Eric Bledsoe is a Phoenix Sun. If I had said this just a couple weeks ago, people would have called me crazy. And they would have been correct, considering that Bledsoe was a Clipper back then. However, as of today, Eric Bledsoe is officially a member of the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns introduced the two newest additions to the team in a press conference this afternoon. We were able to hear from Lon Babby, President of Basketball Operations, Ryan McDonough, General Manager, and Jeff Hornacek, Head Coach, just how they plan to utilize their newest toys. The players themselves also shared their thoughts on being in Phoenix and how they plan to fit into the team's roster.

Eric Bledsoe's Basketball Position

The shinier of the two new toys is undoubtedly Eric Bledsoe, a dynamic 23 year-old basketball player ready to embrace the opportunity Phoenix will give him. Notice how I called him a "basketball player" instead of a "point guard" or "shooting guard" - that is exactly how Eric referred to himself when our very own Dave King asked him which of the two backcourt positions he is the best fit with:

"I'm a basketball player. You put me at the 5, I'm going to try to play the position the best way I can. So whatever position Coach Hornacek decides to put me in, I'm going to play it the best way I can."

I'm a basketball player. You put me at the 5, I'm going to try to play the position the best way I can. -Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe just wants to play basketball. That's great news for Suns fans. To Marcin Gortat and Alex Len - look out, you may have some competition for minutes.

Opportunity in Phoenix

On his feelings about landing in Phoenix, Bledsoe shared, "I was excited. First of all, I honestly didn't know where I might end up. I thought I was kind of going to Orlando but this opportunity came and I'm excited to get this thing started. I'm just ready to get started." Bledsoe also noted that he is excited about the opportunity he will have to showcase his skills on a broader palette than he had in Los Angeles:

"It's definitely a plus for me. Unfortunately, I couldn't play as much as I wanted because I was playing with an All-Star. Now, Ryan has confidence in me and I have full confidence in myself. We're going to make some big things happen here so it's a blessing."

Playing with Goran Dragic

Bledsoe enters a Suns team that already has an established point guard in Goran Dragic. However, he is excited to be a part of new Head Coach Jeff Hornacek's plans to implement a fast-paced offensive system that emphasizes transition scoring, noting that he and Dragic could be a formidable duo. Asked about his fit with such an offensive system, Bledsoe had this to say:

"It fits in great, especially with me. I'm a transition type of guy and it'll make it a lot easier having Dragic, who can also control the game. Like I said, I'm just ready to get started."

Jeff Hornacek echoed those thoughts by describing his plans for a backcourt of Dragic and Bledsoe:

"As a coach, I'm just envisioning Eric and Goran pushing the ball up the court, creating those 4 on 3, 3 on 2 opportunities, Caron's knocking down threes and jumpshots, our bigs rolling to the basket, I think it's a great addition to these two guys."

Offseason Work Ethic

Much like the way he identified himself as "a basketball player," Eric Bledsoe revealed that he is focusing on improving all aspects of his game during this offseason, stating that he is working on "everything." Suns fans will be pleased to know that Caron Butler also shared that Bledsoe was in the gym within hours of arriving in Phoenix yesterday. Butler had VERY high praise for his counterpart:

"He (Eric) is an explosive, dynamic guard who has "superstar" written all over him. I think he's just going to come here and put everyone on notice. I think he's going to put the sports world on notice. He's a relentless worker. The second he arrived yesterday, he was in the gym. That's the attitude and approach he's had all offseason and I think he's going to be great this year and years to come."

Eric is an explosive, dynamic guard who has "superstar" written all over him. I think he's going to put the sports world on notice.-Caron Butler

Caron Butler's compliments of Bledsoe, along with the praise Babby, McDonough, and Hornacek all showered on him, is exciting news for Suns fans. Regardless of whether or not he truly could become a "superstar," it's nonetheless exciting to have a young, high-demand commodity that holds great promise.

Only time will tell what's in store for Eric Bledsoe, but he is ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges he faces in Phoenix and has already hit the ground running. I, for one, am tremendously excited to see the Suns' new two-headed offensive machine led by "basketball players" Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Phoenix Suns' introductory press conference of Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. Bright Side of the Sun will continue to produce plenty of content and news with the speed of the Suns' new starting backcourt!

PHOENIX — “I’m in!!!” After reading the two-word tweet from fellow teammate and six-time All-Star Chris Paul on July 1, Eric Bledsoe knew what that meant for his basketball...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

The Familiar Faces

Diante Garrett

Diante Garrett was on this team a year ago and used that opportunity to earn a contract with the Suns. He managed to keep his roster spot all season and is back again to convince the Suns to guarantee his salary for another year.

Garrett is a 6-foot-5 do-it-all style point guard. He has good size and court vision, can get in the lane on offense and rebound the ball, has potential defensively but still needs to work on his jump shot.

Although Garrett was on the roster last year, he was stuck behind a bunch of other point guards and never really got the chance to play or prove himself. Unfortunately, that will likely be the case again this season and I'd be surprised if the Suns didn't cut him before the season starts.

Archie Goodwin

The 29th overall pick in this year's draft is probably the main attraction on this year's team for most Suns fans with Alex Len still recovering from ankle surgery. This will be the first time Goodwin steps on the court in a Suns jersey and the first time for him to show Planet Orange what he can do.

Goodwin is an athletic 6-foot-5 guard who's game is all about getting to the rim. His jumper needs a lot of work but his ability to blow by defenders and play tough defense on the other end still allows him to be effective.

Kendall Marshal

Kendall Marshall missed the first couple of Summer League games last season as a rookie and struggled once he did get on the court. However, Marshall did finish strong with a double-double in his final game. I wrote during the Summer League last year that Marshall had a long way to go, and that proved to be true as he struggled throughout his rookie season. Vegas will give us, and Hornacek, an opportunity to see how much Marshall has improved from a year ago.

The thing to keep your eye out for with Marshall is his aggressiveness and comfort level when attacking off the dribble. In order to be an effective distributor, Marshall has to be a threat to get in the lane and score. This is a big summer for Kendall.

Marcus Morris

This will be Mook's first Summer League with the Suns after arriving via a midseason trade last season. Marcus was mostly a 3-point shooter for Houston and had a solid stretch once he arrived in Phoenix before getting benched by Lindsey Hunter.

Morris needs to show that reliable 3-point stroke, an ability to defend on the perimeter and improved finishing as a slasher. He'll probably play mostly on the wing, although we might see him at the four as well.

Markieff Morris

Keef was a force in Vegas last year, ending up as one of the top scorers and rebounders in the entire event. However, even as he was dominating games he struggled to finish plays and hit shots. Offensively, Markieff needs to show one thing this summer: efficiency.

Alex Oriakhi

  • Rookie PF/C out of Missouri/UCONN
  • 6-foot-9.5, 258 pounds, 7-foot-3.75 wingspan, 9-foot standing reach
  • 11.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 63.9 field goal percentage, 25.8 minutes per game as a senior

Oriakhi is the third of the Suns three rookies and was taken with the 57th overall pick. He's a big body whose interior defense and rebounding helped lead the UCONN Huskies to a national championship in 2011. Oriakhi is a decent athlete with good mobility and strength who can hold his own defensively and on the glass and can finish around the rim.

As a second round pick, Oriakhi has to earn a contract. To make the team, he'll need to show a lot of the same qualities P.J. Tucker did last year. And speaking of Tucker...

P.J. Tucker

P.J. Tucker is the biggest success story from last year's Summer League team (and that includes lottery picks Morris and Marshall). His hustle and defense caught the eye of the coaching staff and earned him a contract, and now he's heading into the second year of that contract. Tucker may not play a ton as he doesn't have a whole lot to prove, but he has agreed to participate.

The NBA Hopefuls

Thomas Abercrombie

  • 26-year-old wing from New Zealand
  • 6-foot-6, 210 pounds

I don't really know anything at all about Abercrombie. He's a scoring wing who has played in the Australian NBL and has represented New Zealand in international competition. He's apparently a pretty good shooter.

Chris Babb

  • Rookie guard out of Iowa State

  • 6-foot-5, 225 pounds
  • 9.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 38.2 3-point field goal percentage as a senior

Babb is a 3-and-D type player. He's a respectable 3-point shooter that took five threes per game as a senior (the Cyclones led the NCAA in 3-pointers if I'm not mistaken) at a 38 percent clip. However, Babb's real value is as a lock-down perimeter defender.

Dionte Christmas

  • 5th year guard out of Temple
  • 6-foot-5.5, 211 pounds, 6-foot-9 wingspan
  • 9.3 PPG, 42.9 FG%, 40 3FG%, 100 FT%, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.7 TPG, 1 SPG, +11 in his first three games with the Utah Jazz in the Orlando Summer League

Chrsitmas is a Summer League veteran. This will be his third year competing in the NBA Summer League, and the Suns will be the fifth team he suits up for between the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues since going undrafted in 2009. Last season he played for the Boston Celtics in Orlando and Las Vegas, and he made the Celtics training camp roster before being one of the team's final cuts before the season started. He also made a couple other NBA rosters but has yet to play in an NBA game.

Christmas is a scoring guard with a strong body and plenty of confidence, and it seems like GM Ryan McDonough likes the guy (based on the Boston connection).

Jake Cohen

  • Rookie power forward out of Davidson
  • 6-foot-10, 235 pounds
  • 14.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 49.7 field goal percentage, 38.8 3-point field goal percentage, 25.6 minutes per game as a senior

Cohen is a decorated player from Davidson having been named Southern Conference Player of the Year the last two years and Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in his first season. He's a big guy who can knock down a jump shot and has range out to the 3-point line.

Arinze Onuaku

  • 4th year big man out of Syracuse
  • 6-foot-9, 275 pounds
  • 12.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 56.4 field goal percentage in 23.7 minutes per game with the Canton Charge of the NBA D-League last season

Onuaku is a big body and a rebounding specialist. He inhales rebounds on both ends of the court. He has a wide body, is very strong and just has a nose for the ball. However, he doesn't bring much more than that.

Final Tally

This year's roster has two point guards (Marshall, Garrett), three shooting guards (Goodwin, Christmas, Babb), three small forwards (Mook, Tucker, Abercrombie) and four big men (Keef, Oriakhi, Onuaku, Cohen). Overall, its much better than last year's roster with a ton of point guards and forwards. With the talent and veteran experience on the Summer Suns roster, Phoenix has an excellent chance to win the inaugural Ls Vegas Summer League Championship.

The Schedule

Pool Play

Game 1: Saturday, July 13 at 5:30 p.m. PST vs. Portland (Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Thomas Robinson, Will Barton, C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe)

Game 2:Monday, July 15 at 3:30 p.m. PST vs. Minnesota (Shabazz Muhammed, Gorgui Dieng, Lorenzo Brown)

Game 3: Tuesday, July 16 at 5:30 p.m. PST vs. Memphis (Tony Wroten, Jamaal Franklin, Jannis Timma, Donte Green, Vander Blue)

Bracket play begins on Wednesday, July 17.

The NBA Skills Market model is an analysis of the current market value of specific skills, abilities, and achievements for NBA players. For the second year in a row, I’ve built this model and...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

A lot of time has passed since the Phoenix Suns last won a playoff game, and not one player remains on the active roster that has endured each of the last three years in the Suns lineup.

Goran Dragic was a Sun in 2010, but he took a detour to Houston where he developed into a full-fledged starter and returned last summer with a big contract in hand. Channing Frye was a Sun in 2010 and signed a contract to remain in Phoenix, but he missed all last season with a heart ailment that may or may not heal in time to continue his NBA career. No one else from that 2010 team remains a Phoenix Sun.

While both are likely to help the Suns rise from the ashes beginning next season, neither is guaranteed or even very likely to wear the home uniform when the Suns host another playoff game.

As the crickets chirp in the desert during this free agent period, the Phoenix Suns appear to have fully embraced the rebuilding effort.

Rebuilding efforts have some basic tenets to follow.

Don't spend stupid money

It's tough to sit on the sidelines while money is flying left and right, but a smart team invests cap space in acquiring young talent with upside rather than spending it on a free agent. Rarely does an NBA free agent fit the profile of "young, with major upside".

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) allows teams to keep full control of players on cheap contracts for up to 4 years, which usually puts them at 24-26 years old by the time they can field offers from rivals. At that age, if a player is really good then they get a new contract worth a lot more than they've ever made before, sometimes putting them into the overpaid category with the stroke of a pen.

The ones available on the cheap are those that disappointed their original team on some level, or they would have been signed to a large extension before ever hitting the market.

Good examples of the need to refrain from spending stupid money: Michael Beasley. Tyrus Thomas. Al Jefferson. O.J. Mayo. Just about any 5-year mid-level deal.

"Rebuilding" and "long-term contracts for 25ish year old players" do not go hand in hand.

Use cap space on short-term rentals, ideally to get a young asset

A perfect example of this is the Eric Bledsoe/Caron Butler acquisition, set to be introduced at a presser later today. The Suns used some of their $10 million in cap space to absorb a large one-year contract (Butler) in order to get a young player who might just outplay any contract the Suns give him (Bledsoe).

They used another 884K of that space to absorb Malcolm Lee's final guaranteed year for the right to move up a spot in the Draft and take Archie Goodwin before some other team did.

They used the rest of the $10 million available to guarantee the final year of Tucker and Brown's contracts.

Altogether, the Suns used the $10 million on expiring contracts. This accomplished two primary goals:

  1. $19 million in expiring contracts, including Gortat, to use as trade assets during the season when a team needs to clear it's 2014 books and will give up a young asset to get that and
  2. $19 million in cap space next summer if not used in trades beforehand

Wait for the trade market, after all the spending dies down

The Suns are in the trade market. Since the end of the season, the Suns have added six players (Len, Goodwin, Lee, Oriakhi, Bledsoe, Butler) while only subtracting two (Hamed Haddadi, Jared Dudley). They need to pare down the roster by training camp.

To this point, teams would rather just sign players on the open market than give up assets in trade. The only trades that have gone down so far are those involving sign-and-trades, where at least one team has cap space to absorb money.

Within a few days, all teams will be roughly capped out. At that point, the real trade market will open wider.

Who knows what the Suns will do, but it appears that dollar-for-dollar trades are up next on the agenda.

A rebuilding team does not need disgruntled veterans. While Goran Dragic is still young enough to ride out the rebuild, the same cannot be said of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola. The Suns may hold onto them for while, but I doubt they keep these players around for an entire season.

Stay tuned.

Page 1087 of 2117


Web Links

Sponsored Ads