The Phoenix Suns will bring five guys from last year's Suns roster to Las Vegas this weekend for Summer League play, along with two of their three draftees: PG/SG Archie Goodwin (29th overall) and PF Alex Oriakhi (57th overall).
C Alex Len (5th overall) will not participate while he recovers from a stress fracture in his ankle.
New Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek and his new coaching staff will get their first chance to work with the five least-tenured Phoenix Suns players: Markieff and Marcus Morris (23 years old, third SL), Kendall Marshall (21, second SL), Diante Garrett (24, second SL) and P.J. Tucker (27, third SL). Only PF Markieff Morris has been with the Suns more than 12 months.
NBA players can join the Summer League squad up to three times. As of last month, Tucker's expected SL contribution is simply to join the practice sessions and possibly play in 1 or 2 games. Tucker is allowed to play in Summer League because this is just his third NBA offseason (1 with Toronto when he was drafted, then last summer with the Suns squad).
The young(ish) Suns get their first taste of Jeff Hornacek's planned schemes for the coming year, giving them a chance to get a leg up on training camp and the 2013-14 season over the veterans. Hornacek has indicated a desire to play a fast-paced style, and the Suns set that tone with having one of the toughest tests (a 3-minute sprint) in pre-draft workouts around the league. The acquisitions of Goodwin (draft) and Eric Bledsoe (pending trade) further cement the Suns desire to move in a faster direction.
An interesting subplot is the usage of Kendall Marshall, Archie Goodwin and Diante Garrett. The Suns want to see all three at PG, but these 40-minute games won't allow for that luxury. This may give Suns fans a chance to see how (or if) Hornacek plans to use the Suns two best players and projected starters - PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe - in a two-point-guard lineup next season.
(No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Birthdate Prior to NBA/Home Country Yrs Plyd)
BSotS' own Jim Coughenour will be in Vegas to watch games and interview players over the first weekend. He will watch the Suns opening game against Portland (with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard) as well as a number of other games.
The most important thing to remember from Summer League is that happens in Summer League stays in Summer League. It's in Vegas after all. Marcus Banks scored 44 points once. Marco Belinelli was a star. And those are two of the "here's the next ______________!"
For the Suns a summer ago, the week gave us a lot of clues.
Rookie PG Kendall Marshall was a disappointment - only looking like an NBA player in one of three games. He led the SL in assists per game, but couldn't keep opposing players in front of him on defense and couldn't buy a shot.
Markieff Morris was regularly the best player on the floor for either team, but fouled a lot and had a low conversion percentage.
Both of those developments foretold what would happen over the next season. Marshall was still an enigma and Markieff still had trouble making shots.
Both P.J. Tucker and Diante Garrett played themselves onto the Suns regular season roster based on their Summer League play, and Tucker ended up starting a lot of games. No SL = no Tucker.
After an eventful offseason the Suns now have a pretty crowded backcourt with returning starting point guard Goran Dragic, shiny new acquisition and former back-up to Chris Paul at the point in Los Angeles Eric Bledsoe, lottery pick and distribution specialist Kendall Marshall heading into his sophomore season, and newly drafted and raw project Archie Goodwin.
However, how many of these players are actually point guards? Who is good at what? Can they play together? Let's look at the numbers to find out.
**Disclaimer: In typical Jacob fashion, this ended up really long. I included tables with all the relevant numbers (stats taken from Basketball Reference and MySynergySports) if you'd like to come to your own conclusions.
First, let's take a look at the physical measurements.
|Goran Dragic||6'4"||200 lbs||Unknown|
|Eric Bledsoe||6'1.5"||192 lbs||6'7.5"|
|Kendall Marshall||6'4.25"||198 lbs||6'5.5"|
|Archie Goodwin||6'5.25"||189 lbs||6'9.5"|
With the exception of Bledsoe, Phoenix's point guards have excellent size for the position. All three of them can add some strength to their frames, but they have the height to match up with plenty of shooting guards. As for Bledsoe, at just under 6-foot-2 he lacks the height of the other three. However, he has the longest wingspan among the group and is the most athletic by far (no disrespect to Dragic or Goodwin who are great athletes in their own right, but Bledsoe is a freak). He could pester some of the more ball-dominant shooting guards in the league for stretches.
The Suns' backcourt might be a little undersized against teams that can throw bigger two-guards like Joe Johnson and Kobe Bryant out there, but in general I think these four guys have the physical tools to play at the same time.
Here's what these guys produced this past season stretched out to NBA starter's minutes to make an apples to apples comparison. Well, as apple-y as possible considering Goodwin's numbers are from playing with and against college players, but we'll make due.
Looking at these averages, Dragic comes out looking like the most impressive point guard. He gives the best combination of scoring and distributing of the four. 16 and eight are very solid numbers for a point guard, and Dragic has the best assist-to-turnover ratio of the group.
Bledsoe isn't as good offensively as Dragic is, putting up just a 15-5 per 36. He doesn't score as much as Dragic and his assist-to-turnover is pretty poor for a point guard. However, his athleticism really shines through in some of his other stats. 5.2 rebounds (including 1.8 on the offensive end) and 1.3 blocks for a 6-foot-2 guard are insane, and 2.5 steals is a really solid number as well.
Marshall is the closest to Dragic in terms of pure point guard numbers with 7.3 assists and a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. However, this number is a bit skewed. Marshall saw plenty of two to three minute garbage time stints during the season and it's hard to accumulate stats like that, especially considering who he was playing with. We saw Marshall's assists numbers hit double-digits when he was given starter's minutes when Dragic was held out. However, that doesn't quite make up for his complete lack of scoring ability. 7.3 points per 36 is just awful and he only attempts 7.7 shots. We all know Marshall has a long way to go to learn how to score, so I'm not telling you anything new.
While the numbers for the first three look at least somewhat similar, Archie Goodwin's don't look like the others at all. In fact, they look like the numbers of a shooting guard. The highest scoring average, by far the lowest assist average, a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio, good rebounding numbers... I don't see a point guard at all. To be fair, he did play most of his minutes at shooting guard when Kentucky's real point Ryan Harrow was healthy so it makes sense. One area where Goodwin shines is the ability to get to the free-throw line, with over seven attempts per 36. Too bad he wasn't able to capitalize as much as he should have with his shooting struggles.
The advanced stats reinforce most of what we see in the basic numbers above. Dragic looks good, with the highest assist percentage and lowest turnover percentage. The athleticism of Bledsoe, and to a lesser extent Goodwin, shines through in the rebounding, block and steal percentages. Dragic is tops in offensive rating and offensive win shares, while Bledsoe and Goodwin both look good on the defensive end.
One thing that all four have in common is mediocre to poor shooting percentages. Kendall Marshall can't shoot at this point and we know it; however, the others aren't much better. Dragic really struggled this year, particularly from 3-point range. Bledsoe shot a good percentage, but as you can see in the per 36 table, he took less than two threes per 36; it's not really part of his game and he's not a great shooter. Marshall and Goodwin both have broken jumpers that need plenty of work. This will be the biggest obstacle for these players to overcome in order to play together.
Let's take a closer look at how these guys play and what they're good at using numbers from MySynergySports.com.
|P&R Ball Handler||37.1||0.78||80||0.406||32.0||6.2||19.6||38.3|
The Suns ran the pick-and-roll more than any other play, with the P&R making up more than 37 percent of Dragic's offensive possessions. Unfortunately, the Suns' pick-and-roll kind of sucked this year. Spacing and great chemistry between ball-handler and roll man are the keys to the pick-and-roll, and the Suns had neither. Dragic and Marcin Gortat never really connected, and Jared Dudley was the only good 3-point shooter on the entire team. The result was teams packing the paint, and in turn a low field goal percentage and high turnover percentage for Dragic. Even so, he ended up scoring 0.78 points per possession which Synergy has ranked 80th among qualifiers. My guess is he'd be more effective under better circumstances.
Dragic is good in transition with solid numbers across the board, but he's not anything special as indicated by his PPP rank of 175. If Jeff Hornacek is able to get this team running as much as he wants to, I'd expect a bump in that 21.1 percent in terms of how many of Dragic's shots come in transition.
Where Dragic really looks good is in isolation. Iso is one of the lowest percentage types of offense, yet Dragic scores almost one point per possession in isolation and is ranked 20th overall. Dragic's athleticism and craftiness really help him here. Another thing I like here is that Dragic only isolates on 7.9 percent of his possessions. He usually moves the ball or looks to make a play rather than holding it and forcing something himself.
Dragic is decent off the ball as a spot-up shooter and running off screens. He shot almost 40 percent from deep as a spot-up shooter, although he struggled with his jumper in every other facet of the game.
|P&R Ball Handler||30.8||0.75||101||41.0||44.4||4.0||17.8||37.2|
Bledsoe didn't run the pick-and-roll quite as much as Dragic did, but he was almost as effective. The biggest difference between the two is Dragic's ability to draw more fouls than Bledsoe. Bledsoe shot much better from three, but only took nine attempts.
Despite his athleticism, Bledsoe really isn't very good on the break. His wild style of play and lack of control at times leads to a high turnover rate and tougher shots than you'd like to see.
Bledsoe isolates more than Dragic, although he's not nearly as good at just 0.77 points per possession.
Bledsoe isn't very good as a spot-up shooter either. It appears as if he has some redeeming value with his 3-point stroke, but again, those attempts are limited and selective.
Bledsoe is really effective as a cutter off the ball, however. He shoots over 65 percent and scores 1.29 points per possession. He's a real weapon off the ball.
|P&R Ball Handler||27.8||0.41||197||26.2||18.2||0.0||28.8||18.6|
Marshall was surprisingly effective off the ball as a spot-up shooter and running off screens. His on the ball numbers are horrific however. He really is awful at scoring the ball right now.
I unfortunately don't have access to college Synergy numbers. However, the guys over at Draft Express do. Here's the relevant numbers that I was able to find in DX's write-up on Goodwin.
Transition made up 27 percent of Goodwin's offense, which means he should fit right in to what Jeff Hornacek wants his team to do. His athleticism and ability to get to the rim make him dangerous in the open court.
He only ran the pick-and-roll on 14.7 percent of his possessions, much lower than the other guys. However, he was the most effective of the group scoring 0.84 points per possession on 51.2 percent shooting.
In isolation, Goodwin ranks between Dragic and Bledsoe with 0.83 PPP. His ability to get to the rim at will is his greatest strength in this area, although he also settles for bad jump shots at times and forces penetration when there's no room. He has potential here but still has a lot of room to grow.
Dragic is the best of the group at creating offense with the ball in his hands, and is also decent playing off the ball. Bledsoe is best off the ball. Kendall Marshall is terrible on the ball and hasn't done much off of it. Archie Goodwin is good in attack mode with the ball in his hands.
Do the Suns really have four point guards? The numbers say the answer is "not really."
Goran Dragic is the best overall player of the bunch. He's the most versatile in terms of being able to create offense with the ball and play off of it. He's definitely a point guard.
Eric Bledsoe is a bit different. He's more of an athlete than a true point guard. He does all kinds of crazy stuff for someone his size and his game is unique. He can run the point, but he appears to be even more effective off the ball.
Kendall Marshall technically is a point guard, but he still needs to learn how to score before the rest of his game can be effective.
Archie Goodwin may be a point guard some day, but he certainly doesn't look like one now.
Judging by the numbers, Dragic and Bledsoe should be able to play together just fine and could potentially be a lot of fun to watch. That pairing allows each player to play to his strengths.
It sounded like the plan after the draft was to have Marshall and Goodwin compete for the back-up point guard job. However, neither player is ready for the job based on what they did last year. Dragic and Bledsoe's playing time could be staggered with each of them getting a chance to run the point while the other rests, and if that is the case than either Marshall or Goodwin could earn minutes at the two.
This Suns backcourt is versatile and gives Hornacek plenty of options to try out. There may be four point guards on the roster, but that position label really doesn't mean much with this group.
Place In Standings: Third
Points Per Game: 84.8
Points Against: 85.4
After starting the season 0-3 the Phoenix Mercury have found the right formula for winning over the course of the last 10 games going 8-2 in that stretch. They where never playing bad basketball as a team, but rather had a universally timid approach on the offensive end as a team. The timidness steamed from each individual not wanting to step on the toes of their teammates, but lead to a lack of cohesion.
Since then a pecking order has been established within the team allowing them to take the next step in the natural progression of any great team. Diana Taurasi has taken the reigns of the team and everyone is falling in line.
At this point in the season the team has five losses already and are 1-4 against teams that are above .500 so far on the season. They are doing what they are supposed to against the teams beneath them (7-1) winning games and doing so in convincing fashion at times against teams with lesser records. The problem is against the likes of Minnesota and Chicago.
In order to reach their potential the Mercury are going to have to beat the Lynx (0-3 this season) just to get to the Finals where they might meet the Sky. Those two teams are 4-0 against the Mercury beating them by an average score of 93-71.75 in those four games. Average margin of victory of 22.25 points in those games and the closest the Mercury have come in those games was against the Lynx in the second game between the two where they entered the fourth up 60-56 before a 24-9 quarter crushed them.
Winning games against the best teams in conference and across the league in general is paramount to the team being seen as a legitimate contender.
Although it has not forced her to miss a lot of games, an early season left knee injury has plagued Griner to the point where she has been on a minutes limit. That has not derailed her from having an impact on the game, but it does prevent chemistry from being formed. She has moved from a reduced three minutes per quarter up to five minutes per quarter and is getting closer to being out there for 30 minutes a night to show her true impact on the game.
This season she has six games of 4+ blocks already and has done a great job intimidating scorers from entering what is rapidly becoming her domain -- the paint.
As a rookie Samantha Prahalis started all 28 games she played in proving to be one of the better rookies overall in the 2012 Draft Class. She dazzled as the compliment to DeWanna Bonner scoring 11.6 points and dishing out 4.5 assists per game as a rookie. Was that all out of sheer necessity and opportunity?
This season Prahalis has five DNP Coaches Decisions as she has struggled with her new role relegated to the bench. She has been open about her personal struggles on the court acknowledging that she is not playing as well as she could and learning how to play with Taurasi. After the first two games of the season where she played 51 minutes total (6 PPG 3.5 APG 2 TPG) she has only appeared in six other games (50 minutes collectively) totaling 6 points, 9 assists, and 7 turnovers.
Is Prahalis the odd one out of the rotation? Is this a funk that can be resolved in house? Will she be moved to another team to gain more of an opportunity? All questions that will be addressed over time...
Wednesday vs. San Antonio Silver Stars at 12:30pm AZ Time
Sunday vs. Los Angeles Sparks at 3:00pm AZ Time