Here's a look at the Suns' power forward position this season, and what you can expect these players to bring to the team.

It's no surprise that the Phoenix Suns embrace their identity of being an undersized, fast-paced team, who are primarily driven by the play of their guards.

It's also no surprise that the Suns are banking their success this season on what they have purposely created to be the deepest back court in the NBA.

The back court trio, and 1-2-3-4 punch of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green may very well comprise not only the deepest, but also the fastest, most aggressive, and highest scoring back-court in the league when it's all said and done this season...time will tell.

However, one position does not a team make.

This season, the Suns will be depending on their big men to provide the defense and rebounding in the paint on defense, and also to help spread the floor on offense to make their system work.

Here's a look at who the Suns will be using at the power forward position this season, and how they will be depended upon.

Markieff Morris, 6'10" 245 lbs, PF/C

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  26.6 min, 13.8 pts, 6.1 rbs, 1.8 ast, 48.6 FG%, 31.5 3FG%

Markieff Morris was one of the most pleasant surprises for the Suns last season.  After a somewhat disappointing start overall to his NBA career in Phoenix, after being drafted with the 13th pick in 2011, Markieff finally became the player the Suns had always envisioned.

Phoenix made a trade with the Houston Rockets before the trade deadline in the 2012-13 season, in order to bring Keef's twin Marcus to the Suns.  This was a low-risk gamble (a 2nd round draft pick) that the Suns were hoping would pay off by increasing the productivity of both players.  It did.

Markieff emerged as a completely different player last season, stringing together consecutive games with efficient play on both ends of the court.  Keef transformed his game from the ineffective stretch four he had become, to a highly-skilled power forward who could bang inside, and score at a very efficient rate from mid-range.  Not only that, his defense improved, as did his rebounding.  He suddenly became a complete player that the Suns could depend on, and played almost as many minutes off the bench as Channing Frye did as the starter.

This season, I expect more of the same from Markieff.  With the Suns committing to him and Marcus long term, Keef has all of the reasons to continue his success.  Although the loss of Channing Frye has left the Suns searching for the player to help fill that role, I am hoping that Keef continues to play as a traditional power forward, or even filling in as a center this season...but not as a stretch four.  Markieff has shown he is able to shoot the long ball effectively when he is selective in doing so, but not as the main focus of his game.

Anthony Tolliver 6'9" 240 lbs, PF

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  20.3 min, 6.1 pts, 2.6 rbs, 42.0 FG%, 41.3 3FG%

Tolliver was signed by the Suns this off-season once Phoenix decided to let Channing Frye go to the Orlando Magic, as a hopeful replacement for the stretch-four position that the Suns depend on to help spread the floor and give the guards room to operate.

Anthony Tolliver is a career journeyman who is entering his seventh year in the NBA, after playing on the same amount of teams.  However, like Gerald Green proved last season, that doesn't preclude him from becoming a major contributor on the Suns this season, and perhaps even finding a home in here in Phoenix.

What Tolliver brings to the Suns is accurate and efficient shooting from beyond the arc.  But more importantly than that, his ability to shoot the ball opens up lanes for the guards to drive in and penetrate the defense, where they can either attack the rim themselves, or find the open man to pass it to.

Anthony certainly understands his role on the Suns, and strikes me as an intelligent player who knows how to use his skills and his veteran presence to benefit the team.  He seems genuinely excited for an opportunity to play in a fast-tempo, high-scoring offense like the Suns utilize, and appears ready to step right in and begin contributing immediately.

I expect that Tolliver will end up in the starting unit once the regular season begins, because of his unique skill-set as a stretch-four that is a necessity for the Suns' offense to operate effectively.  Although Markieff may be the better overall player, I think Tolliver's ability to spread the floor and be ready to catch-and-shoot the pass behind the arc will best complement Dragic and Bledsoe.  Not only that, I think this also helps bolster the second unit even more, allowing both of the Morris twins to play together and help provide additional scoring and defense while the starters are resting.

Marcus Morris, 6'9" 235 lbs, SF/PF

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  22.0 min, 9.7 pts, 3.9 rbs, 1.1 ast, 44.2 FG%, 38.1 3FG%

Marcus has been a different player since coming to the Suns.  Just as with Markieff, Marcus also experienced a resurgence once re-joining his twin brother in Phoenix.  The Suns obviously believe in Marcus enough to keep him around with his brother for the long term, and they will be counting on him to be a big part of the team this season.

One of the big positives about Marcus's game is that he has the skill set to play both the three and the four.  Just as Markieff is better suited as a four where he can use his strength in and around the basket, Marcus is best suited as a three where he can shoot the ball outside and use his ball-handling ability to get open.

However, the Suns already have P.J. Tucker and a promising rookie in T.J. Warren who will also see minutes at small forward, so Marcus will probably see a lot of minutes at the four this season as well.  Not only that, but when the Suns decide to go small, Markieff will switch to the five and Marcus will go to the four, where both of them are more than serviceable options and can take advantage of the bigger, slower players guarding them.

I expect that Marcus will be a major contributor on the Suns team this season.  While I still think he will see the majority of his minutes backing up the small forward position, I do expect that he will see a substantial amount of minutes at the power forward position.  It will be up to Marcus how much or how little he plays at the three or the four, but with his ability to shoot the ball and his versatility as a forward, he gives the Suns another offensive threat at either position.


Here's a look at the Suns' power forward position this season, and what you can expect these players to bring to the team.

It's no surprise that the Phoenix Suns embrace their identity of being an undersized, fast-paced team, who are primarily driven by the play of their guards.

It's also no surprise that the Suns are banking their success this season on what they have purposely created to be the deepest back court in the NBA.

The back court trio, and 1-2-3-4 punch of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green may very well comprise not only the deepest, but also the fastest, most aggressive, and highest scoring back-court in the league when it's all said and done this season...time will tell.

However, one position does not a team make.

This season, the Suns will be depending on their big men to provide the defense and rebounding in the paint on defense, and also to help spread the floor on offense to make their system work.

Here's a look at who the Suns will be using at the power forward position this season, and how they will be depended upon.

Markieff Morris, 6'10" 245 lbs, PF/C

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  26.6 min, 13.8 pts, 6.1 rbs, 1.8 ast, 48.6 FG%, 31.5 3FG%

Markieff Morris was one of the most pleasant surprises for the Suns last season.  After a somewhat disappointing start overall to his NBA career in Phoenix, after being drafted with the 13th pick in 2011, Markieff finally became the player the Suns had always envisioned.

Phoenix made a trade with the Houston Rockets before the trade deadline in the 2012-13 season, in order to bring Keef's twin Marcus to the Suns.  This was a low-risk gamble (a 2nd round draft pick) that the Suns were hoping would pay off by increasing the productivity of both players.  It did.

Markieff emerged as a completely different player last season, stringing together consecutive games with efficient play on both ends of the court.  Keef transformed his game from the ineffective stretch four he had become, to a highly-skilled power forward who could bang inside, and score at a very efficient rate from mid-range.  Not only that, his defense improved, as did his rebounding.  He suddenly became a complete player that the Suns could depend on, and played almost as many minutes off the bench as Channing Frye did as the starter.

This season, I expect more of the same from Markieff.  With the Suns committing to him and Marcus long term, Keef has all of the reasons to continue his success.  Although the loss of Channing Frye has left the Suns searching for the player to help fill that role, I am hoping that Keef continues to play as a traditional power forward, or even filling in as a center this season...but not as a stretch four.  Markieff has shown he is able to shoot the long ball effectively when he is selective in doing so, but not as the main focus of his game.

Anthony Tolliver 6'9" 240 lbs, PF

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  20.3 min, 6.1 pts, 2.6 rbs, 42.0 FG%, 41.3 3FG%

Tolliver was signed by the Suns this off-season once Phoenix decided to let Channing Frye go to the Orlando Magic, as a hopeful replacement for the stretch-four position that the Suns depend on to help spread the floor and give the guards room to operate.

Anthony Tolliver is a career journeyman who is entering his seventh year in the NBA, after playing on the same amount of teams.  However, like Gerald Green proved last season, that doesn't preclude him from becoming a major contributor on the Suns this season, and perhaps even finding a home in here in Phoenix.

What Tolliver brings to the Suns is accurate and efficient shooting from beyond the arc.  But more importantly than that, his ability to shoot the ball opens up lanes for the guards to drive in and penetrate the defense, where they can either attack the rim themselves, or find the open man to pass it to.

Anthony certainly understands his role on the Suns, and strikes me as an intelligent player who knows how to use his skills and his veteran presence to benefit the team.  He seems genuinely excited for an opportunity to play in a fast-tempo, high-scoring offense like the Suns utilize, and appears ready to step right in and begin contributing immediately.

I expect that Tolliver will end up in the starting unit once the regular season begins, because of his unique skill-set as a stretch-four that is a necessity for the Suns' offense to operate effectively.  Although Markieff may be the better overall player, I think Tolliver's ability to spread the floor and be ready to catch-and-shoot the pass behind the arc will best complement Dragic and Bledsoe.  Not only that, I think this also helps bolster the second unit even more, allowing both of the Morris twins to play together and help provide additional scoring and defense while the starters are resting.

Marcus Morris, 6'9" 235 lbs, SF/PF

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  22.0 min, 9.7 pts, 3.9 rbs, 1.1 ast, 44.2 FG%, 38.1 3FG%

Marcus has been a different player since coming to the Suns.  Just as with Markieff, Marcus also experienced a resurgence once re-joining his twin brother in Phoenix.  The Suns obviously believe in Marcus enough to keep him around with his brother for the long term, and they will be counting on him to be a big part of the team this season.

One of the big positives about Marcus's game is that he has the skill set to play both the three and the four.  Just as Markieff is better suited as a four where he can use his strength in and around the basket, Marcus is best suited as a three where he can shoot the ball outside and use his ball-handling ability to get open.

However, the Suns already have P.J. Tucker and a promising rookie in T.J. Warren who will also see minutes at small forward, so Marcus will probably see a lot of minutes at the four this season as well.  Not only that, but when the Suns decide to go small, Markieff will switch to the five and Marcus will go to the four, where both of them are more than serviceable options and can take advantage of the bigger, slower players guarding them.

I expect that Marcus will be a major contributor on the Suns team this season.  While I still think he will see the majority of his minutes backing up the small forward position, I do expect that he will see a substantial amount of minutes at the power forward position.  It will be up to Marcus how much or how little he plays at the three or the four, but with his ability to shoot the ball and his versatility as a forward, he gives the Suns another offensive threat at either position.


CAUTION: EAR PROTECTION REQUIRED WHEN OPERATING THIS EQUIPMENT...

This off-season has been especially fascinating in the NBA, and in particular, with the Phoenix Suns with how the chips fell after there was so much potential. The Suns landed a few free-agents that add to the dynamic of the team's growth, locked in their young stars, and created roster flexibility with the salary cap in the future.

To get into all of that Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby joins the show again to talk about all of these topics from the front office point of view.

Dave and I also dive into the potential changes to the NBA Draft Lottery, game length, season length, and all the rumors surrounding the ever changing league that, the more it changes, the more it stays the same. There is even, even more BS this week as well.

Check it out!

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Suns fans were steeling themselves for a long rebuild, but someone hit the fast-forward button. Armed with an absurd amount weaponry in the backcourt, the team is returning to its roots. How far can their guards take them?

After opting not to hitch their wagon to the troublesome knees of Amare Stoudemire in 2010, which was a sound long-term decision, the Suns majority owner Robert Sarver stubbornly refused to commit to rebuilding, even as the Suns quickly found themselves in the dreaded position of being neither competitive nor young. As the carousel of role players churned on -- Hakim Warrick, Shannon Brown, Michael Redd, Sebastian Telfair, Luis Scola -- the proud franchise became a flagship for middling talent and ill-advised management decisions.

It was only after the Suns bottomed out with 25 wins in 2012/13 -- their worst win total since their inaugural season in 1968/69 -- that they finally committed to rebuilding, hiring GM Ryan McDonough for the task. As irony would have it, the Suns stormed back and battled for a playoff spot until the last game of the season. Can they take the next step? Let's jump into the Madhouse and see how it looks.

Team Name:

Phoenix Suns

Last Year's Record:

48-34

Key Losses:

Channing Frye, Ish Smith, Leandro Barbosa, Dionte Christmas

Key Additions:

Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, T.J. Warren, Zoran Dragic, Tyler Ennis

What significant moves were made during the offseason?

The first domino of the Suns offseason fell when Channing Frye opted to leave the desert after four years of service, signing with Orlando for $32 million over four years on July 7. It was unclear exactly what the Suns were willing to pay the floor-stretching big man -- comments from Frye indicated that they were occupied with bigger fish at the time. This came as a bit of a surprise as analytics nerds everywhere were cognizant of how much smoother the Suns' offense ran with Frye on the floor.

Anthony Tolliver, another distance-shooting forward, was signed to a low-risk two-year contract in the chance that he can fill the void left by Frye.

The real curveball came when they agreed to terms with Isaiah Thomas in a sign-and-trade with the Kings, inking the high-scoring point guard to a cool four years, $27 million. Alex Oriakhi, a second-round pick in 2013 who had yet to play an NBA game, was sent back to the Kings. Despite rampant rumors of an Eric Bledsoe trade, the Suns insisted from the beginning that they wanted Thomas, Bledsoe and Goran Dragic to all share time in the backcourt.

True to their word, they finally signed Bledsoe to five years, $70 million after four months of stagnated negotiations that were reported to be completely broken on a few occasions. Bledsoe's impact on both ends of the court was vital to last year's team, which barely managed to stay afloat during his 32-game absence due to knee surgery.

As for the draft, by virtue of previous trades with Washington and Indiana, the Suns entered with three first-rounders that they didn't particularly need or want that badly. They took NC State's 6'8 scoring machine T.J. Warren with the 14th pick, Syracuse's floor general Tyler Ennis at 18, and Serbian G/F Bogdan Bogdanovic at 27. Bogdanovic will be staying overseas for at least the next two years.

Finally, Slovenian defensive-minded guard and brother to Goran, Zoran Dragic was signed just days before training camp, presumably to be held hostage when Goran's contract negotiations commence next summer.

What are their strengths?

Guards, baby. All those guards.

The pairing of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe was a revelation last season. Not only did they blow up the gaps in transition, but they also co-existed in halfcourt sets nicely and were demons in the passing lanes. The Suns were only an average team when either Dragic or Bledsoe was out of the lineup, so naturally they employed the services of Isaiah Thomas to keep the system intact at all times.

Had good window to watch Suns on floor at NAU today. Bledsoe's in tremendous shape. Isaiah Thomas will thrive here. Playoff team in West.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 3, 2014


Dragic and Bledsoe were already terrorizing teams on the break. Now Thomas will be rotating in to keep the attack fresh for 48 minutes. Yikes.

If that wasn't enough, Gerald Green will also be returning. He is coming off a career year in which he bombed 40% of his threes and was the team's second-leading scorer per 36 minutes. Aside from delivering ten 25+ point games (including 41 vs. the Thunder), he also did ridiculous things like this to always keep things interesting:

Markieff Morris emerged as the Suns' only semblance of a go-to scorer in the frontcourt, notching double-figures in scoring in 40 of the last 44 games of the season, and was a prime candidate for Sixth Man of the Year before getting completely hosed losing out to Jamal Crawford. There have been early hints from the coaching staff that Tolliver might start at the 4 for continuity's sake, but that wouldn't portend to a lesser role for Markieff. They'll need his scoring ability in the frontcourt more than ever.

Perhaps most importantly, the coaching staff will also be returning, led by Jeff Hornacek and featuring defensive guru Mike Longabardi. Hornacek finished second to the magnanimous Gregg Popovich in Coach of the Year voting, immediately showing a penchant for getting the most from his players and reinstating the Suns' traditional up-tempo attack. He made it clear during training camp that he expects the tempo to increase, and he has a deeper rotation to play with this time around. The Suns were 8th in pace last year -- expect them to be at or near the top in 2014/15.

What are their biggest weaknesses?

This is the Phoenix Suns we're talking about here, so naturally they're a bit thin up front and tad suspect on defense. The departure of Frye left a hole at the center position, where he spent a good deal of time last season, and the Suns opted to turn to their incumbent young guns, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len, to step up and man the 5.

While Plumlee impressed in what was essentially his rookie season (he played only 55 minutes with Indiana in 2012/13), he still has some glaring holes in his game and might be best used as an energy player off the bench. Len has oodles of potential but has yet to prove he can stay healthy, as he found a way to fracture the same finger twice before preseason even started.

Currently, both Plumlee and Len present more questions than answers.

As for the defense, the bane of the Suns' existence in 2013/14 was the obscene boatload of points surrendered in the paint. 45.5 per game, to be exact -- 5th worst in the NBA. This wasn't helped by their defensive rebounding percentage of .737 (9th worst), and it all led to their FT/FGA-allowed rate of .237 (4th worst). These are the kind of stats that separate playoff teams from lottery players, and the Suns showed poorly in all of them.

They'll need healthy, productive seasons from their key defensive cogs -- Bledsoe, Plumlee and P.J. Tucker -- if they want to approach respectability on defense. Some contribution from Len would be a hell of a bonus at this point, but don't be surprised if the young Ukranian can have an impact season. Before re-fracturing his pinky finger, he was the talk of training camp.

The greatest internal improvement for the #Suns might be seen at center with Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. http://t.co/yjtXy6nhpG

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) October 1, 2014


Tucker, Plumlee, even GM Ryan McDonough all agree: Alex Len's improvement is what jumps out early in #SunsCamp http://t.co/STq9ZmUnus

— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) October 2, 2014


Attempting to replace Frye's adequate interior defense organically was quite a gamble by a front office that is itching to make the playoffs. If the 21-year-old Len can have a breakout year, they'll look all the smarter for it.

What are the goals for the Suns?

Obviously they want to make the playoffs. They only came up short last spring due to a historically competitive year in the West, so attempting to conquer that demon should go without saying. The franchise is currently entrenched in its longest playoff drought since 1975. The fans are ready, the players are ready, nothing else matters.

However...

Ryan McDonough didn't come to town to battle for 8-seeds. He and the rest of the front office have been adamant about not sacrificing the future for the present, and they put this theory in practice when they stood pat at last February's trading deadline, despite having the massive, insured expiring contract of Emeka Okafor as bait.

The West will be insanely competitive again, and Anthony Davis just might have something to say about who sneaks into the playoffs should a spot come available. While another year sans-playoffs will surely bum out the fans, the goal in Phoenix is to build a championship contender. With a treasure chest of assets in their arsenal, the Suns have the ammo to make this happen -- especially if they strike gold on their top-5 protected Lakers' pick.

But when?

When, indeed.

So...playoffs?

As frighteningly thin as the frontcourt appears to be, the ridiculous backcourt rotation and up-tempo attack might just blow enough teams off the floor that it won't even matter. The loss of Frye presents questions in the halfcourt sets, but with a roster full of players capable of creating their own offense they should at least break even.

They should be a safe bet for 45 wins, but out West that only means a 14th lotto pick. On the other hand, who can say what 82 games worth of Hornacek's dual-PG system will yield?

One thing that is certain: Phoenix Suns basketball is back.

Try to enjoy yourself.

The national perspective of the Phoenix Suns going into the off-season was they needed to improve their front court depth and rebounding skill. Not many in the media considered (another) point guard...

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