Anytime two teams that combine to be 20 games under .500 meet up it brings up a big game feel. Or maybe it is anytime the Phoenix Suns (15-30) host the Los Angeles Lakers (20-25) there is a remembrance of a rivalry now buried in wet ash.

Then there is the added element of Steve Nash with his first game back in the Valley, Mike D'Antoni coaching up the resurgent Lakers, and Earl Clark playing some inspired basketball as of late. All former Suns.

In the end it will be about "Beat L.A." and "We Miss You Steve" dominating the arena sound as the Suns try to end a two game slide that coincides with the Lakers current three game winning streak. The Lakers brought over Nash this past summer, on July 4th, in return the Suns received a protected pick, that will be in the lottery, as long as the Lakers are there too.

This game is important on that level to where you want the Suns to improve their draft status, develop players, and get better by getting worse, but beating LA breaks all of those rules.

They need to give the Lakers as many losses as they can to do everything in their power to retain the pick. That is the only thing they control outside of their own record this season. Getting two lottery picks, one in the Top 5 and the other in the Top 14, is paramount in the rebuild. More assets, more opportunity to get better.

After two days off from the Texas Miss Step over the weekend the team should be focused and come in swinging for the fences with all the motivation in the world. They are on National TV (ESPN) for the second time in as many home games.

There are too many storylines on the table and this is a game created that almost seems to be created in an ESPN production meeting rather than on an NBA calendar.

(Recent) History Lesson

On the season the teams have faced each other once, a 114-102 Lakers win, that was so far back in the season that each team was just under .500 coming into the game.

Kobe dominated the scoring column with 31 points, Clark played 48 seconds, and Nash didn't even suit up due to injury. The Suns were coached by Alvin Gentry and were still starting Michael Beasley. Again, not much to take away from that game other than Kobe did what Kobe normally does.

Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)

Suns: 105.79 PPG (6 wins)

Lakers: 111.68 PPG (13 wins)

2010 Western Conference Semi's Lakers won 4-2 (Included in the totals above)

Head-to-Head (career)

Kobe Bryant vs. Suns: 26.8 PPG 5.0 APG 46.9 FG% (57 games)

Jared Dudley vs. Lakers: 10.1 PPG 3.9 RPG 49.2 FG% (17 games)

In a word, Bryant torches the Suns, and that is not a good thing when you are facing him four times a year minimum.

One thing that has to be said about Kobe distributing the ball more as of late. In his past three games he has dished out 39 total assists, all Lakers wins. It took Kobe nine games to get 39 assists (41 to be exact) before this stretch. Typically the Lakers are a better team when Kobe is a facilitator because he can get his literally whenever he wants. For his career he has 83 games with 10+ assists including the Playoffs. The Lakers as a team respond well to that going 57-26 in those games.

That is a seasons worth of data. The Lakers could be a 68.6% winning team if Kobe did this nightly, sort of like what Nash did here.

Starting Line-Ups

PG - Goran Dragic v. Steve Nash

SG - Jared Dudley v. Kobe Bryant

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Ron Artest

PF - Luis Scola v. Earl Clark

C - Marcin Gortat v. Dwight Howard

Potential Suns Inactives: Jermaine O'Neal (Irregular Heart Beat)

Potential Lakers Inactives: Jordan Hill (Hip Surgery)

Key Match-Up

Luis Scola vs. Earl Clark

Right now Clark is playing some inspired basketball including nine starts in his last ten games where he has put up some very respectable numbers, 11 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and shooting 49.5% from the field. That is sort of what the Suns thought they got when they drafted Clack 14th Overall in 2009. Three teams later and Clark has become a starter surrounded by Hall of Fame talent, which is something the Suns have to key in on.

If Scola and the rest of the team forgets about Clark he can knock down four threes like he did last night, crash the glass for a put back, or even take over the game for the first time ever in Phoenix.

Interesting Stat: 37.7

In 57 career games against the Phoenix Suns Bryant is averaging 37.7 combined points, assists, and rebounds which is his fourth highest total against any opponent. Again, not a good thing when you are also the team he faces four times a year and the 80 (including playoffs) total match-ups, sixth most of any team he has ever played.

Meaningless Stat: 1-6

The Lakers are 1-6 against the Suns specifically when Kobe goes for 10+ assists in a game. The one win? It came in the Playoffs in 2005. So there is that.

Time: 8:30 p.m. MST TV: ESPN With two losses following two wins, the Lindsey Hunter honeymoon phase is over. That’s unfortunate, because the Suns would love to pretend they’ve moved on...

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Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode Seven


Link to full image (image courtesy of Kris Habbas)


Garrett was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam and played hist first game on Jan. 11. He came off the bench for the first two games, but by the third he had earned the starting point guard spot and held onto it for the rest of his stint. He put up solid numbers and helped his team win. After watching all of two of his games and at least a quarter of the others, I believe he can do that for the Suns as well, albeit it to a lesser extent.

But first, let's take a look at how he played.

Stat Lines

  • 1/11, W117-104 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders: 20 MIN off the bench, 17 PTS, 6-9 FG (3-3 3FG), 2-2 FT, 7 AST, 3 TO, 1 REB, 4 STL, -2
  • 1/12 W95-84 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders: 24 MIN off the bench, 11 PTS, 4-11 FG (3-4 3FG), 4 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, +4
  • 1/18 W126-115 vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants: First start, 37 MIN, 18 PTS, 8-17 FG (0-3 3FG), 2-2 FT, 10 AST, 0 TO, 2 REB, 1 STL, +9
  • 1/21 W99-89 vs. Santa Cruz Warriors: Started, 33 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-17 FG (0-1 3FG), 3-5 FT, 6 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, 3 STL, +18
  • 1/23 W107-101 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders: Started, 34 MIN, 14 PTS, 6-15 FG (0-1 3FG), 2-2 FT, 7 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, +1
  • 1/25 W102-86 vs. Reno Bighorns: Started, 34 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-9 FG, 1-2 FT, 10 AST, 5 TO, 3 REB, 3 STL, +22
  • 1/26 L105-111 vs. Reno Bighorns: Started, 39 MIN, 22 PTS, 9-15 FG (4-4 3FG), 8 AST, 4 TO, 3 REB, 1 STL, +2
  • Averages: 32 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 46.2 FG%, 62.5 3FG% (10-16), 76.9 FT% (10-13), 7.4 APG, 2.1 TPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG, +54

A couple numbers jump out to me here. The first is the 3-point shooting. He shot an incredible 10-16 from deep in his seven D-League games, but even more interesting is the fact that all 10 of his makes came in three games. He shot 3-3 in his first game, 3-4 in the next and 4-4 in his last one. In the other four games in between he went 0-5 and didn't even attempt one in his sixth game.

Second, the assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5 is a solid number for a guard. He had two big turnover games of five and four, but he also had three games with only one turnover and another one where he dished out 10 assists without turning it over a single time. From watching him play, Garrett does a very nice job of taking care of the ball and finding the open man.


Garrett's strengths start with his physical tools. He has excellent size for an NBA point guard at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, and solid speed and quickness.

But beyond the physical tools, he just knows how to play the game. He is definitely a point guard who can run a team and get shots for himself and others. More specifically, he's a specific kind of point guard: a drive-and-kick point guard. Garrett's game is all about getting into the paint and making things happen.He penetrates in a variety of ways: pushing the ball in transition, using a quick first step to get past his man and attacking the defense in pick-and-roll situations.

Garrett has solid court vision, which he uses to find lanes to the basket and to hit the open man when the defense collapses on him. Garrett drove and kicked out to open shooters more than anything else during his stint, and that worked well with a Bakersfield starting lineup that featured two stretch big men in the starting frontcourt.

It only took Garrett two games to earn the starting gig, and quickly asserted himself as a leader on the court. He ran the offense as a point guard, but was a very willing passer and often moved the ball an gave other guys a chance to make a play.

He's also a guy who will stay engaged off the ball on both ends. He has good instincts and uses his length well to get into passing lanes (hence the 1.7 steals per game), is a good cutter offensively and isn't afraid to sneak into the paint and fight for rebounds on either end.

Shooting is one of the things that Garrett needed to work on the most coming out of college, an it definitely looks like he has improved. He knocked down his open 3-pointers at a high rate and also showed a fairly reliable pull-up mid-range jumper.


Garrett has appeared to have improved his shooting, but it's difficult to draw any long-term conclusions about the reliability of his deep ball. As I mentioned above, he either shot a bunch or he barely shot at all. From what I noticed, he doesn't really look for the 3-ball. He'd rather move the ball or attack when he gets it on the perimeter. But if he is open in a catch-and-shoot situation, or even off of an occasional pick-and-roll where the defender goes under the screen, he can knock it down. So while he shot over 60 percent from deep in his seven games, he's not any kin of 3-point specialist.

Defensively, he was difficult to evaluate as Bakersfield played a lot of match-up zone, meaning he wasn't asked to lock down any particular player. He did show versatility in guarding both point guards and shooting guards (his backcourt mate Jerel McNeal is a smallish combo-guard). I did see him get blown by a couple times, but I think those were more lapses and him getting caught off guard than him not being able to move his feet. He has excellent length and solid quickness, so he should be able to at the very least do a solid job defensively/

Garrett's biggest weakness is his ability to finish around the basket, and it is this weakness that limits his upside. While he has solid speed and great length, Garrett lacks explosiveness when going up to finish. He doesn't elevate very quickly or powerfully, and this leads to him missing some easier looks or taking tough shots after an initial good move to the basket. Complicating his lack of explosiveness is his lack of strength, as he is only 185 pounds or so and doesn't have the sort of wiry strength that other skinny guards may possess. These two factors really limit his upside as a scorer, and if teams decide to play him straight up and force him to try to finish, the kick-out won't be there for him.

He needs to first of all continue to work on his body and add some muscle to his frame, and second develop a better arsenal of finishing moves around the basket. If you can't go up and dunk everything, you have to do be more crafty with some scoops and floaters.

Kendall Marshall

Rookie lottery pick Kendall Marshall spent some time with Bakersfield earlier in the season, and after a good start his stay did not go quite as well as Garrett's. However, the two players are at different stages in their careers at this point an comparing them directly is not all that fair. Marshall spent two years in college before declaring for the NBA Draft, while Garrett played all four years at Iowa State and spent last season honing his game overseas. Garrett is much closer to a finished product than Marshall is right now and is more ready to play. Garret's stint was about getting a chance to play, showing what he can do and fine-tuning his game. Marshall's stint was more about experimentation. Marshall is still trying to find his game at the NBA level, while Garrett already knows who he is.

How Does Garrett Fit In?

Garrett has been officially recalled by the Sun and will be on the roster for the Suns' next game. Whether or not he is active I do not know, although I believe he should be. I think it's time to give him a shot. Shannon Brown is not really helping this team and should not be part of the team moving forward. However, I do believe there is a spot in this league for Garrett, and I wouldn't mind for that to be with the Suns.

Garrett is actually comparable to Goran Dragic in a lot of ways. What separates them is Dragic's explosiveness, but Garrett can step in off the bench and play a similar role to Dragic. He's big enough to defend a lot of shooting guards, particularly ones coming off the bench, and playing him next to Sebastian Telfair could help jump start the Suns' bench on both ends. Garrett would relieve Bassy of some of the playmaking duties an allow him to spot up on the perimeter and put his good 3-point shooting this year to use.

I don't know if Garrett will be able to get into the paint as well or as often against NBA athleticism, but at this point in the season I'm willing to get him out there and find out. Garrett isn't ever going to be a star, but I do think he has some promise as a solid role player off the bench. On a team with so many negatives in the second unit, a guy who is willing to do his job and play his role can go a long way.


The 2013 NBA Draft has been widely rumored to be shallow in upper-end talent. At this point, there is no clear franchise-changer like Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, or even Brittany Griner.

But there certainly are potential boom-bust guys out there. We don't know if a James Harden (#3 in his draft) or Stephen Curry (#7) or DeMarcus Cousins (#5) or Damian Lillard (#6) will emerge as All-Star talents after the fact, or if teams at the top of the draft will be stuck with a Derrick Williams (#2), Hasheem Thabeet (#3), Tristan Thompson (#4), Jan Vesely (#6) or a Wesley Johnson (#4) or Michael Beasley (#2).

All we know is that the more chances you get to draft a star, the better your chances to land one. (Cap'n Obvious reporting for duty!)

The Phoenix Suns have the potential for two lottery picks in the 2013 draft, plus potentially a third pick in the 20s.

The Suns have their own, which lately projects to be anywhere from #1 overall to #7 depending on how lucky the Suns are in the lottery ball tournament.

The Suns also have a pick from the Lakers. If the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns get their lottery pick outright. If the Lakers make the playoffs, the Suns get the worst of theirs and Miami's. Miami's projects to be in the bottom 2 or 3 of the first round.

The Suns also have Memphis' pick this year, but only if Minnesota MAKES the playoffs. If the T-wolves miss the playoffs, the Suns will get their pick as soon as they do make it (hopefully in 2014).

Let's take a look at each team's projected chances to make the playoffs with nearly half the season left to play.


Basketball-reference runs a 1,000-plus simulations on every team's schedule for the rest of the season and predicts playoff chances. Obviously, the fewer remaining games the better the prediction.

However, they've been really accurate in recent seasons. Teams with a 90+% chance at this point in the season are virtual locks for the playoffs. That leaves only the 8th spot open.

The Suns

As of today, the Suns project to be second-worst in the West because they have a much easier schedule than Sacramento down the stretch. March is a particularly easy month for the Suns.

The Lakers

The Lakers have a better chance today to make the playoffs than they did a week ago, but still less than 1 on 3 shot to make it. The Jazz appear to be their only true competition for the 8th spot and have a tougher remaining schedule, but their current 5-win lead gives them the final edge.

Note that it currently only appears to require 42-43 wins to make the playoffs in the West this year, after needing a full-season average of 48 wins the last several seasons. It's a down year in the West.

If the Lakers can go 24-14, they have a good shot to make the postseason.

Even those of you wanting the Suns to tank should definitely root for the Suns to somehow beat the Lakers this season at least once.

The T-Wolves

The Timberwolves appear totally out of the postseason picture, with only a 1.5% chance of making it at this point. They have endured lots of injuries, which has caught up with them big time.

This is a good thing for Suns fans though. The Wolves lottery-protected pick rolls over for up to 4 years. As soon as the Wolves make the playoffs, it's the Suns' pick. With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio healthy for only one full season, that should be an easy target.

If Minny had made it this season, the Suns would get the WORST of theirs and Memphis - which is currently projected to be a pick in the 20-25 range. If Minny makes the playoffs next season, the Suns get Minny's pick outright which should be in the teens (in a better draft) rather than the 20s of a weak draft.

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