also began to exhibit an improved offensive game as well with an improved shooting % both on and off the dribble and from both within and beyond the arc. Along with Evan Turner, Lighty was an integral part of the 09/10 Ohio State team that earned a second seed before being upset by Tennessee in the "Sweet 16" round of the NCAA tournament.
During his fifth and final season at Ohio State in 10/11, Lighty again made substantial improvements to his game offensively and became one of the best all-around players for the team. Although once again overshadowed by a marquee player, this time Jared Sullinger, Lighty was both effective and efficient in every aspect of his game. Along with his defensive abilities which were again top-tier, he again made improvements in his offensive game averaging 12pts while shooting 46% from the field and a very respectable 43% from beyond the arc. Lighty played a big part in helping Ohio St. achieve a record of 34-3; receiving a number one seed entering into the NCAA tournament, although once again falling short of their expectations when they were eliminated by Kentucky in the "Elite Eight".
Below are his season averages for the seasons he played at Ohio State
Season Averages SEASON TEAM MIN PTS REB AST TO A/T STL BLK PF FG% FT% 3P% PPS 2006-2007 OSU 16.3 3.7 2.3 1.0 1.2 .89 .5 .2 1.4 .374 .685 .200 1.09 2007-2008 OSU 32.0 9.0 3.6 2.4 2.2 1.07 1.3 .2 2.0 .445 .623 .327 1.18 2008-2009 OSU 32.9 9.7 5.7 1.9 1.9 1.00 1.4 .3 2.0 .471 .536 .263 1.33 2009-2010 OSU 36.3 12.6 4.5 3.0 2.3 1.29 1.6 .5 2.4 .492 .632 .383 1.41 2010-2011 OSU 32.1 12.1 4.0 3.3 1.6 2.10 1.5 .5 1.9 .468 .627 .429 1.36
Source - ESPN http://espn.go.com/ncb/player/profile?playerId=31546
*Note - 08/09 season he was injured and played only seven games.
What makes him special
Lighty's skills have seemingly improved nearly every season of his college career. He had a major setback before he began playing in college when he suffered a torn ACL in his junior year of high school. Since his recovery, he has gained back more of his explosiveness and quickness each year. His compromised speed, quickness, and agility may have initially hurt his reputation early in his college career, but his play of late gives every indication that he will continue to play with his improved physical attributes as a professional.
Lighty is known first and foremost for his defense. He is a very active and smart defender with very good technique; he plays low and wide using his body and wingspan to stay in front of his man and contest shots without drawing fouls.
Check out some of these defensive highlights below...
In addition to being a very good defender, Lighty has also become a consistent jump shooter from both within and beyond the arc over the last couple of seasons. He has the ability to be a spot-up shooter, but has also greatly improved his ability to create his own shot. His offensive game has improved in nearly every way with each passing season at Ohio State, and his work ethic should help him to continue this trend.
Another underrated aspect of David Lighty's game is his blue-collar attitude and extremely high b-ball I.Q. He's a very hard worker who has a great feel for the game, and understands his role on the team. He's not a guy who expects to be in the spotlight, but rather embraces being a hard-working role player who plays effectively and efficiently in nearly every aspect of the game. Still, he's managed to have some impressive highlights during his time at OSU as well...Here is one particular game vs. Illinois where he showed dominance on both ends of the court:
If he's so good, why wasn't he drafted?
Going into the 2011 draft, Lighty was largely considered a talented SG prospect that would be drafted somewhere in the mid to late second round. Even with Lighty's level of talent, it was hard to gauge when or where he would be drafted due to the large pool of talented players and the needs of the teams selecting them. Although this year's draft wasn't considered especially strong with top-level talent, it was widely regarded as being deep with NBA-ready prospects who could contribute immediately as role players for their respective teams.
Lighty was considered a top 30ish talent by most of the analysts and experts covering the draft. However, in an unexpected twist of fate, Lighty was passed on by team after team in favor of other questionable picks and ended up going un-drafted. As for why many players that most analysts had rated below David Lighty were drafted and he wasn't (including his teammate Jon Diebler), I wish I knew. Maybe GM's were looking for specific attributes that certain players specialized in, and David simply slipped through the cracks. But whatever the reason, I'm willing to bet that he will be on an NBA roster before the start of next season (whenever that may be). I also believe he will be an immediate contributor being that he is NBA ready, and his defensive ability will help him stay on the court.
David Lighty is exactly the kind of player the Suns need. He gives us the perimeter defense we have searched for and have yet to find through our acquisitions of players like Childress and Pietrus. On offense, he will both space the floor as a spot-up perimeter shooter and drive the lane and/or create his own shot off the dribble as well. We may well be looking for a more proven player to add to our roster for the SG position through free agency or even a trade, but Lighty would be an excellent option as a role player who can come off the bench and make an impact on both ends of the court. He would be a very inexpensive pick up adding little to our payroll being that he is an undrafted free-agent, and could very well be a gamble that pays off in spades for us when it's all said and done.
I hope Markieff Morris is able to handle his separation from Marcus well, but it will take some adjustment. Dick and Tom Van Arsdale provide a model.
I follow Markieff on Twitter, and he and Marcus retweet each other's stuff to the point that it's sometimes tough to tell which of them is speaking. That's how tight their bond is.
Unsurprisingly, NBA owners and the NBPA failed to reach an agreement on a new CBA this week, and the owners locked the players out. We know what it means in the short-term. No NBA basketball - no summer league, no training camp, and probably only a truncated season following an extremely brief preseason.
The two sides will settle eventually and there will be NBA basketball, as it's doubtful either the players or the owners have the stomach to cancel an entire season. What happens then? How should the missed time impact our performance expectations for current Suns players? Let's look at some likely scenarios after the jump.For this discussion, assume the roster will stay essentially the same, with no huge trade to shake it up. Sorry to spoil your fun, rosterbators, but "what if" trade scenarios will be a waste of time here. Besides, I hope to show why a major roster shakeup will doooooom the Suns season unless they absolutely rob a team in a lopsided trade. There might be an addition of shooting guard X or power forward Y, but the team remains mostly the same in this exercise.
I'll also assume that the lockout will be roughly the same length as the 1998-1999 NBA lockout, not a happy thought but probably reasonably realistic. That work stoppage lasted from July 1, 1998-January 6, 1999. A 50-game regular season followed a preseason that lasted only 2 games.
Don't expect much change in the league's power structure.
Last season saw the rise of the Bulls, Thunder and Heat, the decline of the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs, and the always-contending Mavericks finally get over the hump. With the lockout freezing rosters and preventing young teams from holding extended training camps, organized team practices, etc, we probably shouldn't expect a similar changing of the guard this year.
Comparisons with the '98-'99 lockout and the amount of change among the ranks of contenders are a bit dicey since '97-'98 was Michael Jordan's last season with the Bulls. They won the title that year, Jordan retired (for the second, but not final time) and the Bulls blew the team to smithereens. So, obviously there was a new champion as the Spurs ascended to the throne the following season. Five of the sixteen playoff teams were different between '97-'98 and '98-'99, which seems like a fairly significant shakeup until we see that those five teams (Sacramento, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando) combined to win only one playoff series.
We can expect to see teams like the Mavs, Thunder, Bulls and Heat continue to rule, but the marginal playoff spots are potentially subject to change. For example, would it surprise you if the Grizzlies fell back to earth due to Zach Randolph getting himself in trouble or getting fat or some such immature move when he'll have six months with no adult supervision?
Team upheaval will not be rewarded.
Remember last year, when we spent the summer wringing our hands over how Alvin Gentry would find the right combinations of players after the loss of Amare Stoudemire and Lou Amundson, and additions of Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress? Then, even after a summer league, a full training camp and a full preseason, the Suns rotations sill looked like Gentry decided them based on guidance from a Magic 8-Ball for the first two months of the season until the Jason Richardson/Marcin Gortat trade threw things further into chaos.
Major upheaval this off-season would have been (or still could be) worse, much worse. While the lockout is on, players won't be able to work out in team facilities or have team-supervised practices. Players can work out on their own or in unsupervised groups, but that's not the same. How would new players develop their timing with Steve Nash and integrate with each other overall? Once labor peace is achieved, teams will have a few weeks of practice and preseason and then will be thrust into games that count for real. Do we really want to make a huge trade at the end of the lockout and have the team hastily try to integrate a bunch of new players, with a shortened season that won't allow for extended growing pains? I don't.
Young players should not be counted on for much.
While newly added players would have a difficult time integrating, young players like Markieff Morris and Gani Lawal figure to have an even harder time. There will be no summer league to allow them to hone their skills against other aspiring young NBA players. Then they'll miss out on the benefit of training camp with their Suns teammates, and preseason, where they would get to try their hand against real NBA competition.
This isn't a hard and fast rule, and '98-'99 had a few rookies who made a big, immediate impact, including Paul Pierce and 1999 Rookie of the Year Vince Carter. But those players were top 10 picks and seen as blue chip prospects. Lower picks who made All-Rookie were Matt Harpring, who had been picked at #15 and Michael Doleac, selected at #12. Can Markieff Morris be our Michael Doleac? That is a question I never thought I'd ask.
There is some good news. Older, established players will rock!
This sounds like a lot of bad news for the Suns, but it actually isn't. NBA players will have extended time without organizational supervision. Are there any other players you'd want as team captains leading a team in such a situation than Steve Nash and Grant Hill? They'll keep themselves in shape, they'll keep an eye out for their teammates, and the Suns have other high character worker types in Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye. These guys won't get fat and sloppy over the time off. Other teams' players might.
More important than that, as has been thoroughly discussed, Nash remains the engine of the team. When he was healthy and at his best last year, he was producing as well as ever. If the season is only 50 games or so, there is less chance of Nash breaking down since there will be less wear and tear. Same with our defensive stopper Grant Hill. Older, mature players who take a professional approach to the game will prosper in this situation, and that perfectly describes Nash and Hill.
Team cohesion plus veteran leadership plus better chance for health of our best players should equal a better Suns team next season. We won't be contenders, but could be a frisky lower seed playoff team. Given our current situation, I'd be satisfied with that.