The Bottom Five:

If the NBA Draft Lottery were to happen today, and the ping-pong balls were to hold true to odds, the Phoenix Suns would be given the 4th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Here is a look at the bottom five teams and their current records, as well as a look at their up-coming games this week, and some predictions on where they could be positioned afterward.

5. Detroit Pistons: 24-49

Upcoming games this week: 3/31 @ Chicago Bulls, 4/1 @ Toronto Raptors, 4/3 @ Boston Celtics, 4/6 @ Minnesota

With a four game road trip on the horizon, all against teams with better records than themselves, it is quite possible the Pistons could finish the week 0-4. Still, I expect them to get at least one win, either against Toronto or Minnesota, and will probably be 25-53 by the start of next week, and stay in the 5th spot.

4. Phoenix Suns: 23-51

Upcoming games this week: 4/3 @ L.A. Clippers, 4/5 vs. Golden State Warriors

The Suns have a short schedule this week, against two high powered opponents. Although the Suns have shown the ability to play their best against the toughest teams in the league, I believe the most likely outcome of both these games would be two more added to the loss column. The Suns will likely be 23-53 to start next week, and could move into the 3rd lottery spot.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: 22-49

Upcoming games this week: 3/31 @ New Orleans Hornets, 4/1 @ Atlanta Hawks, 4/3 vs. Brooklyn Nets, 4/5 vs. Boston Celtics

The Cavs have a busy schedule this week with two road games and two home games. Despite the fact that the Cavs have been in a major slump due to Kyrie Irving's shoulder injury, he's reportedly set to return tonight against New Orleans, and I think the Cavs should win against both the Hornets/Pelicans as well as the Celtics at home this week. I expect the Cavs will finish the week with a record of 24-51, and move up to the 4th spot.

2. Orlando Magic: 19-55

Upcoming games this week: 4/1 @ Houston Rockets, 4/3 @ San Antonio Spurs, 4/5@ Chicago Bulls

The Magic have three road games this week all against playoff teams. Unless a fluke happens or one of these teams decides to rest their starters for the night, I can't see Orlando winning anything, and should finish the week at 19-58...remaining in the second lottery position.

1. Charlotte Bobcats: 17-56

Upcoming games this week: 4/1 @ Milwaukee Bucks, 4/3 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 4/5 vs. Miami Heat, 4/6 @ Brooklyn Nets

The only game I could see the Bobcats maybe winning this week is against the Bucks...and I still doubt it happens. Still, I'm going to say they either get a win against the Bucks or the 76ers at home and finish 1-3 on the week, which would give them a record of 18-59 going into next week, and still good/bad enough for the first position in the lottery.

The Race for 8th

Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a virtual tie with the Utah Jazz for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, and are currently ahead of the Dallas Mavericks by 1.5 games. As I'm sure everyone reading this is well aware, if the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns will receive their first round pick...likely the 14th overall. However, if the Lakers make the playoffs, they get the Miami Heat's pick instead, which will likely be the 30th or 29th overall at best. So yeah, the Suns very much have a vested interest in the Lakers' success, or lack thereof. Here is a look at these three teams' current records, and what they may look like by the end of the week.

8. Utah Jazz 38-36

Upcoming games this week: 4/1 vs. Portland Trailblazers, 4/3 vs. Denver Nuggets, 4/5 vs. New Orleans Hornets

The Utah Jazz have not been the same team since the all-star break, and have since let the Lakers back in a race that at one tome looked very unlikely. Still the Jazz were able to get a win last night, and with three home games this week, could go 2-1 overall giving them a record of 40-37 at the end...which might be good enough to stay in 8th place, for now.

9. Los Angeles Lakers 38-36

Upcoming games this week: 4/2 vs. Dallas Mavericks, 4/5 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The game against the Mavericks could have huge implications in the Lakers' playoff aspirations. Although they will be playing at home, Steve Nash suffered a hamstring injury last night which could either sideline or stifle him in the upcoming game(s). Although listed as day to day, hamstring injuries can linger, especially with older players, and will likely have an effect either way. Still, there's nothing more dangerous than a cornered Mamba, and it's very possible the Lakers could overcome yet another obstacle in their tumultuous season. I have a feeling they will win against the Mavericks but will lose against the Grizzlies, giving them a record of 39-37 on the week...and still barely out of the playoffs for the time being.

10. Dallas Mavericks 36-37

Upcoming games this week: 4/2 @ L.A. Lakers, 4/4 @ Denver Nuggets, 4/5 @ Sacramento Kings

The Mavs have a tough week ahead with the Lakers and Nuggets on the road...then a back-to-back against the Kings. I don't think Dallas will be able to pull out more than one win this week which will give them a 37-39 record at the end of the week, which will keep them in the 10th spot and further out of contention.

Feel free to voice your opinions and predictions in the comments below!


The Indiana Pacers are rolling while the Phoenix Suns are getting rolled.

Since losing starting C Marcin Gortat to a foot injury, the Phoenix Suns are 2-10 and looking worse by the day. The Indiana Pacers, on the other hand, have been missing their best scorer, Danny Granger, almost the entire season and have thrived.

The difference? Better collective talent, and an excellent, defense-based gameplan.

Pacers a model?

If you are looking for a model the Suns might want to emulate, you might want to look at the Indiana Pacers for inspiration. After making it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004, the Pacers declined slowly. Eventually, they missed the playoffs for 4 straight seasons from 2006-2010 under a coach (Jim O'Brien) that had them (failing to regularly) score from the perimeter while playing middling defense.

When the team stopped progressing, they handed the reins to untested Frank Vogel, who had never been a head coach before (though he had spent 10 years as an NBA assistant). Vogel instituted a defense-first mentality that used an efficient inside-out offensive scheme (offensive rating jumped from 26th to 7th), took the Pacers to the playoffs and now has them seeded third in the East with an even more focused defense sans Danny Granger's offense.

Their best draft moves were getting lucky with Danny Granger (17th overall in 2005) and then Paul George and Lance Stephenson (10th and 40th in 2010). But that's the highlight of their draft prowess using their own picks during that timeframe.

They traded erstwhile All-Star Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto for the rights to rookie C Roy Hibbert (17th in 2008), who went on to exceed expectations along with Danny Granger.

Hibbert and Granger developed with a ragtag group of middling players who wouldn't be starting for any playoff team, and certainly didn't in Indiana.

Then the 2010 draft came along (George) and they fully revitalized their team in 2011. The Pacers bookended the 2011 lockout by trading the 15th overall pick (Kawhi Leonard) to San Antonio for George Hill, and later signing free agent David West before the 2011-12 season finally started.

Since then, the Pacers have been on the rise in the East without boasting a top-10 player in the NBA. They are doing it with defense - ranked #1 overall this season by a wide margin.

The Phoenix Suns could do well to emulate this pattern. They already have the several-seasons-outside-the-playoffs thing going, and won't pick up a franchise-changer in the upcoming draft. But that's where the similarities end.

At some point, the Suns have to start trending back up. It won't happen in these next 9 games, but this summer is crucial to start turning the tide in the right direction.

The Suns reportedly want to win with defense going forward, and getting the right coach into position to do so (like the Pacers did with Vogel) is vital. Is Lindsey Hunter that coach? Maybe. Maybe not. The Suns have to put Hunter against a number of other candidates this spring to find out.

Vogel was in a different position than Hunter is in right now. In fact, Hunter's position more closely resembles Jim O'Brien's in Indiana - the guy who presided over the team while they got younger, after the playoffs slipped away.

Vogel took over a team that was already young and ready to implement his teachings, while Hunter is still going through the roster transition. Will next year be different? Who knows, at this point. Depends on how the summer goes.

Earlier Matchup

Goran Dragic missed the first game of the season series, where the Suns lost in Indiana 97-91. The Suns played a tough game but came up short at the end. Telfair put up 19 and 6 in Dragic's absence, while Marcin Gortat had 15 and 10 against Roy Hibbert. The Suns don't have either of those players tonight.

This is Indiana's only trip to Phoenix this season.

Tonight's matchup

The Pacers' #1 defense in the NBA face the NBA's worst overall offense since Hunter took over. Expect starting point guard Goran Dragic back in the lineup tonight, along with Jermaine O'Neal.

The Suns like to "get up" for playoff teams, so maybe tonight will be a revelation of effort and execution like we saw against Houston, the Lakers and New Jersey. But don't count on it.

The Pacers are on a roll while the Suns are getting rolled. Expect more of the same, no matter who starts for the Suns tonight.

Cute little fun-fact that means nothing

Tonight's game against Indiana will be the FIRST EVER NBA game to feature two pairs of brothers facing off against each other. Indiana boasts Tyler and Ben Hansbrough, while the Suns boast Marcus and Markieff Morris.

Let's get ready to rumble!

Check out the other side of the coin

SB Nation's Pacers blog - Indy Cornrows

Indy Stats

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Paul George 72 37.5 6.4 15.1 42.5 2.2 5.9 37.5 2.7 3.2 82.0 1.1 6.7 7.8 4.0 3.0 1.8 0.6 2.9 17.7
David West 66 33.3 6.9 14.0 49.2 0.1 0.3 22.2 3.3 4.3 75.9 2.0 5.7 7.7 3.0 2.1 1.0 1.0 2.0 17.2
George Hill 69 34.4 5.1 11.5 44.6 1.7 4.6 37.5 2.2 2.7 81.5 0.6 3.2 3.8 4.7 1.6 1.1 0.3 1.8 14.2
Roy Hibbert 72 28.7 4.7 10.7 43.6 0.0 0.1 25.0 2.0 2.7 74.1 3.7 4.5 8.3 1.5 2.0 0.5 2.7 3.5 11.3
Lance Stephenson 70 28.9 3.4 7.6 45.6 0.8 2.4 32.7 0.8 1.3 63.6 0.6 3.3 3.9 2.8 1.3 1.0 0.2 2.0 8.5
Tyler Hansbrough 73 16.8 2.2 5.1 43.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.7 3.7 72.5 2.0 2.6 4.6 0.5 0.9 0.4 0.2 1.9 7.1
Gerald Green 55 18.2 2.4 6.9 35.2 0.9 3.0 31.1 0.9 1.1 80.6 0.5 1.9 2.5 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.4 1.1 6.7
Danny Granger 5 14.6 2.0 7.0 28.6 0.4 2.0 20.0 1.0 1.6 62.5 0.6 1.2 1.8 0.6 0.8 0.4 0.2 1.2 5.4
Ian Mahinmi 73 16.5 1.9 4.3 45.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 2.2 65.2 1.4 2.5 3.9 0.3 1.2 0.5 0.9 2.5 5.3
D.J. Augustin 68 16.3 1.4 3.9 35.1 0.9 2.5 36.4 1.1 1.3 83.9 0.3 1.0 1.2 2.3 0.9 0.5 0.0 0.9 4.7
Orlando Johnson 43 12.2 1.5 3.4 44.2 0.7 1.7 42.5 0.5 0.7 72.4 0.4 1.8 2.3 1.0 0.6 0.2 0.2 1.0 4.2
Jeff Pendergraph 32 9.7 1.6 3.4 45.9 0.1 0.1 66.7 0.5 0.5 94.1 0.8 2.0 2.8 0.4 0.6 0.1 0.3 1.3 3.7
Sam Young 49 12.7 1.1 2.8 39.0 0.3 1.0 32.7 0.4 0.7 54.3 0.5 1.8 2.3 0.8 0.6 0.3 0.2 1.0 2.9
Ben Hansbrough 26 7.0 0.5 1.4 32.4 0.2 0.8 30.0 0.6 0.8 72.7 0.0 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.2 0.0 0.8 1.8
Miles Plumlee 12 3.8 0.2 1.3 12.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 75.0 0.9 0.8 1.7 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.4 0.6

Bold Prediction

At some point in the second or fourth quarter, all four brothers will be on the court.

One of the four (either Markieff or Tyler) will have a significant game, while the other three lay an egg.

Lindsey Hunter was talking small victories and Goran Dragic praised Markieff Morris' effort.

PHOENIX – Lindsey Hunter likes the Indiana Pacers. They’re the well-rounded offensive attack anchored by the NBA’s best defense that the Suns interim coach, as you might expect knowing...

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The Phoenix Suns put up the good fight like they have been able to do in the season's second half against playoff-quality teams, but this time they played a team (the Indiana Pacers) more than ready to fight back hard.

The Indiana Pacers are a tough team. They hit you, they poke at the ball with their long arms and they fight for position on each end of the floor. To top it off, they have excellent execution of their offense, which is heavily based on inside-out scoring. Their shots are high-percentage taken by confident shooters.

Yet the Suns, behind "Rocky" (Goran Dragic), kept fighting back. Dragic scored 9 big points in the middle of the fourth to pull the Suns to within 1 before the Pacers got lucky on a tough call for a foul on a George three-pointer.

George made all three, but then the Suns used some nifty passing to get an old-fashioned three-point play by O'Neal.

The Pacers kept getting offensive rebounds and drawing fouls though, which helped them keep their slim lead. The Pacers made 9 straight free throws without a field goal, while the Suns missed shots, and took a 6-point lead before West nailed the coffin with a jumper.

Goran Dragic had 21 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in his return to the lineup. And he could have had half a dozen more assists if the Pacers hadn't been so good at stripping the ball and blocking shots at the hoop.

In the first half, the Pacers used their quick length to outrebound (27-19 advantage at halftime) the smaller and/or slower-to-the-ball Suns. Hamed Haddadi and Jermaine O'Neal had the size but not the quickness, while Markieff Morris and Luis Scola just didn't have the size to out-jump the Pacers for contested rebounds.

The Suns stayed in the game by making jump shots to the tune of an unusual 48% at halftime, and by hustling in a way they seem to only reserve for playoff-level opponents lately. Head coach Lindsey Hunter has "no earthly idea" why the Suns can't play this hard against easier competition, but they don't. They seem determined to put out only the minimum effort they think they need, which is almost always not enough.

"I think a lot of times, they don't understand what maximum effort means," Hunter said before the game about the up and down effort the young guys have displayed. "We have to show them, teach them, about not giving up on a play. A lot of guys have never heard that before. Just because you hit a screen, that doesn't mean the play's over."

These young guys were the stars of their high school teams, their AAU teams, their college teams even. Now in the NBA, they are just... players. Not stars. And guys who are not stars need to exert more effort than those who are. And those who are stars are playing pretty darn hard every second too.

Goran Dragic knows this.

"He'll kill himself if you let him," Hunter said of Dragic. "He'll never say he's beat up. He'll just walk around looking real bad, but not talking about it."

The Suns started the second half on fire, but were held back by fouls after they'd pulled within 2. Dragic had his fourth foul within three minutes of the second half.

After the Suns pulled to within one, the Pacers went on a run while Dragic took a seat to nurse his four fouls. Kendall Marshall didn't do much better, getting his third foul by mid-quarter. George Hill was working these guys hard with contact.

The Pacers pulled away in the third and kept the lead between 5-10 points despite the Suns hustling as hard as they could really play.

The Pacers just do it better. The Pacers were highly engaged too, as a matter of fact. They played chippy. And they used their long arms to contest every dribble, every pass and every shot.

At the end of three, it was 86-76 Pacers with 40 of their points in the paint.

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