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With NBA free agency on its way, there has been plenty of news about player movement over the course of the last week (thank god the Dwightmare is finally over). Use this open thread to discuss any NBA free agency or trade news/rumors.

The NBA July moratorium officially ends this Wednesday, July 10th. At that point, we'll start to see a lot of these free agency deals that we've been hearing about officially go through. For Suns fans, this means that we'll likely see an official statment about Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler coming to town and Jared Dudley leaving. Expect to see a press conference at some point this week (or perhaps next week) to introduce the Suns' new acquisitions. I, for one, am very excited to see what McDonough and Hornacek have to say about how Bledsoe will be utilized on this Suns roster and look forward to hearing Bledsoe's thoughts as well.

Summer League play began today in Orlando and will continue for the next couple weeks. The Suns aren't playing in Orlando but they will debut in the Vegas Summer League on Saturday, 7/13. Summer League will not only give Suns fans a chance to watch some of the young players on the roster (including one of the youngest players in the league - Archie Goodwin) but it will also mark the debut of Jeff Hornacek's Suns coaching career.

Last week was an exciting one for NBA fans and although this one may not be quite as eventful, there are still plenty of free agents to be had. We also can't rule out the possibility of some trades - Suns fans found out all about that last week. There's currently news about the Cavs' interest in Andrew Bynum:

Team to watch in chase for Andrew Bynum: Cleveland. Hearing Cavs not only have legit interest but can also make lucrative one-year offer

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 8, 2013

I actually think Bynum on a one year deal is a great move for a team like the Cavs. They're trying to make the playoffs but they're a young team with several good pieces so they can afford to take a risk on Bynum for one year. What do you guys think?

There's also a rumor going around that the Lakers are interested in Chris Kaman:

Y! Sources: The Lakers and free agent center Chris Kaman have mutual interest. http://t.co/OOEEBf5un2

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 7, 2013

I think this would be a hilarious move for the Lakers so I really hope they sign him. I'm not sure how they can sign him though (unless he takes the vet minimum).

Post any rumors/news in the comments section and discuss all throughout the week!

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The scouts

Bright Side of the Sun is extremely fortunate to get input on this story from two long-term NBA scouts who really have been dialed into the NBA Draft for every year covered in this article.

Kris Habbas is the Managing Editor for nbadraftinsider.com. You all know Kris best as a contributing writer on BSotS and for SBNation NBA, but Kris' real full-time NBA-related job is scouting college basketball. Kris spends all year watching and interacting with players as well as their agents and NBA front office personnel.

Amin Elhassan is currently a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com, who's been working there for the past year, but previously worked several years in the Phoenix Suns front office as a video coordinator before working his way up to NBA scout and then Assistant Director of Basketball Operations.

The group

We looked at the top three drafted C or PF/C in each of the last four drafts including 2013, twelve players total. Only under consideration are those who will work most of their time in paint on each end of the court.

The first takeaway is that 7-foot pivot men with basketball skills are not that common. Eleven have been taken in the top ten since 2010 and only a handful later than that, despite the NBA's love of size and length.

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Many of these players can play the PF position but can also play C in the NBA much like Amare Stoudemire did for the Phoenix Suns and Tim Duncan has done for the San Antonio Spurs. In this group, only Meyers Leonard, Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo are pure centers due primarily to a lack of a reliable jumper and/or mobility to defend the other team's PF.

Of course, there were a lot more pivot men taken in these four drafts, and a few of them are better than those listed above. But the chances of a full-time starter at C taken after the 10th pick is pretty slim. I count two since 2010: Larry Sanders and Nikola Vucevic.

So evaluating the top ten is a good, simple place to start. More than half of the 7-footers taken in the Top-10 since 2010 are already starters or should become one on opening night this year.

The Best

Trying to ignore hindsight where possible, Kris and Amin separated the cream from the crop in terms of NBA upside at the time of the Draft.

**The players within each tier are listed alphabetically. They don't necessarily think Davis is better than Drummond, for example.

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Kris Habbas commentary: "Basing this solely on potential; Anthony Davis (2012) and Andre Drummond (2012) are the top two centers selected in the last four drafts. They each have unique skill-sets that will allow them to dominate the game."

Amin added DeMarcus Cousins (2010) to this top tier based solely on skillset and potential. Cousins dropped in his draft due to maturity concerns, which have since played out in the NBA just as feared.

Each of these bigs mentioned will be under perennial consideration for All-Star nods, and have separated themselves from the rest of the pack of big men drafted in the last four years.

The Second Tier

**The players within each tier are listed alphabetically. They don't necessarily think Monroe is the lesser of the two.

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Kris Habbas: "The next tier consists of Monroe and Cousins. Neither are great athletes, but on the offensive they have the potential to impact the game and dominate the competition. Monroe is more versatile as a passer and face-up play-maker while Cousins can score over the shoulder and is physically imposing inside."

Amin already had Cousins in his first tier, and now adds Derrick Favors to the second tier with Monroe. This ranking is based solely on potential (as requested for this article), as Favors has not forced himself into the starting lineup for the Jazz while they kept playing veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to fight for the 8th seed in the conference.

All the Rest

Here is where the evaluations start to really differ.

While everyone else drafted top ten of the last four drafts are clearly behind the four horsemen - Davis, Drummond, Monroe and Cousins - their ranking based on "NBA potential" is partially in the eye of the beholder.

None have the ceiling of those top four, though admittedly Greg Monroe's ranking up there is based partially on his excellent NBA play since being drafted in 2010. Otherwise, his potential would arguably not have separated him from the group.

**The players within each tier are listed alphabetically. Amin doesn't necessarily think Len is better than Kanter, for example.

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Kris identifies Derrick Favors, Nerlens Noel and Jonas Valanciunas as having the highest upside of the remaining big men by placing them in his third tier.

The Favors pick coincides with Amin's take, making a consensus Top 5 (Davis-Drummond-Cousins-Favors-Monroe).

Amin drops Nerlens Noel all the way to his bottom group due to lack of offensive repertoire and partially on his injury and the pre-draft maturity issues that scared off some teams.

He instead puts the Suns' Alex Len in his third tier along with Kanter and Cody Zeller to go with Jonas Valanciunas, while Kris rates those three lower than Noel.

Kris Habbas on the third tier: "Favors and Noel are both very limited prospects offensively, but have tremendous athletic potential and defensive impact. Their athleticism and ability to make an impact on the defensive end separates them from other one dimensional players that can either shoot, score, pass, or just block shots as singular talents. Both of their flaws on offense are evident, but over time can be developed into strengths."

Habbas on the fourth tier: "Len, Leonard, and Kanter all have upside as two way players, but it has not been shown consistently. All three have requisite skills on both sides of the ball as defenders and offensive players, but whether it be strength, conditioning, injuries, or all three have held them back to this point. At any point in their careers they can leapfrog the one dimensional athletes ahead of them.

On Len: "There is no question on the upside of Len as a prospect with his 7-1 frame, mobility, and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, but the same can be said for Valanciunas and Leonard. These three are the safer prospects to develop because they have a high basement.

On Cody Zeller: "Cody can score out inside and out to 15ft which is a skill his brothers do not have. If he maxes out his offensive potential Cody can be a solid 18pt 7reb a game center, but he falls short in length and on the defensive end. In a good system that can be masked to allow Cody to be a solid offensive weapon at the NBA level."

Summary

As you can see, there are not a lot of 7+ footers with big skills coming into the NBA anymore. Probably, this has to do with the fact that there aren't many basketball-skilled 7+ footers in the entire world, but I'm just spit-balling here.

And once those talented 7-footers hit the NBA, they don't always dominate the game. It takes a big man a while to get into the rhythm and catch up to the speed of the NBA.

But opportunity is still a huge separating factor on performance. Only three of the twelve top-ten picks reviewed here were regular NBA starters since their rookie year (Monroe, Cousins, Davis). Each team created the room at their position to take all the minutes they could handle.

Kanter and Favors, both with Utah, did not get that luxury. They were not able to outplay the veterans in front of them (Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) while the Jazz fought for playoff contention the last two seasons. Even now, with both veterans gone, it appears that Kanter and Favors have the opportunity going forward but may still be best suited playing the same position due to their lack of offensive skills.

Valanciunas stayed in Europe for another year and just barely got his feet wet as a 2012-13 rookie. Look for him to become a regular starter for Toronto going forward.

Drummond got better and better as his rookie season progressed, and now projects to be a long-term starter next to Greg Monroe in Detroit.

Meyers Leonard and Bismack Biyombo, both ranked in the bottom tier by our NBA scouts, have a lot more growing to do if they want to become NBA starters. Yet they have the talent to have 10-15 year NBA careers.

What does that mean for the 2013 NBA Draft class of big men?

As expected, the big men in the 2013 Draft do not have the potential of the top tier of big men in the 2010 and 2012 Drafts.

But they do compare favorably with anyone else taken in those years. Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller may not make any All-Star games, but they should be quality big men and long-term starters in the NBA once they mature and get their opportunity.

For one thing, none of them will be expected to start at center on opening night.

Nerlens Noel will likely miss most of the season with his knee issue. He was traded on draft night for an All-Star (Jrue Holiday) and now plays for a team already hitting the reset button. By the time he sees the court, it might be Summer League 2014 right next to the Sixers' pair of 2014 high draft picks (theirs and New Orleans').

The Bobcats just signed Al Jefferson and still have Bismack Biyombo at center, so Cody Zeller will have to transition immediately to the power forward position to get big minutes. Zeller never played forward in college and almost never took a shot outside ten feet from the basket. Yet, Al Jefferson now owns the offensive paint for the Bobcats, so Zeller will have to completely change his game to succeed in the NBA.

The Phoenix Suns have incumbent starting center Marcin Gortat on hand, allowing Alex Len to slowly adjust to the rigors of the NBA himself. He should be the first center off the bench and could even play next to Gortat in some lineups because he can shoot a jumper. Gortat himself picked Len in a mock draft, projecting him as a PF in a twin tower lineup. The Suns have no incumbents other than Gortat who will take minutes from Len if he appears ready to play.

Kris Habbas parting thoughts on Alex Len:

"Len has the potential to be every bit as good or better than every true center that has been drafted in the past three years. He has the size, can develop the strength, and has flashed the ability to score at and defend the rim. Doing that with consistency at the NBA Level is a different story and will be a challenge for him as it has been for most of his peers. Len does not have the upside of Davis, Drummond, or Cousins, but he has a much higher basement despite his foot injury."

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On July 2nd, news leaked out that the Phoenix Suns had agreed to trade Jared Dudley and a 2014 second round pick to Los Angeles for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. Although the trade won't be official until the moratorium ends on July 10th, Dudley is effectively no longer a Phoenix Sun. While it's easy to get lost in the excitement and frenzy surrounding the team's acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, it is important to recognize the memorable career Dudley had in Phoenix.

The Arrival of Jared the "Junkyard Dog"

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Jared Dudley became a Phoenix Sun on December 18, 2008 when he and Jason Richardson were traded from the Charlotte Bobcats for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary. If a Suns fan said that day that Jared would become an integral player in the Suns' future, most would have scoffed at such a notion. Considered by many to be a "throw-in" in a deal for Richardson, Dudley would use the next few years to cement his spot on the Suns team and his reputation as a lovable fan favorite.

Dudley's Suns career began under the tutelage of Coach Terry Porter, who left Dudley on the end of bench. It wasn't until Porter was replaced by Alvin Gentry that Dudley's role began to increase. Jared started to show the grit and hustle that would become a staple of his game and began to endear himself to fans. Although he only averaged 5.5 points, 3 rebs, and 0.8 asts per game during the 2008-09 season, Dudley showed improvement throughout the season and was about to become a pivotal role player for the Suns going forward.

Losing the Cornrows, Winning over the Fans

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The Suns' 2009-10 campaign saw the emergence of Jared Dudley as an integral part of the Suns' rotation. He became a significant factor in the success of the team's "bench mob" and his drive and hustle next to the likes of Dragic, Barbosa, Frye, and Amundson proved to be very effective. Moreover, Dudley came into the season with a much-improved three-point shot and became one of the best shooters on a team that was historically efficient from the three point line.

Let's also not forget the brilliance of Jared's amazingly athletic hands:



The Dedication

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Jared Dudley is very dedicated NBA athlete - dedicated not just to his team's success and the role he plays in it, but also to improving as a player and perfecting his craft. His drive and determination was seen when he worked all through the 2010 offseason to not only lose weight and become quicker and more agile, but to also expand his offensive arsenal. He worked on his ball-handling and pull-up jumper to the extent that he is now a capable dribbler and a versatile offensive player.

Jared's dedication is also seen in his loyalty to the Suns. Even during losing seasons, Dudley had maintained that he enjoyed his role and preferred to remain in Phoenix as the team works its way back towards relevancy. He never complained about his role, even when he was demoted back to the bench in the last season, and maintained a positive attitude throughout his entire Suns career. Regardless of the team's success or failure, his character shined through time and time again.

The Personality

One of Jared's traits that most endears him to fans is his likable personality. He is eloquent, upbeat, humble (often joking about his relative lack of athleticism), and never turns down an opportunity to reach out to fans. Not only is he one of the most active NBA players on Twitter, but fans love his "JMZ" videos that provide a glimpse inside the Suns' locker room.

Jared's JMZ video after a win against the Rockets early in the 2009-10 season:


Jared's JMZ video after Amare's dunk on Tolliver:


Jared's Journey

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With his departure, another integral part of the yesteryear Suns (read: the 2009-10 WCF team) has left the franchise. Jared was never a prolific scorer, nor was he a high-flying athlete. In fact, almost no part of his game is flashy or highlight-worthy. However, he is a very intelligent team player that does the little things every successful team needs. He is the epitome of a "glue guy" and is a phenomenal presence in the locker room. His teammates love playing with him and his fans adore his smart play and endearing personality. The Clippers are fortunate to get such a great character and teammate and will no doubt enjoy what he brings to them on and off the court.

Although he entered the league as a Bobcat and will now be a Clipper, Jared Dudley became the player he is today as a Phoenix Sun. His transformation from a pudgy tweener forward to a smart, efficient, and passionate swingman has been very remarkable. A perennial fan favorite, Jared will be remembered for doing things that don't often appear on the stats sheet.

The trade that sends him to LA is one that benefits all parties involved. While the Suns get a coveted young piece to continue their rebuilding efforts with, Jared goes to a squad where he not only has the opportunity to compete for a starting spot on a legitimate contender, but one that allows him to be near his hometown of San Diego. Though I am sad to see Jared leave, I wish nothing but the absolute best for his career as a Clipper and hope that one day, he will be able to return to Phoenix when we are once again competing for a title.

So goodbye and good luck, Jared! You personify the strong standards and values the Suns stand for and it's been an absolute pleasure to watch you grow as a player and become who you are today. Thank you for your five great years as Phoenix Sun. Make sure you throw down some of your signature monster dunks in lob city!

Oh, and I think we all know the first thing Jared is going to say when he sees Blake Griffin: "WHAT'S UP?!"

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Bonus: Jared's Career-High Game


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Without having a single player on the active roster who can be counted on to make a high volume of three-pointers, the Phoenix Suns would be smart to kick the tires on Anthony Morrow.

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Not sure what the market price would be on Morrow, but he seems to fit right into the Suns' "room" exception of $2.5 million per year.

Snippet from ESPN preview last year:

+ Amazing shooter. Money off the catch. Can play over top of smaller guards.
+ Subpar defensive player. Limited laterally and athletically. Low energy level.
+ Decent rebounder for size. Not a creator, but has good feel offensively.

Morrow is a professional shooter who really lost his way after leaving some really bad Golden State teams. After making 46% of his 3s in his first two seasons and 42% for the nets in his third, Morrow made only 37% the last two years for three teams.

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Still, at his worst, he would be the best three-point shooter on the team. And, he's refreshingly bad at most everything else so he wouldn't add too many unwanted wins to the Suns win total (for those not wanting to improve the team too much).

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When evaluating a new player for your organization, it's always good to hear what the fans thought of the player. Suns fans entered the 2012-13 season with eyes wide open after hearing what Wolves fans thought of Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson.

Now let's hear what ClipsNation.com bloggers thought of Eric Bledsoe.

First, the basics many of you already know:

Pros

  • Extremely strong/athletic (more than any other point guard except maybe Westbrook)
  • Extremely fast (again, more than anyone except maybe Collison)
  • Incredible shot blocker
  • Fantastic rebounder for a guard
  • Great finisher through contact (mini LeBron)
  • Career high 3p% around 40%
  • Good at moving his feet on defense
  • Great at getting steals in the lane with his long arms
  • At times appears unstoppable multiple plays in a row, showing off acrobatic finishes, long and mid range jumpers, floaters, and great decision making
  • Hugely improved from the line
  • Most chiseled arms this side of Corey Maggette

Cons

  • Sometimes out of control (more than sometimes, certain days)
  • Gambles on defense
  • Sometimes ball-watches on D
  • Though he shoots a high percentage, he rarely takes 3s. Sometimes felt like his percentage leap was misleading.
  • Kind of streaky, in terms of point-guard-decision-making
  • Spells his name wrong

Now the editorial input

On his low free throw rate: "Partly, he doesn't attack the rim all that often, but partly he also protects the ball well (sometimes too well getting offensive fouls called)."

On his overall contribution: "Basically aside from scoring, Bledsoe fills up the stat sheet."

On his 3-point shot: "The statistics lie, Bledsoe's not a good three point shooter. He has an awkward but somewhat effective long range shot (more of a set shot), it's okay if he's wide, wide open."

On his change-of-pace: "Bledsoe played backup point guard for the Clips and came in as a high energy fifteen-minute player who was a complete counterpoint to the slow, steady, heady style of Chris Paul. It was like a reliever coming in with a 100 mile an hour fastball after a starter that had lulled them to sleep with junk. He was often unstoppable.

"When it worked (the first half of last season, the 2012 playoffs against the Grizzlies) it was amazing. But when Paul was injured and Bledsoe played 6 or ten games as the starter everything changed. Perhaps we're spoiled (already) but Bledsoe isn't a game-controlling think-it-through point guard. He didn't seem to quite have a grip on what was required of him with the starters. Stuff like initiating the pick-and-roll or making simple entry passes to Blake Griffin just weren't there.

"That said, despite the presence of Robert Pack, Chauncey Billups, and Paul on the bench I don't think Bledsoe's been particularly well-coached. Blame it on Vinny Del Negro. Everything that went wrong is Vinny's fault."

On Bledsoe's NBA comp, and starting in the NBA: "I personally think he's going to be very Lawson like, but with a potentially higher ceiling thanks to his defensive impact, assuming his offense gets more consistent."

Another blogger, on Bledsoe starting with the Suns: "I'm not sure if Bledsoe will ever be a great starting point guard in the NBA but I like the idea of him starting next to Goran Dragic. Their skills might make a good fit. But, I think Bledsoe's best role might be as a sixth man. He might well have a career very similar to the Clippers own Jamal Crawford, who struggled for years as a starter, sometimes at the point, then found his true calling as liquid fire off the bench."

Wrap-up

Well, the commentary sure reminds me of Goran Dragic's role backing up Steve Nash. Lots of people, myself included, weren't sure that Dragic could ever be a full-time NBA starter. Folks in Denver weren't sure Ty Lawson could either. But both proved to be effective lead guards for their teams.

It still remains to be seen what Bledsoe can do. Let's hope the Suns make the right decision on an extension for Bledsoe before he even suits up for the Suns. If he becomes a quality starter, then he will get $10+ per year. But if he's a backup type, then $6-8 million is better.

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