For one Phoenix Sun, this past week has been a nightmare. But for two others, the experience has been thrilling so far as just might turn into a party at the end.

*all pictures courtesy of



After missing nearly four months of play time while recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, Marcin Gortat has seen his lowest national team production in a long time. After leading Poland in last year's qualifying round with 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, Gortat's production has dipped to 8.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in 4 contests, all losses.

Gortat foretold of the pressure early last week, before Poland rolled over.

"Obviously there is a lot of pressure not only on the team, but on my shoulders," Gortat dead-pans.

"I am 100% sure that if we fail, I am going to get all the beatings back home, nobody else, I am going to hear all the complaining.

"I know that, I've realised it a long time ago and I am ready to take the responsibility."

We don't know if it's the foot, or if it's so much time off or what. Eurobasket is full of tough competition, but Jan Vesely was one of those big men who dominated Gortat this past week. That's something rare to happen in the past.

Snapshot of Gortat's profile on (sans today's putrid 2 point, 6 rebound effort):


As you can see, he's been a rebounding machine in recent years and a quality offensive threat. Not so this tournament.

Poland played a couple of games very close, but nonetheless are 0-4 with only one game to play in "pool play". The top 3 of 6 teams in each pool advance to the next round, so Poland is basically out of it already. Such a disappointment may have already reared its head today, as Poland got jackstomped by Spain 89-53.

Best case for the Suns: Gortat gets 3 weeks to heal further, work out and prepare for the long NBA season before training camp starts.

Best case for Gortat is that the extra rest works, and he can find his game again.



Newest Sun, Viacheslav Kravtsov, has a been a key, predictable cog for Ukraine, who is missing one of their youngest players in Alex Len (ankles).

Ukraine is 3-0 entering today's game against a very good French team loaded with NBA talent.

A quick glance at Kravtsov's week looks quite similar to prior years.



This scouting report shows how important Kravtsov is to Ukraine. Not quite as important as Dragic and Gortat to their teams, but important nonetheless.

Slava Kravtsov is team Ukraine's only active NBA player who, after being benched by the Detroit Pistons for most of 2012/13 season, is hungry for game action and is expected to have a breakthrough campaign under coach Fratello and use the momentum in the NBA. Kravtsov is Ukraine's most athletic big man, who can run the floor and finish in transition. He is also an intimidating force on defence, as his help side shot-blocking ability will provide Fratello's team with several igniting defensive stops-per-game. EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia is, as for the majority of the players, going to be Kravtsov's third straight summer coached by the Czar.

It looks like Ukraine will move on to the next round of games in Slovenia, and it will be interesting to see how Kravtsov's production continues. He's been alternately very good (4 blocks in one game, 15 and 8 in another) and very pedestrian (6 and 1).



Clearly, the Phoenix Sun having the most fun this week has to Goran Dragic. Not only is he having statistically his best international tournament ever, but he's been able to meet - and even exceed - expectations of his country to boot. No one is under more local pressure than Goran Dragic, whose country of only 2 million people are hosting the tournament.

Dragic has hit game-winners, had game-changing runs and led his team in just about every statistical category in 3 games to date.

Take a look at his numbers, specifically the assists, compared to the rest of the field THIS year, and compared to his stats in prior tournaments.



With former Euroleague MVP and Slovenian legend Jaka Lakovic fading into the sunset, Dragic has finally taken over the reins of the Slovenian squad full time while Lakovic plays backup minutes and/or the shooting position on the wing while Dragic handles the ball.

Slovenia is already 3-0, with a win over Group-mate and mighty Spain, so they appear to be a lock for Round 2 no matter what happens in their last 2 "pool" games against Croatia (2-1) and Poland (0-4).

A win over Croatia today would clinch a spot in Round 2.

Big Matchup on Monday

In what might be Marcin Gortat's swan song for Eurobasket 2013, Poland faces Slovenia in the final game of pool play tomorrow. The likeliest outcome has Gortat taking the next three weeks off, while Dragic fights onward for a medal.

This is the first installment of two (look for Part Two in the coming days) previewing the upcoming season based on the significance of the numbers. To get started I kept it simple looking at the context of the numbers 0-9. Ten basic numbers that give signs, omens, and other perspectives on the upcoming season for the Phoenix Suns.

Men lie. Women lie... But numbers do not. Because they are numbers.

Zero Former All-Stars On The Current Roster

The Phoenix Suns are one of six teams this season to enter the year without at least one current or former All-Star on the roster. They join the Charlotte Bobcats, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and the Washington Wizards with that distinction.

Health and trades are the reason why a few teams do not have a current All-Star, but nonetheless the Suns are in this dubious category entering the season.

It takes talent to get to the playoffs and win as we have seen with the last six NBA Champions donning a minimum of two Hall of Fame caliber talents and every other team in contention having similar models. The years of making a run behind one star and depth of quality seems to be history so for those teams, like the Suns, without a dearth of talent, are left so far behind they don't even get the luxury of seeing the dust.

1st Time In Franchise History The Team Has Had Back-to-Back 50 Loss Seasons...

One thing is for certain about the Suns as a franchise; they have been the model of consistency. In the teams 45 year history they have had 30 winning seasons, 29 trips to the playoffs, and two shots at the Championship. There was however a dark period for the Suns back in the 1970's.

Back in 1973-1974 & 1974-1975 the team finished with back-to-back 50+ loss seasons. That was the only stretch of that kind in the franchises history. There were some positive returns from that low point as the team made their first trip to the NBA Finals the following year after losing 102 games and came up just short against the Boston Celtics, but nonetheless they made the jump relatively quickly after being that bad. Sign for the future?

2nd Most Turnover Prone Team In The NBA Last Year...

Last year the team turned the ball over at an alarming rate and the most as a team since Terry Porter tried to grind down the team to a halt in the half-court with Shaquille O'Neal as the teams "center" piece. That is particularly ironic after the team invested in a large free-agent contract with Goran Dragic and drafted Kendall Marshall in the lottery. Both point guards.

This year they continue adding new ball-handlers with Eric Bledsoe (career 3.5 turnovers per 36) and Archie Goodwin (3.6 turnovers per 36 in college) to remedy that.

Three Years Since The Team Last Made The Playoffs...

And oh what a trip to the playoffs that became... The team turned things on at the end winning 14 of their final 16 games cruising into the playoffs as hot as any team in the NBA at that point. That hot streak continued winning eight of their first 10 games including a dramatic sweep of the often ruler holding San Antonio Spurs who, for the first time, saw the shoe on the other foot against the Suns.

The team came away a tip-in away from a Game 7 and the chance at making another trip to the NBA Finals. It was not in the cards, but that memory is the last the Suns have given their fans of positive, winning basketball. As tough as that loss was, I was in a bar filled with Lakers and Suns fans that night, trust me, it was EMOTIONAL for everyone in there, the game itself was the last positive moment the team has displayed on the court in three years.

Four Games In A Row Was The Longest Winning Streak Last Year...

That is tied for the shortest winning streak since Frank Johnson was the head coach in 2003-2004, another 50+ loss season.

Five Times The Suns Won More Than Two Games In A Row Last Year...

That was nearly a league low, but thankfully the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, and the Bobcats played a more consistent brand of inconsistent basketball. The league average was 9.26 times per team of winning at least 2+ games in a row putting the Suns noticeably below the average. Then again the average for non-playoff teams was 6.78 burying the Suns below the playoff line and even further than that, under most of the bad teams in the league.

Six Former Suns Players As Coaches Including Jeff Hornacek This Year...

That list includes Frank Johnson (two seasons with the Suns as a player), John Wetzel (3), Danny Ainge (3), Paul Westpaul (6), and Dick van Arsdale (9) that transitioned from being a player to being the coach.

In the past that has not been a successful pattern as all five of those coaches lasted less than four full seasons on the sideline. Coach Hornacek played for the Suns for six seasons and recently signed a three year to coach the team that drafted him. Omen of the future?

If The Suns Lose Seven More Games Than The Blazers This Season Then...

...they fall another notch down to having the 19th most losses in NBA history. For the team with the team with the 10 most wins and 4th highest winning percentage in league history they are moving up (down) the loss column as well. They have been around for 45 years coming into this season and have accomplished a lot in that time frame, but equal to their previous successes, this current stretch has brought the team back down to earth historically. Ironically the Suns have 70 more wins than the Blazers and have only been in existence for two more years than they have.

This period in Suns basketball will have a lot of negative historical ramifications, but that is required in most cases to get back on track. Very few franchises lose all-time historically great players and seamlessly move into the next phase of winning without a transitional period. This is that period.

Eight Players 24 Or Younger...

(Disclaimer: If you are looking at ESPN then the Suns have nine, but Diante Garrett is no longer on the roster)

Another disclaimer should read: Nearly every team will reduce its roster in the next month waiving some of the younger players signed as Training Camp Invites. Happens every year. This year, for the Suns, they will likely keep most of their young talent because they drafted, traded for, or acquired all of them with a purpose. There will be casualties like Malcolm Lee (too many point guards) or Alex Oriakhi (signed in Europe) shaving off some of the young talent, but regardless of that Bledsoe, Alex Len, Goodwin, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, and Marshall are all a part of the fabric of this rebuilding process.

Nine New Players On The Roster, Counting Channing Frye...

If we include the front office and coaching staff there are too many new faces to count. Basically only Robert Sarver, Lon Babby, Mark West, the training staff, and seven players total are familiar faces. This is a completely new look franchise. That has been the norm for the past 5-6 years with the team changing coaches, front offices, players, and personalities like John Cusack in Identity.

The Suns were not very watchable last year, but there were a few plays that stood out. Most of them initiated by great Dragic passes and finished by nice dunks. A couple Wes Johnson plays in there, and even a Beasley.

But all in all, these were not awesome plays and even the players themselves weren't hooting and hollering afterward. Let's hope this season they're all on the same page and celebrating when things go really well.

Last week, the Phoenix Suns waived forward Michael Beasley after just one tumultuous year in the desert. Beasley arrived in Phoenix last summer with a fairly long, loose leash. Countless missed shots, defensive breakdowns, and fan face-palms later, his leash was much shorter and tighter. After Beasley's latest trouble with the law last month, the writing on the wall was clear. The new front office had no reason to continue their relationship with him and ultimately decided to cut the leash and end their dismal relationship with the troubled forward.

Although the Suns had been expected to waive Michael Beasley for quite some time now, the method in which they cut him surprised many. Instead of waiving him outright or using the stretch provision on the the remaining $9 million on Beasley's contract, the Suns managed to actually save some money after both parties agreed to a buyout of $7 million. Let's take a look at how this move affects the Suns' salary situation moving forward.

Bye-Bye, B-Easy


The above GIF illustrates perfectly encapsulates Suns fans' feelings about Beasley's stay in Phoenix and illustrates one of the few times we were on the same page as Lindsey Hunter.

Looking back on Michael Beasley's career in Phoenix will prove to be a depressing affair. There were few highlights - his performance against the Lakers in Steve Nash's return to Phoenix was a remarkable feat - and countless disappointments. Unfortunately, there were more memorable hairstyles than actual basketball performances in Beasley's Suns career and it could be argued that the most defense he played all year was while defending his "brother" Goran Dragic against Ryan Hollins. However, Beasley does leave the Suns with one parting gift: his buyout saves the team $2 million and adds to their cap space in both this year and next.

Had the Suns waived Beasley outright they would have had to absorb his $6 million 2013-14 salary and would most likely have stretched his $3 million guaranteed 2014-15 salary over the following three years, resulting in cap hits of $1 million each in 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17. If the Suns waived Beasley before September 1st, they would have spread the $9 million over five years, paying him $1.8 million a year through 2017-18.

Instead, the Suns managed to save some money and decrease these cap hits by shaving $2 million off his remaining $9 million. They now owe Beasley $7 million and will pay that amount through yearly installments.The Suns will pay Beasley $4.67 million this year (down from $6 million) and will spread the remaining $2.33 million over the next three years, resulting in cap hits of approximately $767,000 annually through 2016-17 (instead of $1 million per season).

This begs the question of why Beasley even agreed to leave the $2 million on the table that he was otherwise guaranteed to make. The only reasonable explanation is that the Suns used some sort of leverage to persuade him to agree to a buyout so he could leave the team and try to earn another contract elsewhere. Maybe the team insinuated that they would be willing to keep Beasley on the roster and force him to stay home during this season. Maybe Lon Babby somehow convinced him to forego those extra $2 million so he could get more money upfront ($4.67 million this year) than if they waived him in August (just $1.8 million this year and each of the next four years). Or maybe Beasley just felt bad?

In any case, the Suns managed put some sort of positive spin in even a bad scenario, increasing their immediate and future cap flexibility through a buyout that no one saw coming. A quick look at the team's salary status reveals they're in fantastic shape heading forward.

Phoenix Suns Capology

In last week's capology update, I described the Suns' salary standing after the Caron Butler trade and outlined what the cap situation might look like after Beasley is waived and stretched in my attempt to cover all scenarios. However, the Suns front office is fortunately more creative (and probably more persuasive) than me and introduced a new scenario with the Beasley buyout.

By buying out Beasley, the Suns increased their 2013-14 cap space by $1.33M and now sit $6.572M under the salary cap.

By waiving Beasley in this manner, the Suns increased their 2013-14 cap space by $1.33 million and their salary total now sits at $52.107 million. This leaves the team with $6.572 under the salary cap this year. Moreover, Beasley's lingering salary of approximately $7776,667 per year for the next three years is a mostly negligible figure - it's about as much as a minimum contract for a player with exactly one year of NBA experience.

It should be noted that the Suns have done a remarkable job of maintaining their salary cap flexibility while increasing their asset base and (future) talent collection. This is a highly accomplishment that will be sure to help progress the franchise's rebuilding process. In my first "capology" piece in July, I stated that the Suns should trade Luis Scola ahead of any other player on the roster. Check. In last week's cap update, I (not very boldly) predicted that Michael Beasley would be waived. Check.

The Suns still have 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster so I look for them to cut at least one other player (Malcolm Lee and Ish Smith might be the most likely candidates). Such a move is likely to be made after training camp next month. The other objective I have for the team is much further down the road: trade Marcin Gortat. I don't expect much movement on this platform in the next couple months but I fully expect Gortat to be on another team by February's trade deadline. Although with GM Ryan McDonough at the helm, we should probably expect the unexpected.

The future is bright (side of the sun). And it all starts with flexibility.

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Eric Bledsoe was Ryan McDonough's first major acquisition as the Suns' general manager. How does the fiery guard fit into the Phoenix lineup? Let's take a look at the film to find out.

Eric Bledsoe was one of the hottest commodities on the NBA trade market over the last year, and it's not hard to see why when watching his highlights. Calling him explosive is a bit of an understatement. However, highlights only tell part of the story. I wanted to go deeper and get a better idea of who Eric Bledsoe really is as a player. To accomplish this, I watched roughly 500 of his 800 offensive possessions logged on MySynergySports. Let's break his game down.

In typical Jacob fashion, I went way overboard and wrote a ton of words. So I decided to break it down into two parts. In Part I, I'll be examining his play with the ball in his hands. In Part II, I'll be looking at his play in the open court and off the ball.


From 2004 to 2012, Suns fans were treated to one of the best pick-and-roll point guards of all time. Steve Nash was the master. It wasn't just his pinpoint pocket-passing that made him so great though (although it was beautiful to watch). What made him so special was the combination of the passing ability with his savvy and tremendous shooting touch from all over the court. The Suns pick-and-roll was so difficult to defend because there was no way you were going to be ale to take away the pocket pass to the big, the pass to the corner, the drive AND the pull-up jumper. Nash was a complete pick-and-roll point guard that could burn you any way he liked.

That's not Bledsoe. However, Bledsoe does like to run the pick-and-roll a lot. In fact, it was his most common play type at just under 31 percent of his possessions. He was decent but nothing spectacular at 0.75 points per possession.

When Bledsoe comes off the screen and has a clear lane to the basket, he can explode to the rim like few others.


Here, Bledsoe receives the ball on the wing and Lamar Odom comes to set the screen.


Neither Darrell Arthur nor Mike Conley jump out at Bledsoe and in fact, they get in each other's way. That's all Bledsoe needed as he turned the corner with an open lane. Conley has no shot at this point.


None of the other Memphis defenders commit to helping on Bledsoe and so he takes it all the way. Notice where he takes off from ...


... and notice where he lands. Explosion. Also two points and a glimpse of what Bledsoe can do in the pick-and-roll.

Bledsoe also shot a very respectable 39.7 percent from deep last year. His shot improved greatly from his first two seasons in the league. Bledsoe's shot is almost more of a set shot than an actual jumper, but if defenders go under and give him plenty of space, he can knock that shot down.


The defender is already playing way off Bledsoe to begin with, and when Turiaf comes to set the screen, his man stays with him. That means nobody is within three or four feet of Bledsoe.


Bledsoe takes the shot and knocks it down and the defender still isn't even close to in his face. It was a very limited sample size last year, but Bledsoe connected on four of his nine attempts from deep while running the pick-and-roll. If teams go under to cut off the drive, Bledsoe has the capability to make them pay.

That's the good. Unfortunately, there is plenty of bad as well. Bledsoe really doesn't have any sort of in-between game. He doesn't really have a pull-up jumper and his floater is far from reliable at this stage. He also doesn't have the patience or savvy of Nash and gets himself out of control too often. His drives are often reckless and his passes wild.


Here, Turiaf sets a screen for Bledsoe against our beloved Suns. As you can see, there isn't a whole lot of space for him to work with and all the Suns are in help position to guard against the drive.


Bledsoe fails to recognize this, ducks his head and drives anyway. Goran Dragic goes over the screen and chases him from behind, Jared Dudley drops down from the top of the key and Luis Scola steps up to surround Bledsoe and cut off the drive.


With so much pressure, Bledsoe loses control of the ball a little bit...


... and then loses control of his body as he tries to recover and slides out of bounds. This is the kind of reckless play we can expect from Bledsoe. With all the excitement of the highlights comes the bewilderment of lowlights like this one.

One thing you'll notice if you look closely at the screencaps above is that Bledsoe initiated all three of his pick-and-rolls from the wing rather than the top of the key. That is a trend I noticed in watching most of his pick-and-rolls. This is one reason a Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt could work very well together. With those two, the Suns can keep the floor spaced and initiate pick-and-rolls from all over the court rather than just at the top of the key.

At this stage Dragic is still the superior pick-and-roll ball-handler and should initiate the offense on the majority of plays. But when teams start to key in on Dragic, all he needs to do is swing it to Bledsoe an let him go to work from a different angle. It makes the Suns' offense more unpredictable and makes it more difficult to defend.


Bledsoe isn't a bad isolation player. It's not something you'd like to see him doing a whole lot but his 0.77 points per possession ranks 114th overall, which isn't too shabby. Here's an example of what he can do with a mismatch.


Matt Barnes and Bledsoe run a quick pick-and-roll and the Spurs switch it.


Bledsoe recognizes the mismatch and pulls the ball out to the corner to give himself some space.


Bledsoe has a major speed and quickness advantage, and he takes advantage of that to blow by his man. Because of the way the Clippers spaced the floor the help defender was too far away to stop him.


Bledsoe explodes to the rim and throws it down with authority.

That's what Bledsoe can do in isolation situations. He has a quickness and athleticism advantage over most of the guards he plays against, and that's even more true when he can force a switch and go up against a wing or a big. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to use that advantage nearly enough and instead chooses to settle for jumpers, which definitely is not his strength. That's where the low percentage (37.7 percent form the field) comes from.

Bledsoe can be effective in isolation situations if the team can put him in the right spot on the court, keep the floor spaced and get him mismatches. But he's not a guy you want to give the ball to on a consistent basis and tell him to go get a bucket.

Dragic is actually a phenomenal isolation player according to Synergy. He's ranked 20th overall and scores 0.97 points per possession. He only isolated on 11 more plays than Bledsoe did last year despite playing a lot more, so it's not something he looks to do a lot. But adding another exciting ball-handler in Bledsoe should both take some pressure off Dragic and give him more opportunities to attack.

During the Suns magical run to the 2010 Western Conference Finals, the second unit emerged as one of the team's biggest strengths. Leading that charge from the bench was a pair of dynamic guards in a younger Dragic and Leandro Barbosa. Bledsoe lacks the natural scoring ability that made Barbosa the Sixth Man of the Year as a Sun, but he does offer a similar speedy and athletic presence and is much more of a pest defensively.

This backcourt might be under-sized, but there's potential for these two to mesh very well offensively.

Stay tuned to the Bright Side for Part II, coming soon!

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