As many know, the Phoenix Suns could have as many as four first round picks in the 2014 draft, but three of them are "protected" if the other team fails to make the playoffs. Let's take a look at what happens then.

On opening night of the 2013-14 season, the Phoenix Suns' prospects in the 2014 and 2015 NBA Draft looked golden. In fact, the mother ship ranked the Suns' draft future as "by far" the brightest of all NBA teams. The Suns were projected to have their own Top 10 picks, plus up to four more in the back half of the first round.

After trading Steve Nash, Robin Lopez and Sebastian Telfair in 2012-13 for three future first round picks and three second round picks*, and then Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat for two more first rounders, the Suns are rolling in picks.

*More credit should be given to Lon Babby for his work before McDonough ever showed up. In 2013, the Suns already nabbed 19-year old Archie Goodwin and helped finalize the Eric Bledsoe trade with two of the Lakers' and Toronto picks acquired for Nash and Telfair. I think Suns fans will agree that if the Lakers had picked up Archie Goodwin with their #30 pick this year we'd all be shaking our heads at their luck once again.

That leaves four future firsts still on the table, but with heavy protections. All but the Lakers' 2015 pick and the Suns own picks are guaranteed to be outside the Top 10 of any draft for several years.

Here is a breakdown, thanks to

2014 first round draft pick from Minnesota
Minnesota's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-13 in 2014, 1-12 in 2015 or 1-12 in 2016; if Minnesota has not conveyed a 1st round pick to Phoenix by 2016, then Minnesota will instead convey its 2016 2nd round pick and 2017 2nd round pick to Phoenix [Minnesota-New Orleans-Phoenix, 7/27/2012]

2014 first round draft pick from Washington
Washington's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-12 in 2014, 1-10 in 2015, 1-10 in 2016, 1-10 in 2017, 1-10 in 2018 or 1-10 in 2019 or unprotected in 2020 [Phoenix-Washington, 10/25/2013]

2014 first round draft pick from Indiana
Indiana's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-14 in 2014, 1-14 in 2015, 1-14 in 2016, 1-14 in 2017, 1-14 in 2018 or 1-14 in 2019 or unprotected in 2020 [Indiana-Phoenix, 7/28/2013]

2015 first round draft pick from L.A. Lakers
L.A. Lakers' 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-5 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016 or 1-3 in 2017 or unprotected in 2018 [L.A. Lakers-Phoenix, 7/11/2012]

The nature of protected picks is that they roll over to the next year if not conveyed in the first year. Minnesota's has already rolled over from 2013 when they didn't make the playoffs.

The good news is that only the Minny pick turns into a pumpkin if the Wolves never get better. All the others will eventually convey to Phoenix.

If Minny never sniffs the playoffs through 2016, then their #1 turns into a couple of #2s. That's not the end of the world. The Suns used a #2 to acquire Marcus Morris last year, and used another #2 to seal the Bledsoe deal this summer (pick went to Milwaukee in the three-way trade).

All of the other owed picks not only roll over, but they get better and better.

Thanks to the Lakers' re-signing Kobe Bryant to a cap-killing contract yesterday, the Laker pick should be very, very good in the coming years. It's only top-5 protected in 2015, then top-3 for two years and finally unprotected in 2018.

Both Washington and Indiana will eventually give the Suns an unprotected pick if they suck for seven straight seasons.

While the Suns just might have a year-long competitive team in 2013-14 and beyond, taking them out of the lottery, at least they've got some help from other teams in the second half of the first round in coming years.

A lot of very good players have been taken in the 10-30 range, though it takes a lot more skill and luck to find gems outside the Top 5. But also, all those first rounders and second rounders are just more assets to use to acquire that next superstar. It's time the Suns "trade up" to better talent, and all those picks are a great way to sweeten the deals.

There are more pluses in the win column for the team this year and even with a sub-.500 week their were some positives, a similar resilience, and a quality rebound to a four game losing streak...

The Phoenix Suns (7-7) are simply maintaining. They lost two games they probably should have won, then won two games they normally would have lost, and then had the hammer dropped down on them by the Basketball King himself to close out a long week of hoops.

Game Recaps

@ Sacramento Kings - L (107-104) Full Recap

vs. Sacramento - L (113-106) Full Recap

@ Charlotte Bobcats - W (98-91) Full Recap

@ Orlando Magic - W (104-96) Full Recap

@ Miami Heat - L (107-92) Full Recap

This week the Suns took a step back doing the things that made them tough early in the season, while continuing to highlight their weaknesses. On the week they were a collective -10 in rebounding and -3 in total team assists. Team basketball on both ends is what made them tough. Some nights it was Miles Plumlee dominating, others it was Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, or someone else. They play as a team.

When they do not play as a team the turnovers pile up, which happened this week with a -9 total differential.

One good thing that came out of this week was that the team is slowly finding out that Greens are better served as a starter rather than a reserve.

The team is 5-4 with Green in the starting line-up -- 3-1 with Bledsoe and 2-3 with Dragic, but overall better. On the season they are 2-3 with him coming off the bench and the numbers do not lie.

Starter 17.1 3.4 2.1 46.6% 40.1% 15/18
Reserve 11.6 2.4 0.4 41.1% 39.7% 7/11

Clearly Dragic has earned his starting spot and the Suns did not acquire Bledsoe to play him in the same role as he had on the Clippers. Those two are investments that have to start, but where does Green fit in? P.J. Tucker is thriving in his role and is making shots, spreading the floor, and doing all the little things for the team.

When Bledsoe comes back the team will have an abundance of perimeter players when you consider the recent play of rookie Archie Goodwin. Who would have thought that at the beginning of the season; The Suns have too many quality perimeter players?

Key Stat

Miles Plumlee's +/-

This week was a step back for the surprise of the year for the Suns, Miles Plumlee. He was not effective against Kings star DeMarcus Cousins netting a -30 in the home-and-home with them for 46 points 24 rebounds and 30 total free-throw attempts. In the two wins he was ineffective as well at a collective 0 on the plus/minus playing Nikola Vucevic and Al Jefferson to near dead heat. Against the actual Heat he was a -7 playing out of his element with big men that stepped out on the perimeter taking away his ability to block shots and rebound the ball.

Plumlee has had a great start to the season, but this week a collective -37 in five games was by far his toughest outing to date.

Quote of the Week

I thought earlier in the season Miles said it great. He played 50 minutes last year and he goes, 'I wasn't just sitting over there watching the games, I was watching the game and trying to study it.' Hopefully Archie, Alex and the rest of these young guys are doing that. Even for veteran guys, when you are on the bench it is a time to watch what is going on and pick something up for later in the game. Maybe Cousins did that. Maybe from watching the game the game from the bench he saw Goran coming off of pick-and-rolls and thought late in the game I can jump him and surprise him. I don't know if he did that or not... but if you are going to be on the bench you are not just there trying to watch the game. -- Coach Jeff Hornacek on learning from watching on the bench

2014 NBA Draft Update

Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns are still without a lottery pick and with the current projections they do not own four picks yet. It was a pipe-dream to begin the season, but still something to root for. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:

Washington Wizards (5-8) -- No. 9 Overall (Pick stays in Washington based on Protections) Right now the No. 9 Overall prospect on the NDI Big Board is James Young of Kentucky. Dynamic scorer on the perimeter, smooth lefty, and really good shooter.

Minnesota Timberwolves (8-8) -- No. 12 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) The T-Wolves have fallen off as of late keeping this pick in the Twin Cities. Right now the No. 12 Overall prospect is Dario Saric, Croatian point-forward. Saric has been on the radar for a while and should make the jump to the NBA Draft this summer.

Suns (7-7) -- No. 14 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) ...more on Saric here because this is where I have him falling in the Mock Draft. Montrezl Harrell is an option here as well, but the skill and potential of Saric as a play-maker is too much to pass on at this point in a draft.

Indiana Pacers (13-1) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) The team can take a hard swing here and add a need. Some options that could be on the radar here are Aaron Harrison, Mitch McGary, or the player slotted in the Mock Draft, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas.

News & Notes

Eric Bledsoe continued his run on the inactive list which now sits at five games after missing all five games last week. The team was 2-3 in his absence and competitive, but the Suns ascension coincided with the play with of Bledsoe. He could return to action as soon as this Wednesday at home versus the streaking Blazers.

Suns History Lesson

This week (December 1st to be exact) the 1992-1993 Suns began a 14 game winning streak that propelled them to the best record, not only in the Western Conference, but in the NBA.  During that winning streak the Suns knocked off multiple playoff teams and scored 103+ points in every game. That was the Suns longest winning streak in franchise history until the Seven Seconds or Less group won 17 in a row roughly 13 years later.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, November 27th vs. Portland Trail Blazers (13-2)

Friday, November 29th @ Utah Jazz (2-14)

Saturday, November 30th vs. Utah (2-14)

This week lines up like the inverse of last week with a team at the top of the standings to start the week and a bottom tier team in a home-and-home to end the week. This could be a redeeming week for the team. They are 1-1 on the season against the Trail Blazers (1-0 at home) and played them down to the final buzzer on the road. LaMarcus Aldridge does not seem to play well against the Suns shooting about 4% off his career average, scoring about 2 less points a game, and grabbing about a 1.5 less rebounds.

The Jazz have been slowly circling the drain all season, but with Trey Burke recently added into the mix this team might start looking like a team soon... 1-1 with Burke as a starter and 1-11 without him in general.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

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The Phoenix Suns want to be a good team. The Miami HEAT ARE a good team. In fact, the HEAT are a great team, and the Suns saw that greatness for a deciding five minute stretch crossing the third and fourth quarters when the HEAT pulled away.

The Phoenix Suns suffered their worst loss of the season on Monday night, dropping a road game to the Miami HEAT 107-92. The game was close until the end of the third quarter when Miami woke up to play their best ball while the Suns faded.

LeBron James (35 points), Dwyane Wade (21, 12, 6) and Ray Allen (17) killed the Suns all game long.

Well guess what. The Phoenix Suns were not favored to win on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back, third road game in four days, with the defending champion HEAT rested since Friday.

Even the best Suns teams of the past decade would be forgiven for this loss. Even a blowout. Suns fans would curse the schedule makers and chalk up the loss as "given the circumstances."

So how could a rebuilding Suns team, missing their best player in Eric Bledsoe, even hope to put up a fight against the HEAT, who on purpose put their name in all caps on their logo, website and merchandise? How could an All-Star-free Suns team deign to play as good as a team boasting 3, maybe 4, Hall of Famers?

The Suns DID put up that fight. For nearly three quarters, that is.

First Half

Will the Suns show up with their energy and scrappiness, or wilt under the pressure of playing the champs?

Miami came out with a defensive focus, bringing hard double-teams on the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, switching on ball screens to force Phoenix into difficult offensive possessions. Still, the Suns held close and even kept the game tied through late in the first quarter, when LeBron James sat down for a rest.

But both teams went to their bench, that's when Miami got some separation. Behind Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Anderson, the HEAT picked up their pace and ran out to a 9-point lead (38-29) before the starters returned to the game. Archie Goodwin made rookie mistakes - airballing a three, fouling Ray Allen on a drive.

The Suns allowed themselves to be relegated to long jumpers, which missed, while Miami ran the ball right to the rim. Only Miles Plumlee's strong post defense on Miami's repeated passes into the paint held the game as close as it was.

The LeBron returned, as did the Suns' starters, and somehow the Suns scrapped their way back to a tie right before halftime on a strong effort from Markieff Morris (8 points, 7 rebounds in the second quarter alone). Former Suns player Michael Beasley had 4 points and a rebound in the second quarter.

After LeBron sized up and drained a long three at the halftime buzzer, Miami only led by 3 points.

Goran Dragic had 6 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists at the half.

Third Quarter

The question has to be asked: at what point do the HEAT wake up and play their best ball, or do they keep sleepwalking through the game expecting an easy win?

Because certainly, the Suns are not getting the HEAT team that won the Finals last year.

Still, give the Suns credit for hanging tough, regardless of the circumstances. They don't care who they are playing (except maybe Archie Goodwin, who made a lot of rookie mistakes in that half) - they just want to scrap to win.

Miami came out strong in the third quarter behind the "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all scoring in the first couple of minutes. Especially, Dwyane Wade. He was on fire. He made 8 of his first 11 shots in the game to help Miami keep the lead.

But the Suns wouldn't go away. They made some threes and stayed close, but missed a lot of them as well. The Suns missed several open threes that would have given them a lead, but still made enough shots to keep the game close.

Gotta give the undermanned Suns, missing their best player, a lot of credit for not caring who opponent was, and just playing the game.

The LeBron James awoke. He scored at will on one end while the Suns started missing shots, and the HEAT built a 9-point lead going into the fourth quarter. James, Wade and Bosh combined for 21 of the HEAT's 29 third quarter points.

The Suns, on the other hand, took 14 three pointers in the third quarter alone, making only 4 of them (versus making 5 of 9 inside the arc). Miami was daring the Suns to make a three, and the Suns ran cold after a while.

Fourth Quarter

Will the Suns fight back once again, or will the third game in four nights on the road smack them in the face against a tough, rested Miami team?

Finally, the Suns just didn't have it. Relying on guys like Ish Smith and Archie Goodwin to fight Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen is not quite fair. This is where the Suns just don't match up at this point.

Markieff Morris had a great second quarter, but just didn't have the same impact in the second half. None of the other Suns did either.

The HEAT just were too good, and once they flexed their best play the Suns didn't have much of a chance.

The lead was up to 15 within four minutes and the Suns never got within 8 again.

Excitement occurred when Wade hard-fouled Marcus Morris on a corner three attempt. Later, as the Suns tried to inch back in the game, Morris again was fouled on a three. Each time, he made 2 of 3 free throws.

Stat lines:

  • Channing Frye had a solid game with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
  • Goran Dragic nearly had a triple double: 14 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.
  • The Morris brothers combined for another double-double with 25 total points (12 on free throws, each going 6-8) and 14 rebounds.
  • As a team, the Suns made only 8 of 32 three points attempts, and shot 39.8% overall against Miami's stifling D.
  • LeBron James had 35 points on 11 of 14 shooting on field goals and made all 11 free throws.
  • Dwyane Wade had 21 points (9 of 13 shooting), 12 assists and 3 rebounds.
  • This was the Suns first 8+ point loss.
For the first time this season, the Phoenix Suns let a game get away from them. The Miami Heat, led by a 11-point fourth quarter from LeBron James, used its usual second half push on Monday to...

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The Suns have already hung with San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Portland in narrow losses on the road this season and tonight they face another litmus test when the play the Heat in Miami. Can the Suns finally break through and win an away game against one of the elite teams in the NBA?

When: Monday November 25, 2013, 5:30 PM local time (7:30 EST)

Where: American Airlines Arena (The Triple AAA) Miami, Florida

Watch/Listen: TV: Fox Sports AZ Radio: 620 KTAR


Last Meeting:

In a game that should have nugatory impact on tonight's result, Miami beat the Suns in Phoenix 97-88 back on November 17, 2012.  Yes, it's been over a calendar year since these teams have played.  The Suns actually held their own in the game, and Goran Dragic pulled the team within two on a layup with 2:11 left, but the Heat ran off seven unanswered points to close things out.  Chris Bosh led all players with 24 points and nine rebounds while LeBron James chipped in 21 points and seven boards.  Dwyane Wade did not play in the game.

Phoenix only features three holdovers from last season's contest.  Goran Dragic had 12 points and a game high eight assists, Markieff Morris scored 16 and pulled down four boards and P.J. Tucker had two points, one rebound and four fouls.  Not P.J.'s best effort.  Hopefully all three head into tonight's game ready to best these totals.


Team Bios:

Miami Heat: 10-3

Points per game: 106.6 (4) Points allowed: 97.3 (8)

ORtg: 114.2 (1) DRtg: 104.2 (12)

Full team statistics.

Miami has run off six straight wins and nine out of 10 after two surprising losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.  In fact, with Miami's other loss coming to Boston that makes the combined record of the teams they have lost to 14-29.  They've lost those games by a combined six points.  The Heat most recently faced the same Orlando Magic team the Suns dispatched last night and beat them by two points on Saturday, but this was after a 28 point romp over them three days earlier.  Five of Miami's 10 victories have been by double digits.

LeBron is still the main attraction on South Beach (but for how long?) and is off to another amazing start.  Although some of his numbers are actually slightly down, he is compensating for that by shooting 60% from the field and 49% from three point range in the early going.  This emphasizes a team wide phenomenon, as the Heat tout 52% FG and 44% 3FG shooting heading into the game.  This should provide a true test for Phoenix, who has not allowed an opponent to shoot 50% from the field this season.

The Heat also come into this game with the asset of rest, having only played once in the past five days.  Conversely, the Suns are on their third game in four nights.  Miami will hope they can slow down the road weary Suns, who lead the league in fast break points per game (22.2) while Miami is just 24th (10.5).


Phoenix Suns: 7-6

Points per game: 101.1 (14) Points allowed: 97.6 (9)

ORtg: 104.1 (15) DRtg: 101.6 (8)

Full team statistics.

The Suns 7-6 start is their best since the 2009-10 season, which was also the last time they made the playoffs.  And despite the organization using very measured language in elucidating their goals for the season before it began, people are taking notice of a surprising (to most) Suns team that is turning heads with their scrappy persona.  There is a palpable level of fierce competitiveness being displayed as the Suns are playing all four quarters of basketball every night and are never out of a game.

The Suns are currently 2-0 on their Eastern road trip after convincing victories over Charlotte and Orlando, helping to dispel notions that the team would flounder during the absence of starting (point?) guard Eric Bledsoe.  In his absence, Dragic has risen to the occasion by averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 assists per game.  He has had help from a couple teammates that have given solid contributions over the last four games.  Marcus Morris has led the bench with 14 points per game, and has done so on superb 62% shooting from the field (including 55% from three).  Meanwhile, Gerald Green is scoring 20 points a night while pouring in volume three point shooting at a 42% clip.  Green has taken 33 three point shots the last four games and has hit at least four in a game three times.

The dominant character traits of the Suns' personality are still hustle and defense.  Their impressive DRtg (8th overall) is bulwarked by holding opponents to the third lowest three point field goal % (.325) in the league.  After allowing a season high 113 points to Sacramento last Wednesday the Suns have responded by holding their next two opponents under 100 points.


What To Watch For:

Perimeter D vs. Miami from three: The Suns are allowing an exiguous .325 (3) from long distance and the Heat are shooting .439 (2).

LeBron vs. Mini LeBron: Eric Bledsoe will be a game time decision as he continues to nurse a shin bruise.  These teams only play twice, so it would be nice to get a look at these two on the court together.  It also couldn't hurt the Suns' chances of pulling an upset and EB should have fresh legs which could help with the next thing to keep an eye on.

Rested vs. Ragged: Miami has played once since last Wednesday.  The Suns are playing their third game in four nights.  Will the Suns have legs to shoot well from three?  Can they bring enough energy to stick with Miami for 48 minutes?


Useless Stat:

The Suns have righted the ship after a troubling four game losing streak.  That losing streak isn't necessarily a reason for concern, though.  Last season nine of the 16 teams that made the playoffs suffered at least a four game losing streak over the course of the season.  In fact, Golden St. and the Lakers both bookended two game winning streaks with four and six losses on each side to lose 10 out of 12 games.  2-10 in a 12 game stretch.  I think the Suns are capable of overcoming their four game hiccup.

The Final Word(s):

A win over the defending champs would really punctuate a successful road trip, and the way things have been going it wouldn't necessarily surprise me, but the Suns are already playing with house money at this point.  Miami is still the favorite here and going home after a 2-1 road trip shouldn't be any reason for the players to hang their heads.  Still, a loss here with an impending matchup against the smoking hot Blazers could keep the Suns vacillating around that .500 mark.  The simple way to put some distance between .500 on the good side is a big win tonight.

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