The Phoenix Suns entered the 2013 NBA draft armed with two first round picks: their own #5 overall pick and the #30 pick, obtained from the 2012 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. With their own pick, the Suns selected Alex Len out of Maryland. With the latter (which they used to trade up one spot to the #29 pick), the team drafted one of the youngest prospects in college basketball - Kentucky's Archie Goodwin.

The talented guard had a stellar Summer League, averaging 13.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game on 0.500 FG% and 0.571 3PT% while getting to the line nearly 7 times a game in just 24.6 minutes. As the youngest player in the 2013 NBA Summer League, Archie showed flashes of the tremendous skill that made him one of the nation's highest recruits in 2012, making several highlight plays along the way:

After drafting him in the first round, Suns GM Ryan McDonough and Coach Jeff Hornacek revealed their belief that Archie was severely undervalued coming into the draft. They were enamored not just with his raw talent and natural aggressiveness, but his hard-working nature, professionalism and maturity.

Recently, I was able to catch up with Archie Goodwin before he begins his first career NBA training camp next week and I too found myself impressed by his professionalism and the confidence he exudes. In Part 1 of this two-part feature, Archie goes over what he's been working on this summer and discusses his future goals in an exclusive Bright Side of the Sun interview:

Q: What have you been working on this summer?

A: I've been working on a variety of things. Just getting my body stronger and more flexible. I've been working a lot with our training staff on those types of things because those things have really helped me this far and they're helping me get more athletic and getting me faster and stronger. I'm definitely working with them every day and shooting and dribbling. Just getting my overall skillset better than it is because this is another level and I have to continue to get better. I'm just doing everything to try and hone my skills and just come in every day with the attitude of trying to be the best I can be.

Q: You've had a good bit of experience working out with Kendall Marshall this summer. What can you say about Kendall and his strengths as a player?

A: Now that he's had a year under his belt and he's been working extremely hard this offseason, I feel that he's gotten a lot better from last year. He's shooting the ball a lot better than he was. I can see his confidence from working out with him and playing pick-up, he's a lot more confident in his jump shot and he's been knocking it down. He works hard every day just like I do and he's in there (in the gym) twice a day just like I am so I tip my hat to him.

Q: Who else has been at the workouts recently? Have you guys been playing 5-on-5 pick-up games as a team?

A: Yeah, we've been playing pick-up games. The whole team is here now except for the overseas guys because they're in their Euro-thingy. Other than them, everybody else has been coming in every day.

Q: What surprised you most about any particular teammate?

A: I was definitely surprised by how fast and athletic Eric Bledsoe was. It's one thing to see it on TV but it's another thing to see it actually going on. I feel like he's going to have a really good year just because he's going to be able to play outside of a system where he wasn't able to be a starting point guard. Now that he has the option to be that, I think he's going to be really good.

Q: I'm glad you brought up Eric Bledsoe. A lot of fans are definitely looking forward to seeing the new-look back-court in action. With you, Goran and Eric, that's a lot of speed and firepower in the back-court, isn't it?

A: Yeah, it's going to be exciting - a lot of fast guys, athletic guys and young guys too.

Q: Speaking of youth, you're one of the youngest players in the entire NBA. Where do you think you're going to be in the league in 5 years when you're 24?

A: I feel like after 5 years, I'll be one of the best players in the league just because I'm coming in at such a young age and I'll be able to learn. Most guys come into the league in their 20s and they might be 25, 26, or 27, and I won't be as old as them. I'll be able to learn more at a young age.

Q: Have you gotten a chance to talk much with your fellow rookie Alex Len or to work out with him? What can you say about him?

A: I talked to him every day when we see each other at the gym. He's a really good guy. He's just 20 so he's young too and he's very good. We played against him last year at Kentucky and he had a really good game against us. He's really good and he has a lot of skills.

Q: Your Kentucky team had a tough year for a lot of different reasons and you in particular faced a lot of pressure because of those various factors. Can you talk about how you might have been overlooked in the NBA draft and how that motivates you now?

This is the city I wanted to come to...Those other teams, they have to deal with me now. I'm their problem, they're not my problem. -Archie Goodwin

A: I would just say that I wasn't really too concerned with what other teams were doing. I was just really hoping that I was going to be able to play here in Phoenix because this is the city that I wanted to come to. I felt that this would be a really good opportunity for me as opposed to any other team so when they picked me, I was really just relieved. Those other teams, they have to deal with me now. I'm their problem, they're not my problem.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Archie later this week, where you'll learn what his favorite movie is, who his favorite players growing up were (hint: Suns fans might not like this answer) and how he's so good at making Vine videos.

Well, now we know. Goran Dragic’s performance for the Slovenian national team at EuroBasket 2013 earned him All-Tournament honors, putting him into the same category as fellow participants Tony...

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Careless turnovers and bad habits have a way of resurfacing when they are buried, not resolved. Sweeping broken glass under a rug puts the shards out of sight and therefore out of mind. Then, over time, those same shards carve their way through the fabric and lacerate what was being protected in the first place.

The shards always poke through.

This season the Phoenix Mercury have made strides defensively and came together late to become a much better overall cohesive unit as the season progressed, but a broom just cannot do the job when a blow torch is needed. Interim head coach Russ Pennell was the torch bearer for all of the change and has done an admirable job with the way he held the team accountable on both ends of the floor, something that was not a part of the fabric of the team in years past, and made the team overall more well rounded. They were held accountable on both ends of the floor.

This Is Like A Heavy Weight Fight. - Carol Ross, LA Sparks Head Coach

Three ugly little truths about the Mercury resurfaced in Game Two against the Los Angeles Sparks that were under the carpet in Game One.

All season long "mental errors" or miscues that plagued the team from sloppy, careless passes between multiple defenders to just not being in the right spots on the floor at the right time. Most of the errors and turnovers were self inflicted wounds that could have been avoided.

"There were a couple of times we rebound the basketball and had people running off toward the other end and the ball went right behind them," stated Pennell about the turnovers. "We just didn't have a real awareness."

"We did some things that were not really characteristic I think of this team," Pennell continued. "I don't know if that's what you say trying to hard, you could say complacency, you could say tired. Those are all excuses. Bottom line is we just didn't get it done and we have to try to correct it before we play again."

Spotting a team double-digit turnovers every night and the fruits of those turnovers, points, are an easy way to create a hole that is tough to climb out of nightly.

With the ball sticking in one spot on most possessions the offense becomes more and more stagnant coupling with the turnovers can make any team, no matter how talented, vulnerable to lose on a nightly basis. That plays directly into the inconsistency of the Mercury all season playing great in stretches, but having the turnovers rear their ugly heads back into the picture to foil their bigger picture plans.

In the big picture the Mercury became a better team going forward because of the general care on the defensive end with the cast they have and the coaching on the staff they can be a great defensive team.

However, the porous rotations for stretches leaving shooters open and lanes agape for penetration came back into the picture again.

The weakside corner is consistently open as well as the middle of the floor with players like Brittney Griner setting up for a block and Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner struggling to stay in front of their man. Switching from zone-to-man and man-to-zone has helped quell the defensive inefficiencies, but they still revert back to the habits of old giving up easy baskets and putting more pressure on the offense.

This is the time of year where you either produce or you go home. -Russ Pennell, Mercury Head Coach

All of that contributes to the teams' lack of a killer instinct and being able to put teams away when they might be more talented, better, and have a lot more to play for.

Going forward game three becomes a game of inches, a game of mental toughness, and a pitting of two heavy-weight fighters having a rubber match to finally see who can make the adjustments, if there are any, to move forward to the Western Conference Finals. Both teams are desperate for a win and have everything to play for. There should be no complacency.

This series from the regular season to the playoffs has been about adjustments. No team has won two games in a row in the six total games played with each team winning three games and like a checker board, the Mercury are up next for a win as the series comes to a close. This has been a heavy-weight fight with the amount of sheer quality of talent, former lottery picks, and game changers.

In Game One the Mercury countered the hey-maker that closed out the season with a rope-a-dope win hanging in there to the end before closing out the Sparks. They were countered with a strong power game as the Sparks worked the body in Game Two for the win. Punch, counter punch. Punch, counter punch.

"I am a big believer that in the playoffs it is about getting your team in the right mental place," stated Sparks coach Carol Ross. "The right emotional place. We are not going to reinvent anything at this point."

Coach Pennell has his three key factors for winning games in field goal percentage, rebounding, and turnovers.

All three of those are important, but in relation to the Mercury this season defensive rotations, turnovers, and a lack of a killer instinct are the factors that have plagued the team this season. Sweeping them under the rug has worked in spots to the point where they are in a one game playoff for the right to head up to north to challenge the Minnesota Lynx again for a fourth trip in five years to the WCF.

In a vacuum this one game will define the Mercury this season and going forward with their relevance as a contender in the conference. Can they land the knockout blow?

Thanks to local Slovenian fans Pece and Jogi, Bright Side of the Sun had incredible first-hand coverage of Goran Dragic's dramatic run through Eurobasket 2013. Dragic's efforts were rewarded with Slovenia's second-best finish ever in the Euro tourney, a ticket to the World Cup in 2014 and an individual All-Tournament team award.


Dragic was voted as the one of the two best guards in the tournament, along with Tony Parker (whose Les Blues Bleus won the Final).

Dragic put up career highs in international tournament play with 15.8 points (4th overall) and 4.5 assists (3rd overall). he was also top-ten in field goals made and attempted, as well as free throws made and attempted. He was top-20 in 6 other categories as well. In short, Dragic had a stellar tournament, carrying an otherwise undertalented team to a 5th place finish.

Now Dragic returns to Phoenix in a matter of days, scheduled to arrive in the Valley 5 days before Training Camp starts on September 30. I can't wait to speak to him at Media Day next Monday.

Video of Slovene players and fans

All-Tournament announcements and highlights

Check out these wonderful recaps of the biggest Slovenian games here, from Pece and Jogi:

Also, check out other articles, including the previews and early game recaps on the STREAM at the top-right of this post.

Thanks again to all the Slovene and Euro fans on Bright Side for making this a truly interactive experience for us desert dwellers in Arizona!

This past NBA Draft was a doozy. Every player had at least one wart. None of them projected as multi-time All-Stars based on the skills they already showed in college. The final draft order shocked most of the scouting and fan communities despite consensus that the top five or six prospects were fairly interchangeable.

Of the top seven picks taken in the 2013 NBA Draft, only one was a lock for weeks (Otto Porter to Washington at #3). Two of the most heralded prospects dropped to 6th and 7th (Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore), while two late risers went top-4 (Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller). Muddying the waters was the number of top prospects rehabbing from surgery, unable to work out against their competition.

In the end, three of the top six picks were guys who hadn't picked up a basketball in months before being selected and weren't guaranteed to play by training camp. What got them picked was their combination of youth and potential.

All three rehabbing prospects are quite young. #1 overall pick PF/SF Anthony Bennett and #6 overall pick PF/C Nerlens Noel are still just 19 years old. Alex Len, picked fifth, just turned 20 over the summer.

Bennett's claim to the top spot was an offensive arsenal not displayed by any other front-court prospect. He can score inside and outside, like a new-day Grandmama. Cleveland, picking first, already had 2011 #1 overall pick Kyrie Irving and 2012 #4 overall pick Dion Waiters in their backcourt. They needed a frontcourt player, yet still had 2011 #4 overall pick Tristan Thompson at power forward. With a list narrowed to SF and C, the Cavs were rumored to be considering Alex Len and Otto Porter.

In the end, they decided Bennett's potential was the greatest and called his name. Bennett's problem is size (he's a tweener, much like Derrick Williams in Minnesota) with an allergy to defense. But he's young and talented, so there's that.

Charlotte, in need of big bodies who could score down low, passed on Alex Len to take Zeller. Zeller's game is that of an NBA center, but he's slightly undersized (6'10" in height and length) and the Bobcats somehow paid Al Jefferson $14 million to play center a month later. Zeller will have to make his NBA mark as a stretch-four, something he's never done before. Is he the next Channing Frye? To me, that's his best potential. Maybe a better version of Frye, but still Frye. Nothing wrong with that, but with the #4 overall pick that's a low ceiling (sorry Channing).

After Orlando (Victor Oladipo), Washington (Porter) and Charlotte (Cody Zeller) took healthy players, the Suns had their choice rehabbing Noel and rehabbing Len, or even sweet-shooting Ben McLemore.

Reportedly, the Suns ruled out McLemore after he showed up at a pre-draft workout. While Oladipo and other guards relished a chance to compete against each other, McLemore chose to work out alone and (again, reportedly) dogged it. Soon after McLemore's workout, I recall Hornacek saying that if a player can't get up the energy to go all out in a pre-draft workout he had a short career ahead of him. Not sure if that was about McLemore, but the Suns did pass on Ben a month later.

That left Noel and Len as the two best remaining prospects when the Suns picked at #5 overall. Neither had a perfect future laid out for him. Noel is a gifted defender, grabbing almost 10 rebounds and blocking four shots per game as an 18-year old freshman. But Noel had a gruesome knee injury at Kentucky that gave pause to every front office. Couple that with a non-existent offensive game, a rail-thin waist and legs so skinny you can see through them, and you've got yourself a big, huge question mark at the NBA level.

Finally, there was Alex Len. Len played much of his sophomore season on a stress fracture and showed little progress from his freshman year. Some scouts blame that on his teammates, while others just see a guy who won't dominate in the NBA. Yet he was picked by professional NBA draft scouts as a top prospect who could be taken as high as #1 overall thanks to his nimble feet, defensive ability and offensive touch.

5. Phoenix Suns: C Alex Len, Maryland

The Ukrainian big man has tremendous potential because of his great touch around the basket and his defensive awareness despite not playing basketball for very long. His upside hinges on that point, that as he learns the game he might become dominant. The Suns were able to take the best available player here, and they graded Len above Noel. McLemore's scoring ability could have been valuable, but the centers had too much potential. Did Phoenix take the wrong one? Grade: B-

None of Bennett, Len or Noel played in Summer League. All have basically dropped off the face of the earth. Golden children from the 2013 Draft are now the healthy ones - Oladipo, Zeller and later pick Kelly Olynyk.

Next Starts Now

Next week, training camps open for business. Of those three rehabbing picks, its looks as if Anthony Bennett and Alex Len are fully recovered from their injuries. Both have been cleared for contact, and will be ready (but possibly on a limited basis) to play in training camp.

Bennett was reportedly cleared for 5-on-5 play last week, while Alex Len was cleared to work out last month and recently cleared for contact work.

[Assistant coach Mark] West already has been working out players, like first-round pick Alex Len who resumed court activity last month after his second ankle surgery. Len was cleared for contact work with training camp starting in nine days. He has impressed coaches with his shooting touch, soft hook and eagerness to be taught.

Both players have an uphill battle for playing time. Anthony Bennett has to either smoothly transition to a new position - small forward - or fight for minutes behind Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao while Cleveland tries to win a lot of games and make the playoffs. My skepticism of Bennett's smooth transition of spot-up small forward comes from watching players like Michaei Beasley and Derrick Williams - to name a couple - have trouble with that same transition in prior years. Both were #2 overall picks who'd dominated in college at the 4 position but were too small to play the 4 full-time in the pros. It's possible that Bennett becomes the new Larry Johnson or Paul Millsap, but Tristan Thompson is in the way of that.

Alex Len's rehab has gone exactly as the Suns predicted. They predicted clearance for work outs in late August, and clearance for contact by training camp. It remains to be seen what Len's real status is (same for Bennett), but we'll know more by the time training camp is a few days underway.

On the other end, Nerlens Noel still has no timetable for return. The Suns staff took a hard look at Noel's medicals and came away with reservations. As did the other teams in the top 5 of the Draft. Noel was clearly the top talent, but five teams passed him up.

Philadelphia decided to roll the dice anyway. They gave up Jrue Holiday for Noel and a 2014 #1 as they rebuild from the bottom up. Noel is rehabbing like a demon, apparently, but the Sixers are no closer to having their top 2013 pick take the field. With an injury like Noel's, where his success is wholly dependent on his ability to move his feet, the effect on his game could be devastating. If Noel doesn't regain full mobility, what else can he fall back on? He's got no sand in the bucket, so he can't fight for position under the boards.

The Phoenix Suns pick of Alex Len will always be scrutinized by Suns fans and national media. His career will always be compared to Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and 55 other guys taken after him in the 2013 Draft.

But at least he's starting out on the right (and healthy) foot.

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