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My takeaways from the third round series:

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San Antonio beats Memphis 4-0

Doesn't this series feel like it concluded a long time ago? That's because it did. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 24.5 points and 9.5 assists per game in the series, including 37 points in the series clinching game. Tim Duncan, the ageless wonder, helped neutralize the Memphis bigs (which had appeared to be an advantage for the Grizzlies going into the series) and San Antonio was able to rise to the occasion with games on the line. The Spurs beat Memphis twice in overtime on their way to wielding the broom.

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Miami beats Indiana 4-3

The Heat were able to overcome the Pacers in a competitive and wildly entertaining series despite Dwyane Wade struggling due to a failing body injuries and Chris Bosh playing like an absolute scrub. Having the best player on the planet helps. Bosh was exposed by Indiana's bigs (and his overall lack of talent), going a combined 8-34 from the field in the final four games while pouring down 7 (yes, 7) points per game. LeBron was LeBron. The Pacers dominated the painted area with Roy Hibbert playing like the best center in basketball (which makes his lack of regular season production discomfiting). Paul George further cemented himself as a true gamechanger in the league.

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My Finals Pick:

San Antonio over Miami 4-2

I didn't think Miami was nearly as dominant going into this year's playoffs as most. Early discussion from people who think they know basketball national pundits portrayed the Heat as not only a juggernaut that wouldn't be tested, but also a team that may not lose a game while skipping along to their second consecutive title. After last round's vanishing act left LeBron as the "big one" I don't think people are overestimating the Heat anymore. The Spurs main strengths at the point (Parker) and in the middle (Duncan) are the Heat's main weaknesses. San Antonio's role players are also better across the board. Still, the Cleveland Cavaliers Miami Heat have James, which is absolutely huge.

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And the third round standings...

Third_round_medium

It's a two man race now, folks. Since both contestants at the top of the heap have the same winner and number of games... the contest will be decided by a gladiator style battle to the death. Or a tiebreaker where Eric and Mike will give a new Finals prediction consisting of the winner, number of games and total points in the decisive contest.

Everyone else feel free to give your revised Finals predictions as well, since damn near all of us had OKC in this matchup.

Thanks to everyone for participating! I hope you all had fun handing my ass to me.

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This workout was originally billed as a mass group workout, but evolved into an individual workout for Ben McLemore (Big Board Ranking No. 2) and the other six involved in the group. McLemore is only doing individual workouts starting here with the Phoenix Suns and up next he heads to the Orlando Magic.

McLemore, the former Kansas Jayhawks star, is projected to go in the Top 5 and is the consensus No. 2 overall prospect looking at ESPN, Draft Express, and NBA Draft Insider.

The rest of the group included Victor Oladipo (8), Shabazz Muhammad (12), E.J. Singler (NA), Cody Zeller (10), Rudy Gobert (5), Alex Len (4), and Jared Berggren (NA).

Of that group only Singler and Berggren stand out as those may not belong as fringe second round prospects, but both give unique match-ups for the top tier prospects. Singler played his ball in the PAC12 for Oregon and Berggren with Wisconsin in the Big Ten.

Overall this group allowed new General Manager Ryan McDonough and new head coach Jeff Hornacek the opportunity to meet the players and get to know them on a deeper level. All the top prospects have either gone out to dinner or lunch with the team including McLemore last night. All of the top prospects are options for the team with their No. 5 overall pick.

After the workout McDonough commented on the workout and his comments indicate that McLemore and Oladipo are about neck-and-neck on his rankings. He did not delve into detail, but his comments on the two seem to be that he is very high on both and does not favor one over the other.

Here is a scouting take on the group:

  • Ben McLemore -- Kansas -- Freshman shooting Guard: Full Scouting Report
  • Alex Len -- Maryland -- Sophomore center: Full Scouting Report
  • Rudy Gobert -- France -- 1992 center: Full Scouting Report
  • Victor Oladipo -- Indiana -- Junior shooting guard: Full Scouting Report
  • Cody Zeller -- Indiana -- Sophomore center: Full Scouting Report
  • Shabazz Muhammad -- UCLA -- Freshman wing: Full Scouting Report
  • E.J. Singler -- Oregon -- Senior wing: Through four years with the Ducks he proved to be a very smart, team oriented player that could really shoot the ball. He lacks NBA level strength and athleticism, but makes up for that with a strong basketball IQ.
  • Jared Berggren -- Wisconsin -- Senior forward/center: He is a classic big man that plays hard, strong, and rebounds the ball. In college he knew his role and played it, but has the potential to score more on offense and has never played in a true up-tempo style like the NBA predominately is.
Strengths Like current Suns center Marcin Gortat, Len is a European-born big man. Another similarity between the two? They’re the tougher versions of Euro big men that NBA franchises have fallen in...

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Az_quarter

25 podcasts. 25 cents. A penny for my thoughts 25 times. A great deal at even twice the price (since we're dealing with fictional pennies).

To touch on all things quarter, I reminisce on a story I was told as a young lad about the United State's first president... and it's somewhat parallel to the present day Suns. A story about a cherry tree and a hatchet.

*Quotes taken from article by Mary Trotter Kion @ Suite 101

The (very probably fabricated) tale delineates how young George chops down his father's cherry tree and, when confronted, tells the truth about his role in the destruction. His father forgives him for the mistake, even though the tree is a lost cause.

...explaining that by George being honest about the situation he has well paid his father for the ruined tree.

In case I'm being too ambiguous, the cherry tree is the Phoenix Suns and the recent mismanagement is the hatchet.

Between spin like "a more talented team", "not taking the path of trying to make the playoffs for financial reasons", "here's what a basketball genius (Blanks) looks like", ad infinitum... I wonder what good old George would have thought about the Suns recent methods of being honest with their fanbase?

George was forgiven by his father because he told the truth. I have a hard time forgiving the powers that be within the Suns' organization because I still feel they're being unnecessarily evasive.

I understand that a team can't be fully transparent with its fanbase all the time. A team slogan like "How long until the 2014 lottery?" may be more apropos than "Next starts now", but doesn't make for a very effective advertising campaign. Although the ambiguity of the word "next" can still distort the phrase to mean next = sucking.

I also understand that when speaking publicly, as opposed to reading a prepared statement, things don't always come out the way you mean them to are or misinterpreted. Maybe this was the case with Sarver's recent commentsabout "rebuilding the right way."

I was hopeful that recent hirings infused a new sense of candidness into the organization, and was hopeful that a page had been turned, but those rebuilding remarks reminded me of the status quo....

Since we're already on the topic of honesty, it turns out that George's cherry tree episode was most likely completely concocted. Making up a story about honesty... who would do such a thing? The most likely reason for the lie, money. The author is described here as...

...a shrewd businessman who possessed and uncanny sense of what the public wanted whether they knew it or not.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions there...

I (firmly believe that) I will love the Suns (George) the rest of my life, but it's pretty hard for me to move past recent transgressions (hatchet job) when I still feel I'm being duped. Hopefully the tergiversation, dissimulation and disingenuousness (my spin) I've perceived (feel free to have your own opinion) in recent years will wane. In the interim, the Suns need to put down the hatchet.

25.

Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 25

And here is the list Kris alluded to in the podcast:

_5_medium

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There is always the argument every year for teams to draft the best available player (BPA) or take the best player at a position of need. Most lottery teams have needs across the board leading to the concept of BPA and then other teams, playoff teams, are privy to drafting a need to continue along their current success.

The Phoenix Suns are in the position of the former.

Last season the Suns were not a particularly talented bunch which is what led to the second worst season in the franchises history. The group was falsely labeled as a playoff threat with the additions of Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, and Michael Beasley. Those three were supposed to replace the production lost leading the team back to contention. Instead they faltered at nearly every position.

According to data collected via 82games.com the Suns were not particularity strong at any position last year.

The net production for point guard (-2.6) was good for 26th best in the NBA with Dragic leading the way and Sebastian Telfair, Kendall Marshall, and Diante Garrett shouldering the load. With Dragic and Marshall both young and before their prime that is a position with potential to grow in house.

At the shooting guard position (-3.3) was the worst position on the team led by Shannon Brown, Wesley Johnson, and others filling in the position that was good for 28th in the league. Only three teams had worse overall units at the two.

Adding help in the backcourt is a major need and an option in this years draft class with Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, C.J. McCollum, and others showing strong promise as prospects. All are options at No. 5 for the Suns if they go with the concept of BPA this year. That is a clear and popular option among experts as well as the fans.

The front-court was a strong point for the team last season from the small forward, power forward, and center positions.

Jared Dudley, P.J. Tucker, and Beasley were the primary threes last year year (+0.3) good for 12th in the league. At power forward Scola, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris were capable (-1.2), combining to be the 19th best unit in the league.

Looking at prospects such as Otto Porter Jr, Anthony Bennett, and even Cody Zeller would provide an upgrade at the forward positions.

Odds are that the consensus Top Four players to NBA teams will be gone before the Suns are on the clock. If Nerlens Noel, McLemore, Porter Jr, and Oladipo are all gone, which direction does the team go?

Center becomes the most intruiging position for the Suns as they were about average (+0.3) good for 13th in the league. Marcin Gortat, Jermaine O'Neal, and Hamed Haddadi were a good unit defensively, but to be frank, there is not much potential for that group to grow as a whole. O'Neal is on his last legs while Haddadi is very limited as a player.

Here is the theory. Gortat is a very good center, but the odds of him remaining a member of the Suns long-term at the age of 29 is far-fetched.

Gortat is a part of the present, but not likely the future of the organization so bringing in a suitable "replacement" for the team going forward has to be an attractive option with the talent in this years draft. The NBA Draft is about projecting the team two to three years out and how the pieces would fit in contending in conference and for a championship. This years crop of centers all have potential to be build with.

Whether it be a potential all-around talent like Alex Len of Maryland or a raw defensive talent like Rudy Gobert of France the centers are as good this year as any other year.

With the potential of the 2014 NBA Draft in the distance adding a center now (next years class is average so far) to learn the ropes from Gortat for a year while building the proper strength for the paint at the next level is ideal. Both Len and Gobert are projects and will require patience as they get stronger and learn the NBA game, but each have the potential to be game changers in this league.

As we saw this year the league still has room for the throw-back centers that over the years had become a "dying breed." Three of the final four teams in this years playoffs all have a center that dictates the pace of the game in the paint. Can Len or Gobert become as effective as Roy Hibbert, Tiago Splitter, or Marc Gasol? Time will tell, but the potential is there.

With the lure of the 2014 NBA Draft in the air and potential superstars on the horizon adding a piece like Len or Gobert allows the team to continue the slow, methodical rebuild towards contention.

Winning a lottery is a crap shoot as the team with the best odds also has a 75% chance of losing as well. Banking on the lottery to get Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker is the logic of a video game general manager.

Banking on the logic of being a bottom five team again next season however is not. Building piece-by-piece with a center now and a great wing next year is a route to consider. Is this the avenue the team will take, potentially, but regardless it is a viable Plan B if all four of the top prospects are gone. Does the team go BPA or add a position of need that may at the end of the day be the best building block for the future?

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