It is that time. It is time for the Top 5 in #SUNSRANK for the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns. This has been an emotional roller-coaster of a ride that led to the team saying good-bye to some friends.

With all the moves, changes, and new direction that the team is headed in they did one thing that is very similar to last summer. They brought in nine new players. The roster is at 14 total players after waiving James Nunnally with only four players that logged a minute for the Suns last season. For a second straight season this is a brand new, again, with a clear path.

Importance is not created equal and the top five players on this ranking there were three individuals that were a consensus top six. Not quiet a consensus top five, but close.

For the most part the staff was in agreement on who are the "who's who" of the 2013-2014 Suns.

There is no disagreement or alternate opinion. This is definitive. All pre-season rankings that are done with no proof, nothing tangible, and pure opinion are clearly the most relevant analysis of a team or player. This #SUNSRANK is another example of just that. Or just the opposite...

Here is the Top 5!


25-21 << 20-16 << 15-11 << 10-6 << 5-1


No. 5: Goran Dragic (6.6)

Profile: 6-3 190 lbs. Point Guard -- Sixth Year Slovenia

Stats: (Pre-Season) In 20.7 MPG 11.5 PPG 4.2 APG 0.67 SPG 58.3% FG

Interesting Fact: The Dragon is in a class with Reggie Miller (25 points) and Sleepy Floyd (29) in terms of fourth quarter scoring in the playoffs. His 23 against San Antonio in 2010 will never be forgotten.

Analysis: I actually had Gogi #17 on my list (#11 not including all the write-ins that Kris made me delete - he can be a cruel taskmaster). Call me a hater, but I just don't see the current players being that important in a season that mostly serves as a vessel to the 2014 lottery. Talent acquisition, player development and trying to squeeze a scintilla of excitement out of a lost season are more important to me than players who very likely have no role in the next competitive version of Suns basketball, which is very likely several seasons away. To me Dragic is more moveable asset than point guard of the future. This is the blown up version of the team. The players aren't supposed to be that important. - Jim Coughenour

Important Question: Will he defer to Bledsoe as the on court leader? Dragic has always struck me as more passive than assertive...

No. 4: Aaron Nelson (5.6)

Profile: Trainer -- 13th Year Iowa State

Stats: Helped keep Steve Nash healthy to a tune of playing 94.8% of regular season and playoff games combined. Nash played in 60.4% of his games with the Lakers last season...

Interesting Fact: Nelson is Head Coach Jeff Hornacek's brother-in-law

Analysis: I personally had Aaron Nelson No. 1 on my list. The Suns' head athletic trainer the only member of the Suns organization that can be called the best in the business with little to no argument otherwise. He's proven how good he and his staff are over the course of the last several years. He rejuvenated/improved the careers of Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal among others, and although the team doesn't have as many old guys as the last few years, that doesn't take away from how good Nelson is at his job. Therefore, on my mostly arbitrary rankings, he takes the top spot. - Jacob Padilla

Important Question: When will Nelson have Channing Frye and Alex Len on the court at the same time?

No. 3: Jeff Hornacek (4.4)

Profile: Head Coach -- Rookie Iowa State

Stats: (Pre-Season and Summer League) 11-3 record and a trip to the first ever Summer League Championship Game

Interesting Fact: The pick that was used to draft Hornacek was traded by the Lakers, Clippers, and Pistons before the Suns decided to keep it. Players involved? Byron Scott, Ricky Pierce and David Thirdkill.


Important Question: Can he reach the young players?

No. 2: Eric Bledsoe (4.2)

Profile: 6-1 195 lbs. Point Guard -- Fourth Year Kentucky

Stats: (Pre-Season) In 26.0 MPG 13.0 PPG 5.9 APG 2.71 SPG 45.8% FG

Interesting Fact: Bledsoe averaged as many blocks per 36 minutes as Markieff Morris last year. Markieff is nine inches taller and plays power forward.

Analysis: I ranked Bledsoe lowest on the SunsRANK simply because I listed McDonough, Aaron Nelson, the Gorilla, Al McCoy and Jeff Hornacek above him on the totem pole. This year is about building the next great Suns team, and that effort must include the Brand and Culture of the Suns even more than the current player roster. If everyone, including Bledsoe, is available in the right trade, then they can't be more important than the Suns brand. Bledsoe has the chance to be a great all-around player, but rarely does a PG excel in the NBA without the ability to score when he wants to score. For every Rajon Rondo there's a Tony Wroten. Bledsoe will be fun to watch, but very frustrating at times too. Dragic may be better right now, and Goodwin and Len might be better in the future, but Bledsoe has the greatest combination of potential and production right here and now, so he's the best Suns player/asset on the roster. However, the moment he starts making $12 million per year is likely the moment he's being overpaid. - Dave King

Important Question: Can Bledsoe hit a jumper with consistency?

No. 1: Ryan McDonough (1.2)

Profile: General Manager -- Rookie North Carolina

Summer Stats: Traded (7 players) Let Go (5 players) Acquired (9 new players), New Coaching Staff (4 new coaches), and a renewed sense of direction.

Interesting Fact:

Analysis: Since Nelson took No. 1, I only had McMiracle at No. 2. I am apparently alone in this opinion. I mean no disrespect as he has gotten off to a tremendous start as general manager in Phoenix (acquiring Bledsoe, getting rid of Beasley, trading Butler for cap flexibility getting a first round pick for Luis Scola, and so on), but I had to go with Nelson. Here's to McDonough taking that top spot on my list next year after drafting Andrew Wiggins and trading for Kevin Love. As for now, I have no problems with my fellow writers ranking him No. 1. - Jacob Padilla

Important Question: Does he have any more bullets to fire?

Tell us what you think about #SUNSRANK. What did we get right? Wrong? Who did we miss?


Write-In Ballot: Ping-Pong Balls (Jim)

Profile: White balls bouncing in a locked room with no surveillance that determine the future of 10-14 teams a year.

Stats: Worst team in the NBA winning the lottery, two times. Second worst, three times. Once before a team tied for the worst record won the lottery, so technically the worst or second worst.

Interesting Fact: Potential worst pick for the Suns if they finish with a bottom two record; the fifth overall pick.

Analysis: That's easy. It's the ping pong balls. More specifically that one magical ping pong ball that acts as a cantrip to the Suns drafting their next franchise player (sorry Alex). I know it's number combinations, but ping pong balls just sounds sexier. Maybe we can call the computer Ping Pong? You may argue that the lottery is not part of this year/season... allow me to retort. The lottery selection show actually takes place during the playoffs, plus... the end of the NBA year is prior to the free agent period - which means this is in fact part of the 2013-14 season. This is easily the most crucial part of the season. A #1 pick could be a franchise altering event considering this draft class, while another number four finish that culminates in another number five pick would likely feel a whole lot like kissing your sister. So maybe you're looking forward to a bunch of other factors being the highlights of the season, but those pale in comparison to what could be one of the most memorable events in franchise history - a #1 overall pick. While you're #ignitingthefuture I'll be #playingpingpong. BTW, I picked draft day #2... -- Jim Coughenour

Important Question: With David Stern out of the picture will the balls finally bounce our way?

What did you think about the 25 Most Important Members of the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns? Did we leave anyone out? Difference of opinion in the rankings? With that, #SUNSRANK is over...

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

It’s that time. The NBA season is upon us, and it’s already expected to be one of the most miserable but gripping in Phoenix Suns franchise history. Never before have so many NBA teams...

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A long series of articles aimed to prep readers for the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns

The off-season is borderline complete and angst that is August is upon basketball fans to where jersey unvailings and schedule releases are MAJOR NEWS. So instead falling in line with that we are looking at a topic that is relevant to a young team -- Breakout Star.

Who will break out? Who will won't? Pins. Needles. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN???

Eleventh Topic: Five Yearbook Category Awards!!!

Breaking the Ice: Who is your candidate for Breakout Player of the Year for the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns? Explain.

Jim Coughenour: Marcus Morris. I don't think many people expect much from him, but I expect him to separate himself from his brother this season. I think he can successfully play the role of a stretch four/wing depending on matchups. A role that Markieff seems to be smitten with, but has shown me no reason to believe he will ever be successful at. The difference? I think Marcus can be a 35%+ volume three point shooter.

Jacob Padilla: This roster is full of players the Suns would certainly like to see break out. Kendall Marshall, the Morri and even Michael Beasley could all bounce back from terrible season and become valuable rotation players moving forward. Perhaps Goran Dragic could even break out and take a step forward. But the most likely candidate is of course new Sun Eric Bledsoe. He's stepping out from Chris Paul's shadow and is ready to prove he's more than just a good back-up.

Dave King: The easy answer is Eric Bledsoe. Simply by getting the most minutes per game from an under-25 player since 2007 (anything over 24 minutes would do it), the Suns will finally be playing an on-the-rise star while they are still on-the-rise. Bledsoe has the talent to make him a Phoenix Sun in the world's minds, rather than Chris Paul's backup. His best future position might be microwave-off-the-bench, but in Phoenix with this team he'll be Mr. Everything.

Kris Habbas: Like all accolades and awards this is about opportunity. Which Suns player will get the opportunity to be a breakout player? I expect to see Marcus Morris take over the role Michael Beasley was supposed to have here as the tweener scorer off the bench. He is confident and willing to go get his anytime, which on a good team is not a positive skill, but here that is just a need with Beasley and Markieff being so passive...

Richard Parker: I have to go with the easy answer here: Eric Bledsoe. He'll finally be getting starting minutes, and on a team that wants to run, no less. I expect him to be a dynamic, yet erratic player for the team. If he doesn't agree to an extension before the start of the season, I absolutely expect him to come out and try to earn as much as he can this year.

Sean Sullivan: I'm going to go with Bledsoe. He'll finally have his chance to come back out from under CP3's shadow and prove what so many have projected him to be. I think playing along side Dragic will be a blessing for him, by allowing him to focus on scoring more than running an offense.

Secondary to that, who do you feel has to breakout this year for their career, the Suns season, and the overall future of the team? Explain.

JP: Well, each of the Morris twins and Marshall have to have break-out type years if they hope to have any place on the Suns' roster moving forward. They were drafted by the previous regime and now have to impress the new coaching staff and front office if they want to stick around. As far as the Suns and the team's future, Eric Bledsoe is again the obvious answer. He was McDonough's first big acquisition, and whether the Suns extend him early or not, a successful season for him is a great sign that the team really is on the right track.

DK: If you categorize this answer in terms of "for their career", then that applies to nearly every player on the roster. Frankly, if you fail to excel on a 20-win team your career is in trouble. If you fail for two straight years in that situation, your career is over. You may dot some depth charts for a few more years, but your career is done. And if every player that failed last year ends up failing again, the Suns future is dimmer than many hope. One or two of Morris, Morris, Marshall, Beasley and Plumlee needs to step into a true NBA rotation player role.

KH: Speaking of Markieff! He was the 13th overall pick in 2012 taken ahead of Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried that were viable options that year. He has to step up and prove he is more than just a guy that shoots jumpers (and only at 34.1% career) and can play inside. His development is most pivotal in my opinion.

RP: Eric Bledsoe again. The Suns are betting on a breakout season from Bledsoe and if he doesn't, the Dudley trade will have been for naught. The team needs a young player that they can hope can develop into a star and Bledsoe will need to show flashes of that this year. I'm not expecting too much from the rookies in their first years but I think Bledsoe's emergence this season will be an important factor for the Suns' future.

SS: While it would be easy to go with Marshall here, I think the real answer is Markieff. Remember, Markieff was drafted a year before Marshall, and while he has shown a little more than Kelndall thus far, I don't think he's where the team envisioned him to be after his fast start in his rookie season. This season will show whether or not the Suns can ever expect him to be more than a back up big.

JC: EB. He has the most upside of any player that's not a rookie. Risk/reward moves like this need to pay off to hasten a rebuild. Dudley wasn't a huge asset, but if Bledsoe flames out, or becomes a one year rental, it will have been a squandered resource.

On the other side of that who are you not as confident in seeing a spike in performance and play? Explain.

DK: I am fairly confident that four or five of Morris, Morris, Marshall, Beasley and Plumlee will fail to establish themselves as true NBA rotation players this season. They will get minutes, but like last year it will be obvious that they are only getting those minutes because the team is so bad. Why am I confident? Because I just watched them play 90 games that way (except Plumlee, of course).

KH: Based on the roster I can see Kendall Marshall taking a dramatic shift in minutes played this game if he struggles out of the gates. If that happens then he could be looking up at Dragic, Bledsoe, Brown, and Goodwin on the depth chart.

RP: Michael Beasley (easy answer once again). Although I have hope that any of the players can do better under a new coach and a new system, I'm apprehensive about Beasley. I think he will be on a short leash this season so if he doesn't come out motivated and with great effort (starting in training camp), I don't think he'll do very well. And I'm just not sure about the prospects of Michael Beasley playing with motivation and effort.

SS: I'll say Marshall here, because I don't know if he'll really be given the chance. I still think he can grow into an effective point guard in this league, but I'm not sure it will ever be with the Suns. I don't know if he fits with the identity that this team is trying to establish, and he may even be traded before the start of the season for all we know.

JC: The team as a whole. I won't pick on the Beaz anymore, even though he sucks (see what I did there hehehe), so I'll go with Markieff. Dude played like garbage last year. If they throw him out there to start it will be like tossing a carcass in a den of lions... and a carcass could have probably duplicated his performance last season. What's funny is that his one plus level skill, rebounding, hasn't translated to the NBA. Maybe because he thinks he's a three point shooter. Which is understandable since he has no post game. He's got a lot of work to do to even establish himself as a rotation player on a decent team.

JP: RIchard and I are again on the same page on this one. Michael Beasley had the worst season of his career last year, and I doubt he's going to be that bad. However, I think he is what he is at this point of his career and while I expect better performances, I don't expect the improvement to be enough to make him a worthwhile player.

The team is clearly lacking in leadership with the young roster and Ryan McDonough mentioned P.J. Tucker, Goran Dragic, and Caron Butler as leaders. Who would you like to see as the teams vocal and on the court leaders? Explain.

KH: To be honest, no. Other than Dragic and Tucker there are not really any players that have the cache to be a leader for this team; maybe Channing Frye. Those three need to control the locker room and set the tone. Always a fan of young players taking their lumps and earning their stripes. That could happen in season with this team.

RP: I definitely want to see Dragic, Butler and Bledsoe be very vocal on the court. As the lead playmakers, Dragic and Bledsoe will need to be floor leaders during games by communicating with their teammates. I'm also counting on Butler to be a great presence in the locker room and use his experience to have a calming effect on the young players during the rough patches that the team will go through in games and throughout the season.

SS: I'd like to see more leadership from Dragic, but I don't know if he'll ever be a true leader on the court. I think Butler could step into this role, but it's anyone's guess who will actually become that guy.

JC: Ideally this would be Dragic, since he might actually have a future with the team, but passivity is ingrained in his DNA - Dragic Not Assertive. This will probably be Frye if he's healthy. If not, maybe EB.

JP: I think Dragic and Bledsoe can be fiery, lead-by-example type of players this season. We've seen evidence of this from both of them. However, I don't think either one are overtly vocal and that's not likely to change. Caron Butler and Channing Frye (assuming a return to health) will have to be the vocal guys. We've also seen that P.J. Tucker is not afraid to pull younger players aside and explain things to them when the situation calls for such action.

DK: The Suns true vocal, on-the-court leader is not on the team yet, unless you count Jeff Hornacek. Secondary to Hornacek, the best leader for this young, ragtag team is having a known system to run. When in doubt, go with what you know. Last year's biggest refrain in the locker room was that the players were always running different plays (or different variations of the play) at the same time. If the coaching staff can get everyone on the same page with a fun, easy-to-remember system that makes them look good, it will be easy to get guys into the right positions.

Should the team delegate leaders, roles, and more for the team or should that come organically? Explain.

RP: To a certain extent, some delegation is necessary. Both of the captains from last year's team, Dudley and O'Neal, are no longer here. Therefore, the staff needs to appoint a captain that the entire team can respect. However, the actual leaders and on-court generals should be decided organically. Players will recognize and respect leadership when they see it being displayed, not when they're told to follow a team-appointed leader.

SS: No need to force things with a rebuilding team struggling to find their identity. Let it happen naturally and see who rises to the top as the next Nash, Hill, or Dudley.

JC: Roles need to be assigned, but contrived leadership rarely succeeds. Players will vote on team captains. Players who are venerable will be venerated. I think the team will still be rudderless this year, especially at the beginning, but maybe people will mature and step up as the season progresses. Or the fog of apathy could settle in again once the savage beatings ensue.

JP: I don't think delegation is the right word. It's more recognition of who those guys are on this roster. You can't make a player a leader just by telling him to be one. It's up to Jeff Hornacek to get a good enough feel for his roster and to identify who those guys are that he is going to be able to rely upon as the leaders of his team.

DK: Definitely, every player needs to know his role. Each person may have multiple roles depending on the lineup, but those roles must be clearly defined for each lineup variation. Last year, players did not know their roles and that led to discomfort and quick finger pointing once the going got tough. Leaders, on the other hand, can be developed organically.

KH: I am a fan of that happening organically despite last season the team taking 82 games to find one and to this day they are still looking. Goran Dragic the engine, but may not be comfortable as a leader and Eric Bledsoe is a ball of energy, but is he a leader? No Jared Dudley and the veterans are not going to be a part of the future... In this situation the team might benefit from developing select leaders unless one jumps out at/before Training Camp.

BONUS: Jim stated at the beginning of the season if you told him the season numbers on Michael Beasley and Markieff Morris that he could predict the wins for 2012-2013... Who are the Suns barometers this season?

SS: Dragic and Bledsoe. I think those are our best players at the moment so I think the Suns will go as they go. Plus, the rest of the roster is so unpredictable at the moment that it's anyone's guess who the other top players on the court will be for the Suns this season, or who else will even be on the roster for that matter.

JC: That turned out to be prophetic, because those two sucked out loud and so did the team. I will deviate slightly here since this team will be lucky to win 30 games. My harbingers of future success will be the health of Alex Len and the EB dynamic. Those will be the two players I will focus on this season.

JP: This is a tough one because I still have no idea what the depth chart will look like. We can't really count on the rookies. I don't even know which of of Beasley, Brown, Green and Mook will be in the rotation. If Frye is healthy, that lessens Keef's importance. I suppose Eric Bledsoe is the safest answer for this as well. If Bledsoe can be the guy we're hoping he is, not only does that give the Suns good production from the shooting guard/back-up point guard spot, but it should also only help take some pressure off Dragic and allow him to play even better. Marcin Gortat in a contract year could also be that guy for the Suns.

DK: Interesting question. Since the "goal" of many Suns fans is to finish the season with a very exciting and promising 25-57 record, then the true barometers of the Suns record will be Caron Butler and Marcin Gortat. If those guys are putting up 30 and 20 together in December, the Suns will likely be winning more games than they "should" and Hornacek will start playing to win rather than develop kids.

KH: I am going to go with how many games Marcin Gortat plays in a Suns uniform and the minutes per game for Archie Goodwin. If Gortat plays limited games (injury or trade) then the Suns are devoid or even inept in the paint. Then with Goodwin, if he is closer to 20-25 minutes per game that means the team if developing the younger players and trending towards being a bottom five team in the league.

RP: Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris. I've already talked about why the emergence of the former is important to this team's future, but the latter also needs to have the best season of his career this year in order to assert himself as part of the team's future. I'm not sure if he can or will, but Markieff will have the opportunity to play a big role and definitely needs to show some serious improvement on the court this year, especially with Luis Scola gone.

The Phoenix Suns have been very proud of their acquisition of Eric Bledsoe this summer, but if you read between the lines they have not openly committed to Bledsoe for the long term.

While the Lakers talk of extending their best player, Kobe Bryant, and the other teams are unafraid to say how they are going to "work it out" with their best player, the Phoenix Suns have been smartly silent on any discussion of long-term deals.

There are several obvious reasons for this.

No starting experience

Sterling tried to kill Bledsoe deal

The great summer of 2013 almost went down the tubes

Eric Bledsoe almost certainly wants to be paid like a starter if he's going to commit to playing in Phoenix for the next five seasons (this one, plus a 4-year contract). Last year, starting point guards entering their fourth season got deals starting in the $11 per year range to start (Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson).

Yet, he has not proven he can run a team or that he is best in a starting role in the NBA at all. It helps that his last two preseason games were all-around knockouts while the Suns won both games, including a 21/7/7/3 line in the finale. But he still can't shoot with any consistency, and there's a chance that defenses will solve that problem by leaving him open outside 15 feet while playing for the drive, effectively negating a lot of his half-court options.

Dragic's contract

Fellow combo guard Goran Dragic signed last year for just $7.5 million per year and figures to outscore and potentially out-assist Bledsoe this season despite sharing the ball. Dragic has also proven his value as a starter, putting up numbers last year only rivaled by a handful of NBA players: 14.7 points, 7.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

How can you pay Bledsoe 30-50% more money for potentially, probably lesser stats from a guy who plays the same position? How can you commit multi-year money to a combo of guards you don't even know can work well together?

No commitment

But the biggest problem of all, to me, is that Bledsoe doesn't seem to care what happens. He just wants to play this season, whatever the uniform.

Not once has Eric Bledsoe professed a desire to stay long-term in the Valley. Of course, why should he do that anyway? The Suns promise to be real bad and only hope to get real good in the near future. But if Bledsoe can parlay a big-minute season into a contract next summer with a contender or a team on a faster track to contention, why stay in the Valley?

Yet, Suns fans expect commitment from their stars. Those who never committed, never really stayed: Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd and Antonio McDyess are three stars who just didn't connect here and left or got shipped out pretty quickly.

Suns fans prefer guys like Jeff Hornacek, Charles Barkley, Tom Chambers, Mark West and the Van Arsdales who never even moved away from Phoenix. They love the guys who love the valley and the Suns.

Goran Dragic is much closer to this heritage, as was from day one when he talked of dreaming about being a Phoenix Sun before the draft. Even Archie Goodwin has already let it drop that he really wanted to come to the Suns.

And last year, when the Suns offered a big contract to Eric Gordon, what they got back from Gordon was a shower of love and affection and a true desire to stay long-term in the Valley.

Bledsoe? No such comments. Everything he says is here and now. This season. Let everything else be handled by the agent. To me, that smacks of "give me the max or give me summer of 2014".

There's no problem with this, from the Bledsoe perspective. None.

But is that a guy you commit big money to?

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Will the Suns sign Bledsoe long term before Thursday night?

  387 votes | Results

We here at Bright Side of the Sun have decided to step all the way into the 21st century and run a LIVE, interactive Google Hangout tonight for our Season Previewapalooza!

That's it. You read it right.

Season Previewapalooza!

Check back at 7:30 for the link to the live Hangout, where you'll get to put voice AND face to the writing you've devoured over the past few years on your favorite Suns blog. You'll no doubt be disappointed - kind of like pulling the curtain back on the ol' Wizard of Oz - but check in anyway.

Staff writers will get together and, after the inevitable technical glitches, will preview the upcoming season of what national writers think will be the worst season in the history of Suns basketball.

Rock on!

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