To rise from the NBA lottery ashes, a team needs at least two star players with one of those being in the top three at his position in the game and in MVP consideration.

Without a budding pair of NBA stars, the Suns will wallow in lottery land for the foreseeable future. We are all excited by the direction of the team and the front office. But the Suns still must have one of Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len or Archie Goodwin reach their ceiling to become annual All-Star talents. And even then, the Suns will watch lottery balls bounce until that guy is joined by an even better player with MVP talent and skill.

#RigginforWiggins

But if one of those three doesn't rise to All-Star status, next year's draft won't have much impact on the Suns win total. And the lotto balls may keep bouncing for years and years to come.

The 2013 playoff picture

The L.A. Clippers were young and exciting, but still a loser, with Blake Griffin catching lobs and dropping jaws. It wasn't until Chris Paul joined him that the Clippers got out of the lottery for good. The same can be said for Oklahoma City Thunder, who needed All-Star seasons from both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to sniff the playoffs. Simply having Durant lead the league in scoring wasn't enough.

Zach Randolph learned for years in Portland and L.A. that putting up All-Star numbers wasn't enough to carry a team alone. It wasn't until he was paired with Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol in Memphis that he started winning games regularly. Golden State didn't start winning until David Lee and Stephen Curry played significant time together, along with a group of quality role players. The year before, GS wallowed while Curry suffered from ankle problems.

Houston sat on the edge of the playoffs for years, barely missing out three straight times, with no All-Star talent. It wasn't until James Harden joined the troops and Chandler Parsons exceeded all expectations that Houston jumped into the playoff picture. But even that wasn't long-term sustainable until Dwight Howard signed on this summer.

Even the Lakers, who squeaked into the playoffs, had a hard time in the mid-2000s with the mercurial Kobe Bryant playing on an All-Star island. They didn't become a playoff threat again until Pau Gasol came aboard in early 2008. And going forward, with Bryant and Gasol in steep decline, they may not hit the playoffs again.

One exception to the "multiple All-Star talent" rule is the Denver Nuggets, who have lived in the playoffs year after year without a perennial All-Star since Carmelo Anthony was traded and even then never paired Anthony with another All-Star (though Nene was close). They made the playoffs because of their system - a wide open attack that ran opponents off the court before they knew what hit them. George Karl, somehow out of work at the moment, has always found a way to succeed where others failed.

Upstarts

Looking at the upstart teams this season, Cleveland challenged records for losses even with All-Star Kyrie Irving running the ship. They hope Andrew Bynum or one of their draftees can become his All-Star sidekick but until that happens the Cavs will be watching lotto balls bounce.

The Hornets/Pelicans have dramatically upped their chances of multiple All-Stars by keeping Eric Gordon, drafting Anthony Davis and acquiring Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. But last year they couldn't sniff 30 wins with Davis, Gordon and Ryan Anderson on the court together.

Portland is hoping that All-Star pairing of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge results in a playoff berth soon.

And the rest

The Timberwolves have lived in the lottery as well, despite All-Star Kevin Love. Same for Sacramento, despite all-world talent DeMarcus Cousins. Dallas knows its long-term future is lotto land if they can't supplement Dirk Nowitzki with another All-Star talent.

The Jazz have no current All-Stars on their roster, but they have promising young players who just might reach that pinnacle some day. Until they do, Utah will rival the Suns for losses.

Charlotte has settled to the bottom of the barrel because they can't even find one All-Star. They are now pinning their hopes on draftee Cody Zeller and free agent Al Jefferson. Good luck with that.

Detroit has stayed on the bottom with Charlotte for the same reasons (no All-Stars), though that may change with the pairing of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Unless they have already scuttled that future on the ill-fitting Josh Smith.

Including our Suns

The Phoenix Suns enter the season with no one on the roster even sniffing the top 10 of his position, let alone All-Star status or MVP status. Most of the team is now 25-or-under, yet none of the young players is quite yet projected to reach elite status.

Amin Elhassan was being very kind to even rank the Suns #18 overall in under-25 talent based solely on the potential of Bledsoe, Len and Goodwin.

Players: Michael Beasley (24), Eric Bledsoe (23), Archie Goodwin (18), Malcolm Lee (23), Alex Len (20), Kendall Marshall (21), Markieff Morris (23), Marcus Morris (23), Miles Plumlee (24)

Acquiring Bledsoe greatly boosted Phoenix's youth corps, who until that point were a roster of bench contributors. He brings elite athleticism at the point guard position, although now he'll have to adjust to playing more minutes without necessarily playing more minutes at point guard (he'll share those duties with incumbent Goran Dragic). The Morris twins both have the potential to be productive players, albeit at the same position: power forward (I'm not sold on Marcus as a full-time 3). Marshall is fighting for his NBA life at this stage, and it doesn't help that the Suns are well stocked at point guard. In terms of draft talent, Len has the potential to be a skilled big on the block who can pop out for the jumper, but the real gem was Goodwin, an athletic freak who, at 18, was one of the youngest players in the draft.

The Suns have to hope and pray that one of Goodwin, Bledsoe or Len become an All-Star talent to at least lay one foundational building block for an eventual playoff contender.

But even that won't be enough unless Hornacek can break the mold like Karl did, and somehow run the opposition into submission before they can respond. Don't count on that. Count on the Suns needing to acquire at least one more All-Star talent, even in the best-case scenario.

Worst case, the Suns still need both All-Stars before the win totals exceed 30 again. Worst case, guys like Bledsoe, Goodwin and Len will become supporting player pieces like Cleveland has amassed with their picks (Thompson, Zeller, Bennett). And even with Kyrie Irving, those supporting pieces didn't create wins.

Hold onto your hats, Suns fans.

Here's the best news of the day: Eric Bledsoe can play this year like an All-Star. Archie Goodwin and/or Alex Len can flash outstanding plays that bode well for the future. And Goran Dragic and Bledsoe backcourt can be exciting.

And the Suns STILL won't win 30 games, leaving them a prime slot for that next All-Star talent in the ballyhooed 2014 Draft.

#RigginforWiggins

After six seasons, 90 regular season wins, 11 playoff wins, and one WNBA Championship Corey Gaines is out as the Phoenix Mercury's head coach and general manager. All of those are franchise records for a head coach.

For the past seven years Gaines has been a fixture U.S. Airways as an assistant in 2006 with the Mercury under then head coach Paul Westhead and as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns working with the team in a player development role. He was on the staff as an assistant when the team won the 2007 Championship and has been pulling the strings since 2008, including the 2009 Championship as the head coach.

All of that came to an end today.

Gaines status with the Phoenix Suns will be determined separately from this decision at a later date per the team

President Amber Cox statement:

First and foremost, we thank Corey for his years of dedication to this franchise, its players and its fans. Corey helped bring two championships to our organization and for that we will be forever grateful.  Unfortunately, our team's performance this season has not lived up to our expectations, and at this time, a change was necessary.  Russ Pennell is a proven leader and winner, whose resume speaks to his ability to build a winning culture founded in discipline and fundamentals.

The team has been under-performing based on talent so far this season at 10-11 overall clinging on to the third seed in the Western Conference for most of the season.

With Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, and Penny Taylor the team was supposed to be a force in the WNBA and a legitimate threat to win their third Championship in six years. Instead they have struggled to defend, score consistently, and win games against quality teams. In all likelihood they are a playoff team, but with the way they have played are not seen as a serious contender in the Western Conference.

In the door comes Russ Pennell.

Arizona basketball fans are aware of Pennell as the initial replacement to the legendary Lute Olson at the University of Arizona. He lasted 35 games and a run to the Sweet 16 before he was passed over for the permanent job in favor of Sean Miller. Since then he has been with the Grand Canyon University (Division II) where he went 72-44 reaching the NCAA Tournament twice.

Dan Majerle took over for Pennell this summer and now Pennell is back on a sideline; this time in the WNBA.

This is a drastic change going from Gaines who has Championship experience to Pennell who has never coached a woman's basketball game in his career. Pennell will also be the teams General Manager in his interim role as well.

This season the team has now dismissed their former first round pick in Samantha Prahalis after just one season and their long-term head coach while, again, dealing with a Mash Unit of injuries that have sidelined Taylor, Griner, and others for numerous games.

Will this change motivate the team for the remainder season? Only time will tell, but it was obvious that a change was needed for this team to have a chance to realize their potential...

*****************

As for Gaines role with the Suns that has yet to be determined. He was an assistant under interim head coach Lindsey Hunter for the final 41 games of the season after serving as a player development coach for the past few years.

He has a good relationship with the Suns players and primarily works with the younger players, more specifically the guards.

Over the past year he has been working to develop Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett as the teams primary back-up guards. With the staff seemingly full under head coach Jeff Hornacek as he hired Mark West, Jerry Sichting, Mike Longabardi, and Kenny Gattison this summer. Remaining on board as a member of player development is a decision that owner Robert Sarver will have to make and that Gaines will have to think about as well.

After being a head coach for six years and being an assistant in the NBA it is clear where Gaines wants his career to go. To an NBA bench. He will have opportunities to coach in the WNBA next season, but will he continue his trek into the NBA instead? Again, only time will tell...

When I was delegated the duty given the privilege of representing BSotS in this theme day I instantly ran with the idea of implementing sweeping changes.  Although David Stern has been such an endearing fellow over the course of his career and has carved himself a special niche in all of our hearts I believe there are still a couple things he might have missed. I know, I know... how could I say something that could be construed as even slightly critical of such a magnanimous and infallible leader.  After all, just think of all the blessings he has bestowed upon the Phoenix Suns.  Many of you probably view him as your favorite uncle, or possibly even as a father figure.  I know I'm firmly affixed in the latter category.

But...

I still feel that several issues in the NBA exist and the current landscape could use some tilling.  After all, we're all about creating fertile soil to cultivate things here on the Bright Side.

I could turn this into a tedious, protracted volume of the litany of issues that currently exist, but instead I've decided to confine it to the first three concepts I would introduce before breakfast.  Being the new commissioner I would expect steak, eggs, bacon, hash browns, a bagel with cream cheese, fresh fruit and hand squeezed orange juice (done by table side).  Consider these my morning cup of coffee issues.

What to fix:

1. Instant Replay

2. The Lottery

3. The All-Star Game

Instant Replay:

All out of bounds plays should be reviewable.  Lots of them are easy calls, but when they are questionable the league should feel compelled to try to get them right.  Lots of times the referees will have a discussion on the court anyway. The review probably wouldn't take any longer than that with today's technology.

Any play that results in a dead ball could be reviewed before the inbounds... as long as it doesn't disturb the pace of the game.

An additional "referee" should be watching from a remote location so he can focus solely on trying to get these calls right and relaying them down to the refs on the court.  Five seconds?  Clock it on the remote tv.  I'm sure more applications could be brainstormed as well.

In the NBA Finals the refs missed an out of bounds call with about 3:00 left in a close game because it wasn't within their window.  How is that not an important call to get right?  Let's get it right NBA.

The Lottery:

Out of 1000 combinations

1. 180

2. 160

3. 140

4. 120

5. 100

6. 80

7. 60

8. 40

9. 20

10. 20

11. 20

12. 20

13. 20

14. 20

The number one pick would be guaranteed a pick no lower than 5 going down the line (instead of being currently assured of going no lower than four).  Hopefully this would stymie the rampant tanking currently on display.

And... before that...

Out of 1000 combinations

11. 200

12. 200

13. 200

14. 200

#8 seed. 100

#8 seed. 100

I would actually set this up so that the #8 seed in both conferences have a 10% chance to draw into the lottery (and a 5% chance for the #1 pick after that). These would go in any order, i.e. 11 could drop to 16 and vice versa.  I think this would create more competition for the final playoff spots.

The All-Star Game:

Fans will vote for 10 players irrespective of conference and position.  The coach with the better team record will have the first pick as they go down the line and select these players.  The coach that picked second will then have the first pick when selecting the reserves (once again irrespective of conference and position).

This should give the fans what they want and the coaches the ability to make sure the most deserving players are included in the game.

After Breakfast:

Who knows?  What would you do?  Tell me where I am fatuous or downright insane.  Offer your own suggestions or modifications to my musings.

The commissioner has left the podium.

The first big splash of the Ryan McDonough era came when the Suns traded Jared Dudley for Eric Bledsoe. The cost of acquiring Bledsoe was taking veteran Caron Butler off the Clippers' books. Butler has had a terrific career, but with his high salary and age-induced decline, he was no longer making a positive impact for the Clippers. However, one team's trash is another team's treasure. Where Butler was simply getting in the way for the Clippers, he will be a valuable asset for the Suns, regardless of the way they choose to use him.

Trade Bait?

I've seen a lot of comments on this blog about getting Butler out of Phoenix as soon as possible. After all, he's a veteran on a rebuilding team and all he's going to do is provide a few extra wins. The Suns traded away Luis Scola following similar logic. Why shouldn't Butler be next?

Butler does have value as a trade asset. Expiring contracts are always attractive to teams needing financial relief, and Butler is a sizable one with $8 million being owed to him this year in the final year of his contract (which also makes him the highest-paid player on the Suns roster). With Goran Dragic/Eric Bledsoe, Mook Morris, P.J. Tucker, Shannon Brown, Gerald Green and Archie Goodwin, the Suns have more than enough depth on the wing to move Butler without having to worry about it leaving a hole in the roster.

Trading Butler is something GM Ryan McDonough should and probably already has considered. If the Suns can get another asset back for him, make the move. However, Butler has plenty of value if the Suns hold onto him, and that might be the more likely option.

... Or Sticking Around?

In every press release and press conference, Caron Butler has been mentioned as a big part of the team. Why would the Suns give him so much attention if the plan was simply to dump him as soon as possible? I haven't seen Malcolm Lee even mentioned by the Suns, and the latest acquisitions haven't received as much attention either.

Caron "Tough Juice" Butler has yet to step on the court in a Suns jersey, but even so he's already being looked at as a team leader. Butler has been around the league a long time. He's not afraid to be vocal. He was an All-Star in his day and as such might have more credibility with the young players than someone like P.J. Tucker. He's been there and done that in the NBA.

He also has a very obvious and important role on this team. For those faint of heart, you may not want to look to closely at the following table. For those with strong stomachs, take a look at the 3-point percentage column.

Rk Player Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% ? FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 Jared Dudley 27 79 50 27.5 4.0 8.5 .468 1.3 3.4 .391 1.6 2.1 .796 1.0 2.1 3.1 2.6 0.9 0.1 1.3 1.6 10.9
2 Sebastian Telfair 27 46 2 17.3 2.0 5.4 .381 0.9 2.5 .381 1.0 1.2 .772 0.3 1.2 1.5 2.5 0.6 0.2 1.2 1.8 6.0
3 Markieff Morris 23 82 32 22.4 3.2 8.0 .407 0.5 1.6 .336 1.1 1.5 .732 1.6 3.2 4.8 1.3 0.9 0.8 1.3 2.5 8.2
4 Wesley Johnson 25 50 21 19.1 3.2 7.9 .407 1.0 3.1 .323 0.5 0.7 .771 0.4 2.0 2.5 0.7 0.4 0.4 1.0 1.1 8.0
5 Goran Dragic 26 77 77 33.5 5.2 11.8 .443 1.1 3.6 .319 3.2 4.2 .748 0.8 2.3 3.1 7.4 1.6 0.3 2.8 2.8 14.7
6 Kendall Marshall 21 48 3 14.6 1.2 3.1 .371 0.5 1.5 .315 0.2 0.3 .571 0.1 0.8 0.9 3.0 0.5 0.1 1.2 1.0 3.0
7 P.J. Tucker 27 79 45 24.2 2.7 5.6 .473 0.3 0.9 .314 0.8 1.1 .744 1.7 2.8 4.4 1.4 0.8 0.2 0.8 1.8 6.4
8 Michael Beasley 24 75 20 20.7 4.1 10.2 .405 0.6 1.9 .313 1.3 1.7 .746 0.7 3.1 3.8 1.5 0.4 0.5 1.9 1.4 10.1
9 Marcus Morris 23 23 6 16.1 2.2 5.5 .405 0.5 1.7 .308 0.7 1.8 .405 0.7 1.8 2.5 0.7 0.8 0.2 1.0 1.7 5.7
10 Shannon Brown 27 59 22 23.8 4.1 9.7 .420 0.7 2.4 .277 1.7 2.1 .784 0.7 1.8 2.5 1.8 1.0 0.3 1.3 1.6 10.5
11 Diante Garrett 24 19 0 7.8 0.8 2.6 .327 0.2 0.8 .200 0.3 0.5 .500 0.3 0.5 0.8 1.6 0.5 0.0 0.8 0.3 2.1
12 Luke Zeller 25 16 0 3.6 0.6 1.6 .346 0.1 0.3 .200 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.2
13 Luis Scola 32 82 67 26.6 5.3 11.2 .472 0.0 0.2 .188 2.2 2.8 .787 1.9 4.7 6.6 2.2 0.8 0.4 1.5 3.1 12.8
14 Marcin Gortat 28 61 61 30.8 4.8 9.3 .521 0.0 0.0 .000 1.5 2.3 .652 2.1 6.4 8.5 1.2 0.7 1.6 1.6 2.1 11.1
15 Jermaine O'Neal 34 55 4 18.7 3.3 6.7 .482 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.1 .835 1.5 3.8 5.3 0.8 0.3 1.4 1.3 2.3 8.3
16 Hamed Haddadi 27 17 0 13.8 1.6 3.6 .459 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.5 .520 1.9 3.2 5.1 0.5 0.3 1.2 1.6 2.6 4.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

The Suns were 28th in the NBA in 3-point shooting, trailing only Orlando and Minnesota in their ineptness. As you can see, the Suns only had two players on the team that were above the league average from deep of 35.9 percent. Those two would be Jared Dudley and Sebastian Telfair. Those two will also be playing for other teams this year.

Let this sink in for a moment: Markieff Morris is the Suns' best returning 3-point shooter at 33.6 percent. Excuse me for a moment while I go cry in the corner.

Channing Frye will be back this season barring a setback with his heart, and will probably be the best shooter on the team by default. However, Frye shot a sub-par 34.6 percent in 2011-12 after taking it easy in the offseason while expecting the lock-out to drag on longer than it did. How will his shot fare after an entire year off the court?

Gerald Green is a career 35.1 percent 3-point shooter, but he only shot 31.4 percent last year and I don't even know if he's going to be in the rotation.

Expecting rookie Archie Goodwin to continue his hot shooting from Summer League all season long is just setting yourself up for disappointment, and while Eric Bledsoe shot a respectable 39.7 percent last year, it was on a limited number of attempts, most of which were of the wide open spot-up variety.

No, this is where the Suns need Caron Butler.

Throughout his career, Butler was more of a mid-range shooter and slasher. The 3-ball really wasn't a significant part of his game. However, that changed when he arrived in Los Angeles two years ago. With Blake Griffin in the paint, Chris Paul handling the ball and Butler getting up there in age, he completely re-designed his game and became a spot up shooter. He made 92 threes (26 more than his previous career high) at a 35.8 percent clip, and made 128 of them while shooting a very solid 38.8 percent last season.

The Suns are planning on rolling with a Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe backcourt. Both of those players are at their best when they are getting in the paint and causing havoc. To have the space to play their games, they are going to need shooters on the court with them, and outside of Frye Butler is the best shooter the Suns have on the roster at the moment.

Butler isn't going to have a huge impact on the Suns final record, but his presence may allow the Suns' young guards to grow and to play their games.

Finally, Butler is valuable to the Suns as an expiring contract as well. The Suns are right at the cap this season, and to have any chance at making big moves or signing free agents in the next two years, they'll need some cap space. If the Suns hold onto Butler all year long, that's $8 million that comes off the books in addition to the other expiring contracts.

I've made my case. What do you Bright Siders think the Suns should do with James Caron Butler this year? (Yes, Caron is actually his middle name according to Basketball-Reference)

Poll
What should the Sun do with Caron Butler?

  855 votes | Results

Apparently Beasley was arrested for possession, but after looking up the definition for possession I don't see what all the hullabaloo is about. After all, who is more of a paragon of control over oneself and one's mind than Beasley.

Also, goodbye Michael... and by goodbye I mean good riddance.

Here is the link: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 33

Do you prefer a longer or shorter run-time on these podcasts? Let us know in the comments so we can deliver what you, the fan, want to hear. Thanks as always for listening and supporting!

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