Besides Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, only one member of the Phoenix Suns had been along for the ride from the start of this era with Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson to the end of it with Jason...

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Should Alvin Be Seeing Some More Cabbage?  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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Should Alvin Be Seeing Some More Cabbage? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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I've been on the Jersey shore the past few days waiting for a hurricane, quietly pondering a number of thoughts about the 2010-11 season, and much, much more. Obviously we have to wait and see how things play out, so a lot of these questions will continue to go unanswered for a few more months or longer. But I have to dump somewhere, so why not here?

  • How will the new front office reconfiguration affect the squad on the floor? Or How will Blanks, Sarver, and Babby get along? How will the power structure play out? Is Blanks a puppet GM for the time being until he earns his stripes so to speak? Blanks must understand what his role will be, it wouldn't have been fair for Sarver to hire him without letting him now how things would work. Still, one has to wonder how much leash he'll get to make his own decisions. Regardless, there seem to be a lot cooks in the kitchen at the moment.
  • At what point does Gentry get a new contract and more money? How is it he didn't earn that last season? Gentry is a good soldier. He says the right things and more importantly I believe he is thinking the right things: Put in the work, support the powers that be, win games, and you'll get what you deserve. It's a sincere, winning attitude. But at some point do you start wondering what it's going to take to get rewarded? Maybe Sarver and Gentry have an understanding that we aren't privvy to.
  • Will Dudley eventually be the odd man out? I love Dudz. I love what he brings to the team and I love his personality. He has a year left on his current deal so discussing this may not be relevant yet. But I wonder what the FO has in store for Jared.  Dudz may never be a starting 3 in the NBA. We saw a trend last season that seemed to suggest Dudley became less effective the longer he was on the floor. Was it conditioning? Was it the fact that he has never played big minutes in his career? Or is Dudz simply a career 6th man?

    Jared's future may be tied to a number of other factors. In the Kerr regime, Earl Clark was the heir apparent to Grant Hill. But Clark's lack of progress, J-Chill and Hedo's arrival, coupled with Amare's departure add question marks to the equation. If Clark is a bust or moves to the 4, then Dudley becomes much more important to the Suns. In that case you want to invest in the guy, lock him up and pay him. But consider a front line of Lopez/Hedo/Dudley. Does Lopez's size make up for the lack of Dudley athleticism and Hedo size? Could J-Chill be a better option at the 3 than Dudley? Maybe, but if J-Rich is gone without a legit replacement at the 2, Chill is the man there. I guess I've answered my question here. Dudz is a nice player, a great locker room guy, but he may not be a long term answer in the same vein that LB wasn't. Again we have to wait and see how things play out. I hate that.
  • Is 2010-11 the End of the Line For J-Rich? It depends on how bad he wants to be a Sun right? For the right price J-Rich should stay. But there's been little talk of an extension and up until the 2010 post season it was a forgone conclusion that JRich had been a mild disappointment and the Suns would either deal him for whatever they could get or let him walk after 2011. Now, it's a different story. There is really no replacement after Childress (Janning?) and there's no given that Childress is going to bring the same production that J-Rich will, especially sunce he's been playing in the Greek league for two years. If the Suns are in the midst of the playoff hunt around trade deadline time, they can't afford to get rid of J-Rich, unless the return is too good to refuse. J-Rich is the prototypical 2 in that he is a threat from down town, has the big body to defend, rebound, and post up. LB proved to us how valuable a big 2 is in the NBA and how unvaluable an undersized one is. In addition, Rich is a great locker room guy which adds into the equation.

  • How Will Steve Nash Adjust His New Role? The plan is to utilize the versatility of Hedo and turn Nash into more of a scorer. It sounds great in theory but how will a guy who made his career making others look good adapt to taking on more of a selfish attitude? It may be no big deal at all. Just shoot the ball. I suppose the real question is whether we will still see a 50/40 season from Nash with increased FG attempts. I think it's worth the experiment.

    and lastly
  • When Will One of the Mainstream Media Experts Give the Phoenix Suns a Little Credit? I don't mean to whine, and coming in under the radar worked last season. But let's face it, year in year out the Suns aren't tough enough, they don't play D, they're too old, the bench is weak, etc all. There is every reason in the world to leave them out of the playoff hunt and criticize them. But this franchise has missed the playoffs only a handful of times in the past 20 years. Perhaps someone in this organization knows a little something about the game.

    This year it's the loss of Amare Stoudemire. Losing 20 and 9 is difficult, but the so-called experts were saying STAT wasn't max worthy. Now they're saying that he's irreplaceable to the Suns and the reason why they won be able to reach last year's success.

    Hedo and Hakim are not Amare and maybe even combined won't hit 20 and 9. But why does that production have to come from the 4? There will be more ball to spread around, and perhaps Nash, Goran, and J-Chill (or insert name) increase their scoring totals. I could go on about the East Coast media bias thing or playing in the same division as the Lakers, but it's really not the point. The proof is in the pudding, and the Suns answer the bell every season, year in, year out. Why should this season be any different?

Got something to dump, let's hear it:


STAT in Phoenix, Sans Shorts

This Amused me. Maybe Amare Missed the Summer AZ Heat.


Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, left, of Slovenia, goes up for a rare right-handed layup (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, left, of Slovenia, goes up for a rare right-handed layup (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Pool play is over at the FIBA World Championships, sending teams like Iran and Tunisia home and leaving the final 16 to fight for medals.

After 5 games, Goran Dragic is clearly his team's best player. Yet, he's played better against weaker competition (Croatia, Tunisia and Iran) than the strong ones (USA and Brazil).

After the jump, we analyze his tournament so far. The good and the bad. And how he can overcome a very accurate scouting report.

Ha ha - Brett Brown, the coach of the Australians, is a San Antonio Spurs assistant!

As an assistant coach with NBA club San Antonio in last season's Western Conference semi-finals, Brown could only watch as Dragic scored 23 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter of game three as Phoenix launched a furious comeback.

They would win the game for a 3-0 lead and ultimately sweep the series.

"We couldn't stop him," Brown told AAP. "He had 23 points in that period and we had no answer for him.

"The Phoenix Suns ended up sweeping the Spurs and we pride ourselves on defence.

"I have haunting memories of Dragic and all of that."

Goran Dragic has become the face of the Slovenian National Team

Overall per/game stats: 13 pts, 3.8 rebs, 3.6 assists

 

  • Team leader in: minutes, free throw attempts, assists, turnovers and points.
  • Nearly led team in: 2-pt FG % (2nd) and Rebounds (3rd)
Goran's emergence as a key player on his team has coincided with Slovenia's success on the international stage.

Last summer, Slovenia shocked Europe with a 4th-place finish in FIBA Eurobasket 2009. Goran was not the team leader yet, but still contributed 9.2 pts, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. The most notable game was a 4th quarter performance against Ricky Rubio's Spain team in which he spearheaded a huge comeback with 10 pts and 4 steals in that quarter alone. Slovenia ultimately dropped that game in overtime, and then Goran tweaked his knee the very night game, ending his tourney. Scrappy Slovenia ultimately sputtered in the medal round, finishing 4th.

This summer, Goran is the team's best player. Notice I didn't say leader, yet. The team's leader is still 2-time Euroleague MVP Jaka Lakovic. He's an average-sized PG with a huge heart, great shooting stroke and leadership qualities galore. He has led Euro teams into the playoffs year after year, never quite winning the title. Sound familiar?

 

So Goran spends a lot of time playing off the ball, explaining why his rebound totals are higher than his assists, year over year. The team looks good when he's running point, but the Slovenian coach still likes the veteran wiles of Lakovic, despite his diminishing effectiveness. In fact, the coach's affinity for Lakovic led Beno Udrih to leave the team this summer without a promise to start ahead of Lakovic or Dragic. Of course, you can't argue with the coach at this point. Slovenia is 4-1 in this tourney, and Lakovic had this best game in their biggest win (against Brazil, with 20 pts and 5 assists).

Another reason you can't totally rely on Goran in crunch time against good teams yet: the scouting report.

Force him to his right, and he's much less effective.

Teams with the defensive skillset to keep Goran going right (USA and Brazil) held him in check. Even when Slovenia screens his defender on a lefty drive, the opposing big man has been able to switch and show hard, forcing Goran back the other way.

Goran is going to have to figure out a counter-punch to this tactic. Of course, he's not the only person in the league who likes to drive with his strong hand. Kobe's scouting report is much the same, except with the opposite hand. So is Lamar Odom's. And Leandro Barbosa's. And Manu Ginobili's. In fact, very few players can drive effectively with either hand.

One counter-punch to the over-hard-show-on-a-switch tactic is the step-through move. Ginobili developed a dribble-through/step-through move to split the defenders. Once you split them, there's an open court for the strong lefty drive. And once you prove you can do this, their defense has to adjust by closing off the seam. Which means they can't show quite as wide or hard. Which opens up the lefty drive again.

Another counter-punch to forcing him to his right: isolation. Either before or after the switch. Just back up and get the defender in isolation with an open court. Barbosa and Ginobili do this all the time. Dragic and LB took turns doing this against the Spurs, and one of Dragic's top-10 highlights of the year was an isolation drive against the Lakers in the WCF. The downside of this is stagnating the offense. But at least you force the defense to pay for it's tactics.

Finally, a tried-and-true counterpunch to the over-hard show is to swing the ball back to the weak side. If the defense is doubling the pick-n-roll, that means you've got someone left open on the weak side for an easy score. This reduces the PG's "stats", but keeps the offense flowing.

Goran knows this and swings it back to the weak side all the time. And clearly this is working. Slovenia has a very efficient offense, and is 4-1 in the tourney.

The 4-1 record is extremely important to me. Goran is doing this - leading his team across the board in stats - in a winning environment. He's the definition of a PGPFWE.

 

Next Up

Now the round of 16 starts. No more creampuffs (Tunisia and Iran, for example). We'll see if Goran can overcome his scouting report and produce against better teams.

First up is Australia (link to preview). This should be a very winnable game. Slovenia played Australia twice in warmup games this summer, going 1-1. Since then, they've added Lakovic (above) and SF Bostjan Nachbar.

After that, it looks like Goran will be facing the Suns' highest-paid newcomer: Hedo TurkogluTurkey went 5-0 in the preliminary round, winning with a stifling defense. Yes, I just said that. Stifling defense.

Hedo is shooting poorly, but you can't discount the fact that his team is 5-0 and he's contributing to a very effective defense. Hedo may not be a good individual defender, but he's not a defense-killer either.

One of these guys' World Championships will be over by next Wednesday at the latest, in the quarterfinals.

And the other will likely move on to the medal rounds (final 4).

Which will it be?


After a day that saw him play second fiddle in a win over Brazil, Goran Dragic took it upon himself to lead the charge as Slovenia finished pool play with a 65-60 win over lowly Iran. Dragic did his...

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