This is the first of a two-part series that will run over the next couple of days, in which each player on the Phoenix Suns’ active roster will be assigned a grade for his respective performance...

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Watch Phoenix Suns Goran Dragic represent the West with teammate

They have changed many of the formats tonight, but the idea is still the same: showing off some of the best NBA talent in areas they excel.

For the Suns Goran Dragic, that's the overall skills competition. Dragic is one of eight players invited to participate in a skills contest that rewards speed.

Dragic will be paired with OKC second year player Reggie Jackson, who has used Russell Westbrook's injury as a catapult to show his skills to the world. The two will use a relay format to outpace their competition:

  • Team 1: Trey Burke, Utah Damian Lillard, Portland
  • Team 2: Goran Dragic, Phoenix; Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City

Only Dragic and DeRozan are participants with more than a couple years of NBA experience. Gone are the days when players like Steve Nash would dominate this competition amongst other NBA All-Stars.

2014 Taco Bell Skills Challenge

TWO TEAMS PER CONFERENCE -- Two teams of two players for each conference will compete in a timed obstacle course relay competition consisting of dribbling, passing, & shooting.


> Each conference will field two teams consisting of two players. Each team of two players will run the course, competing in a relay format for a single overall time.

> OPENING LAYUP/DUNK AND FINAL SHOT CHALLENGES - For the opening layup/dunk and the final shot, the player must rebound his own ball until the basket is made*.

> PASSING/SHOOTING CHALLENGES - The passing and the top of the key shooting challenges are considered completed (player can move on) when he either (1) successfully hits the target/makes the shot OR (2) exhausts the corresponding rack of balls while attempting to make the target/basket*.

> BALL HANDLING - Players must observe basic NBA ball-handling rules while completing the course.

> DISQUALIFICATION - Players are subject to disqualification for failure to complete all of the challenges as they are designed and intended to be run through (at the final discretion/judgment of the referee).

> There are no time penalty assessments on the course.

> INSTANT REPLAY -- At the discretion of the referee, television instant replay may be consulted for clarification of rules compliance.

*See Skills Challenge "Flow of Play" document for more information.


> Teams will be timed on a clock starting at 00:00.0 and counting up. The clock will be stopped when the final shot is made by the second player on the team. (Start and Stop is on referee's whistle)


> The two Eastern Conference teams will compete first, followed by the two West teams.

> The East team with the fastest time advances to the Championship Round.

> The West team with the fastest time advances to the Championship Round.


> The fastest East team and fastest West team from the First Round will compete to determine the competition champion.

> The team with the slower First Round time will go first for the Championship Round.

> The team with the fastest Championship Round time will be crowned the Skills Challenge Champions.


> To Advance from First Round - In the event of a tie amongst conference teams to determine the Championship Round participant, the tied teams will repeat the course.

> To Determine Champion - In the case of a tie between the two teams in the Championship Round, the tied teams will repeat the course.

Miles Plumlee received little opportunity in the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge, but in the Friday All-Star event, he did produce an impressive block on the block-meister himself, Anthony Davis. Plumlee...

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The NBA continues to disrespect the Phoenix Suns. Miles Plumlee played just 15:22 in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge of NBA All-Star Weekend, the fewest of any player in the game. #FreeMiles

Yet even with limited minutes by Plumlee, Team Hill still managed to pull out the win 142-136. Andre Drummond came out fired up right away and took home MVP honors for trying harder than everyone else. He finished with 30 points and a Rising Stars Challenge record 25 rebounds. The second half devolved into a one-on-one contest between Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway Jr. with both guys chucking up increasingly deeper 3-pointers. Waiters finished with 31 points and seven assists and hit four of his six 3-point attempts. Hardaway jacked up 16 triples, hitting seven and finishing with a game-high 36 points.

But enough about the rest of the guys. They don't matter. Let's break down Miles' performance.

The final stat line: 4 points, 2-2 shooting, 3 rebounds (one offensive), 1 block, 1 foul, 3 turnovers


Plumlee converted both of his field goal attempts, the first of which came on his first possession as he cut down the lane for a two-handed crush, eliciting comments about the Plumlees' athleticism from the broadcast crew of Matt Winer, Chris Webber and Grant Hill. The second was a contested layup on a nice drive to the basket.

Two attempts was the fewest number of shots of anyone in the game. In what I can only assume was an anti-Phoenix, anti-Miles conspiracy, his teammates rarely looked to him while guys like Terrence Jones benefited from lobs to the rim an dump-off passes all game long. Horrible job by the coach not putting Plumlee in position to succeed. #FreeMiles


It wasn't a great rebounding game by Miles, as he struggled at times to grab the ball and lost at least two rebounds out of bounds off his own hands. However, he did pull down three of them and kept a few others alive by getting a hand on them and tipping them up.

Also, shocking news I know but Plumlee DID NOT in fact learn that boxing out is an important part of basketball during his one Rising Stars practice.


Plumlee didn't exactly give his best effort on this end, but compared to the rest of the guys on the court he looked incredible. Early on he got called for a bogus foul in which he had position and jumped straight up in the air with his arms above his head, yet the ref called it anyway. Boo to you, sir. Look up the rule of verticality. Still, good to see no layups defense from the Plum.

Also, he had one of the highlights of the evening as Anthony Davis dove to the basket for a dunk. Most players would simply step to the side in this situation. After all, it IS an exhibition and it WAS Anthony Davis with his Go Go Gadget arms; any normal player would avoid the potential for posterization. Not Miles, however. No siree. Instead of stepping away, he stood his ground, met Davis at the peak of his jump and dropped the hammer, swatting the ball right put of Davis' hand (unfortunately the ball bounced right to Davis' teammate for an easy two points. Still, it was one of the best plays of the night.

Point Plumlee?

It seems like every time you get a big man in an All-Star game he always wants to show off his handles, and we saw a bit of that tonight from Miles. On the bright side, Plumlee did snag an offensive rebound at one point and showed off a couple of nifty behind-the-back dribbles. However, he also tried to take the ball the length of the court after securing a defensive rebound and had his pocket picked by trey Burke.

All in all, Point Plumee is not something I want to see come back from New Orleans.

Plumlee vs. Plumlee

For much of Miles' time on the court, he was matched up with his brother, Nets rookie Mason Plumlee. Unfortunately, little brother took this battle. Mason finished with 20 points and seven rebounds in over 18 minutes of play. Mason's big game wasn't necessarily Miles' fault, as a lot of those points came in transition and on garbage plays (like Miles' block on Davis; it was Mason who scored on that play). Mason's teammates actually looked to get him the ball, unlike his older brother.


In summary, Miles did some good things and some bad things, the NBA still hates the Suns and #FreeMiles.

Suns center Miles Plumlee will be the first to represent the Phoenix Suns in the All-Star Weekend, as a participant of the Rising Stars Challenge tonight on TNT.

A few months ago, it appeared the Phoenix Suns had failed at this thing called the 2012 NBA Draft.

Lottery pick PG Kendall Marshall had a rough rookie season in which he didn't inspire the confidence of either head coach, Alvin Gentry or Lindsey Hunter. Hunter gave Marshall playing time in the spring, but with Goran Dragic playing so well as the starter we didn't see Marshall in his full form.

But the bigger problem was that the 21-year old Marshall didn't inspire the long-term confidence of the new front office either. You would think that a 21 year old point guard would be considered one of the cornerstones of a rebuilding project for a 25-57 team set to draft a new lotto pick every year to join him.

Instead Marshall was shopped in the offseason to every NBA team, and no one wanted him. He was finally traded as a throw-in to Washington, who immediately waived him, after getting beaten out for the third-PG spot by Ish Smith.

It just wasn't Marshall's best summer.

The Suns tried not to make the 2012 Draft a total waste though. Last summer, new GM Ryan McDonough picked up the #26 pick from that draft, C Miles Plumlee. Plumlee, though, had shown little promise in 2012-13 by playing only 55 minutes for the whole season.

Yet, the past few months have changed both players' fortunes.

Miles Plumlee has started every Suns game this season at the center position, posting a respectable 9.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 minutes a night. During the Suns' 10-3 December, Plumlee posted a near double-double.

As a reward, Plumlee was picked as one of 10 players to represent the 2012 NBA Draft (not bad for the 26th pick) in the Rising Stars Challenge tonight.

Marshall, on the other hand, spent two months out of basketball but became a Lakers reclamation project in early January and has posted nearly a double-double of his own (10.3 points, 9.5 assists) as a starter for the Lakers while Steve Nash was injured. The Lakers haven't won many games with Marshall - 3-13 in his 16 starts - and his defense is still suspect, but he's making a lot of shots and great passes.

Marshall came on too late to make the Rising Stars Challenge but he's proven to be a solid NBA player.

Watch Miles Plumlee in the Rising Stars Challenge tonight on TNT!

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