Today, the Sixers head coach Brett Brown said that rookie center Nerlens Noel, the #6 pick in this year's draft for whom the Sixers traded an All-Star to get, would likely not play at all for the Philly boys this season.

That Noel would miss the season is not real news, as no less than five teams passed on Noel and the sixth, New Orleans, only drafted him in order to trade his rights (and their somewhat-protected 2014 #1 pick) for All-Star Jrue Holiday. Noel was considered the consensus #1 overall pick based entirely on talent, so the fact that he was passed up by five teams suggests as much.


No team has been more brazen with their plan to tank this season than the Sixers. Their coach was hired only two weeks short of a record "late hire", second only to the naming of Alvin Gentry to coach the Clippers late in 2000. Gentry accepted the Clippers job just weeks after taking an assistant job with San Antonio.

Brett Brown, formerly an assistant with San Antonio, took the job and immediately began setting low expectations for the Sixers this season.

Now, they are not even going to try to play their top draft pick this season, planning instead to enter next season with one second-year lottery pick (Michael Carter-Williams), and three high-picked rookies - Noel, plus their own and New Orleans' pick in 2014.

Sounds to me like two straight years of 60+ losses if not five or more.

There's tanking right, and tanking wrong

To me, the Sixers are doing it wrong. Well, they will certainly lose a lot of games, but so did Charlotte (7 wins in 66 games) after the lockout and New Jersey (12 wins in 2010) before then. Charlotte never did get the #1 pick for their troubles, and neither did New Jersey. In fact, only 4 teams with the worst record have ever won the #1 overall pick since the lottery began.

The team with the worst record has a better chance at a pick between 4 and 6 (35.8%) than the #1 overall (25%). Charlotte got the #2 pick for being worst in 2011-12, and the #4 pick for being second-worst in 2012-13. Minnesota got only #2 overall for finishing a league-worst 17-65 in 2011. The New Jersey Nets only got the third pick in 2010 after their stellar 12-70 season.

Losing pays, but losing the most - and in spectacular fashion - almost always loses. Might as well finish with the second or third worst record and just watch the balls bounce the way they bounce.

Enter the Phoenix Suns

We all know the Suns will struggle this season. The first inkling was hiring a rookie GM and a rookie coach (actually, the very first inkling was having the least young talent in the league). The second was drafting two of the youngest, highest potential prospects in the draft when they were available. The third was trading good (though aging) veterans for youth this summer, most of whom not even guaranteed to make the rotation on one of the worst teams in the league.

The latest inkling is the realization that no GM would go out of his way to pair two combo guards in the starting lineup for the future. You do it for today, for here and now during the evaluation phase. But you don't conceive of this plan from scratch. Still, the pairing may work out the way KJ and Hornacek did. Likelier though, is a realization at some point they are better apart from each other.

The Suns will be bad. Real bad. But while Philly sits one of their rookies all season, the Suns will play theirs. The Suns are focusing on character and mission, if not immediate talent. The Sixers are just playing out the string. They all know it, and they are getting blasted in record fashion even in the preseason.

The Phoenix Suns are taking the path of Orlando and Cleveland, who are building a foundation and competitive drive while losing. Which path is Philly taking? Charlotte's?

Now that the WNBA season has ended the various members of the Phoenix Mercury will now spread themselves across the globe playing their year round style of basketball. The great thing about womens basketball abroad is that it can net the players, often times, a better salary than the WNBA provides.

This allows them to play all year and make the type of money that makes it worth playing basketball all year.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the system to where players are drafted and committed to a team locally here in the WNBA, but are paid more abroad. Someone like Brittney Griner or Diana Taruasi can make 2-3 times more money in China or Russia respectively for 4-6 months of basketball in a foreign country. It is a great opportunity to go overseas and make more money, but that is a different conversation for a different time.

The team sent four players including the obvious, Taurasi and Griner, with Candace Dupree and DeWanna Bonner as well to Las Vegas for try-outs for Team U.S.A. after their solid play this past season.

Despite falling short of their ultimate goal of winning a WNBA Championship this year the team is being recognized for the profusion of talent that they possess.

For some players they will spend the winter and summer overseas with their teams. Others will be back in the Spring, ready to get back to work. Last year Taurasi showed up literally the night before media day and less than a week away from the first scrimmage game. Keep up with the team overseas with the tracker below and follow along on Twitter for their journey.


Where in the World are the Mercury?

Brittney Griner -- Team: Zhejiang (China) Season: October-February

Diana Taurasi -- UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia) Season: October-March

DeWanna Bonner -- Nadezhda Orenburg (Russia) Season: October-March

Candice Dupree -- Dynamo Kursk (Russia) Season: October-March

Penny Taylor -- N/A

Alexis Hornbuckle -- N/A

Briana Gilbreath -- N/A

Charde Houston -- Uni Girona (Spain) Season: October-March

Krystal Thomas -- Perfumerias (Spain) Season: October-March

Lynetta Kizer -- N/A

Jasmine James -- N/A

Russ Pennell: Not Returning

Randy Hill of Fox Sports Arizona reported this first, Russ Pennell will not have the interim tag removed from his title with the Mercury. In fact he no longer has a title with the Mercury as he has decided to pursue future college opportunities in mens basketball.

Pennell changed a lot in his shot time with the Mercury including taking a sub-.500 club to the Conference Finals when everything about the season seemed up in the air.

In addition to Pennell leaving, President Amber Cox has as well, after being involved with the club since 2005 and, since 2011, the teams President. The team now has a head coaching void, a president to replace, and few roster moves that are needed to fix the issues the team saw consistently throughout the season. Assistant coach Anthony Boone will likely move on with Pennell to his next stop. Top assistant Julie Hairgrove should be considered after eight seasons as a loyal assistant for the Mercury. She was passed over for Pennell when Corey Gaines was relieved of his duties, a move that, with all things considered, should not be duplicated.


Upcoming Schedule:

WNBA Draft Lottery: TBD


Rookie contracts are affordable enough that usually the decision to pick up a third- or fourth-year team option is merely a clerical matter. Yet this season the Suns face a number of decisions that...

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P.J. Tucker has been a lot of things during his basketball career: a Big 12 Player of the Year, an NBA wash out, an international success story, a spark plug and a defensive bull dog. In 2013-14,...

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In going 3-2 in the preseason, the Phoenix Suns are showing some small trends of improvement. Sure, this is preseason but you take what you can get, and this is all we got.

The team is shooting 49.9% from the field and 36.3% on three-pointers, 43.5 rebounds, 9.0 steals and 105.2 points per game, all up from last year by a wide margin. On the downside, the Suns are only making 61% of their free throws and committing 18.8 turnovers per game.

Earmarks of a young team and a deep, deep rotation. Seventeen different players have seen action in at least 3 of the 5 games, with 11 of them getting at least one start. Only three players are getting at least 20 minutes per game (Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat). And only one player is getting less than 10 minutes per game (Viacheslav Kravtsov), probably an indication that he will start against the Thunder.

While the Suns aren't running as hard as they want to throughout the year, they are playing fairly well and showing some moxie. After the loss to the Clippers last week, Jamal Crawford said, "they played hard. It's a preseason game but they played hard and the guys that came in really produced."

Here are some other random preseason numbers, in relation to the rest of the league:

Minutes per game

  • Eric Bledsoe leads the Suns in minutes but is only 81st in the league (23 mpg)
  • No other Suns player cracks the top 130
  • As you look at the Suns rankings below, it's important to remember the fewer minutes

Points per game

Steals per game

  • Eric Bledsoe is 2nd (3.0 per game)

Assists per game

  • Eric Bledsoe is 5th (5.4)

Rebounds per game

  • Marcin Gortat is 34th (5.4)

Blocks per game

Among rookies

  • Archie Goodwin and Alex Len are 28th and 29th in minutes per game (17.2 and 17.0)
  • Alex Len is 5th O-rebounds (1.8), 11th on D-rebounds (3.3), 8th overall (5.0)
  • Alex Len is 5th in blocks (0.8)
  • Dionte Christmas is 25th in steals (0.7)
  • Archie Goodwin is 20th in points (6.4)

There you have it Suns fans!

NBA preseason individual player stats

Suns preseason team stats

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