All the blogger NBA previews for the Southeast and Southwest divisions.
Index of all SBNation Previews
Additional Preview Features from Sonics Rising
All the blogger NBA previews for the Southeast and Southwest divisions.
Index of all SBNation Previews
Additional Preview Features from Sonics Rising
Here is your formal weekly recap for the Phoenix Suns with a look at all the games, the news and notes, key stats, NBA Draft updates, Quote of the Week, and more. Let's get it...
The Phoenix Suns (2-0) kicked off their pre--season with an international twist knocking off South American power Flamengo and then welcomed to town likely competition for the "non-playoff team from last year most likely to make that leap this year" in the Denver Nuggets. They knocked them both off, looking sloppy overall, but getting the wins nonetheless.
vs. Rio De Janeiro Flamengo - W (100-88) Full Recap
Right now the Suns look more like the team should have looked last year with 10 new faces to the rotation. However the situation this year is that they have two rookies to work in and free-agent addition Isaiah Thomas, but the roster as a whole was brought back from last years 48 win team.
The team is building chemistry. That takes time as Eric Bledsoe is adjusting to missing the
final 43 games of the season bulk of the final 39 games and Markieff Morris is adjusting to a likely new role that does not feature veteran Channing Frye in front of him as insurance. Early on against Flamengo it was rough to watch with lots of turnovers and sloppy play as they trailed all the way into the mid-third quarter.
Defensively there have been some positives as they are holding opponents to 88.5 points per game while limiting their shooting to 39.7% from the field (26.0% from three) using their speed and athleticism to force bad shots.
On that note they are forcing 22.5 turnovers per game getting out in transition (19.0 fast-break points per game) and getting teams to play into their style, which is easier said than done. The Suns are build for the frenetic and the chaotic with their athletic waves of guards and wings that get in passing lanes, cause deflections, and then chase down the ball for easy scoring opportunities. That is their identity.
Sure, in the half-court the Suns are a competent scoring team with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic working the pick-and-roll game, breaking down the defense, and creating easy scoring opportunities. Bledsoe especially looks like he is ready to be the half-court offensive catalyst through two games.
The team needs better overall cohesiveness on the offensive end and the rebounding needs a lot of TLC, but the offense is as dynamic as we thought it would be and it is in its infancy right now in terms of fluidity and comfort.
Let's dive deeper into this week:
25.0 PPG 6.0 RPG 5.5 APG
Granted, last year as individuals in vastly different roles Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green averaged 36 points per game while starting for more than half the season. They were asked to be different people in Sacramento and a Phoenix without Eric Bledsoe last year respectively, but this year, in a more confined role, they are more important to the success of a team with a higher ceiling. As a bench duo that would be more than three NBA teams last year and one of the best pairs in the league overall. Throw in a productive Anthony Tolliver and Alex Len and this could be a massive weapon for the Suns this season.
"That first group in there with Anthony (Tolliver) - they were moving the ball a little bit quicker. Anthony keeps it spread out, so we'll continue to play with it and see what works best." -- Coach Jeff Hornacek
Neither rookie played significant minutes in either pre-season game and Ennis came in initially with butter fingers and nerves of glass. After the first few minutes though the rookies looked like they belonged on an NBA court. Ennis did not have a major punch in the boxscore while running the team and facilitating the offense, but Warren shot the ball about as good as anyone could have hoped knocking down threes and scoring nearly a point per minute. It is just two games and one was against a South American team. Overall these two are going to look very good in their D-League uniforms while the Suns try and figure out their rotations. When they get called up they will contribute.
This week in Suns History: October 11th, 2008: The Suns lost to the Nuggets, 77-72, in a pre-season game at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It was the first outdoor game in nearly three decades...
This week in Suns History: October 13th, 1998: The NBA announced it is canceling the first two weeks of the NBA season due to stalled negotiations with the NBA and the NBA Players Association...
Monday, October 13th @ Houston Rockets (2-0)
Thursday, October 16th vs. San Antonio Spurs (1-1)
This week there is a Texas-Two-Step for the Suns as they hit the road for the first time against Dragic's former team in Houston then return home to take on the NBA Champions. These will both be quality tests as the Rockets are trying to figure things out with their rotation and are playing with purpose to as high a degree one can in pre-season, much like the Suns are. They have questions with their forward rotation and back-up guards. The Rockets are one of about 3-5 teams that have enough questions about their team make-up and identity where they might be fighting for a playoff berth rather than just getting one given to them like years more talented team.
The Spurs are the Spurs. Like every year they have a locked in primary rotation and will tweak the bench accordingly as they always do. The Suns could pull out another 2-0 week with continued practices, chemistry building, and a rhythm on the court.
Hey, Ish Smith, hi from everyone here at Bright Side. Good luck in Houston and we all are rooting for you no matter where you land.
Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how 'Merica is the greatest country on earth. It's all
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5PM AZ time, Houston, NBA TV, AZ Sports 98.7 FM
The Suns will be heading into Houston against a thin rotation missing its only two centers on the roster. Dwight Howard is still recovering from a bruised left knee and is not expected to resume play until Tuesday and rookie Clint Capela is going to miss at least another month with a groin injury.
The Rockets went 14 deep in both of their preseason wins with Jeff Adrien getting the start for Howard in the second game. Houston will have a ton of variety off the bench stretching from international forwards like Donatas Motiejunas and Kostas Papanikolaou to former college standouts like forward Tarik Black (10 points and 15 rebounds on Thursday), guard Isaiah Canaan and guard Nick Johnson. The Rockets also have former Suns guard Ish Smith to backup Patrick Beverley and we will likely see new addition Jason Terry back from injury to make his Rockets debut.
For the Suns I'd expect some more starting lineup changes and head coach Jeff Hornacek trying out as many different lineups throughout the game as possible. With no Howard or Capela this could mean less Earl Barron and more T.J. Warren and Marcus Morris. This is an ideal scenario for Hornacek to try out Markieff Morris at the 5 with both centers for Houston out and his brother Marcus or even P.J. Tucker at the 4.
Check back for our gamethread later today for the official lineups.
While Suns fans have already witnessed some flashes of potential from rookie T.J. Warren and some... of Tyler Ennis, don't be surprised if you don't see much of them once the regular season rolls around.
Earning playing time in the NBA is tough.
Unless a player is a high lottery pick and comes into a situation where he is gifted minutes on a bad team it's going to take a relentless assault. It's a very tough battle for a rookie trying to crack a rotation on a team vying for a playoff spot.
In an article I wrote at the beginning of the summer I detailed how only nine rookies in the last six season played at least 1,000 minutes for Western Conference playoff teams. Last season only Steven Adams from the Oklahoma City Thunder managed the feat. He actually played more minutes (1,197) than all three rookies on the Suns combined (Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Dionte Christmas - 1,093).
Yes, Christmas officially counted as a rookie.
Mike D'Antoni never played rookies.
In 2004-05 Yuta Tabuse and Jackson Vroman combined to play 74 minutes. In 2005-06 Dijon Thompson and Sharrod Ford managed 56. 2006-07 was a donut hole. In 2007-08 D.J. Strawberry and Alando Tucker actually combined to play 318 minutes, a number that is both staggeringly deviant, in comparison, while frustratingly diminutive. Strawberry, with 270 minutes played, not only won the rookie minutes played award in the D'Antoni era... but actually ran a victory lap.
Extra points to anyone who remembers that Dijon Thompson was actually a Sun.
Next season (2008-09) ushered in the hapless Terry Porter experiment, but also marked a shift in the vicissitudes of team draft trends. Some guy named Goran Dragic garnered 732 minutes, an average of 13.2 over 55 games, from the aforementioned defensive coaching wizard and more player friendly Alvin Gentry. Robin Lopez also notched 614 minutes and seven spot starts that season. Sean Singletary, 122 minutes, never factored into the team's plans.
The 2009-10 season saw Dragic and Lopez's roles further expanded, but late lottery pick Earl Clark, 383 minutes, and the inimitable Taylor Griffin, 32, struggled to make an impact. The 2010-11 class provided the motley crew of Zabian Dowdell, Gani Lawal and Garrett Siler. The trio combined for just 395 minutes. Lawal headlined with two minutes played, which ended up being the only of his career.
Gentry's last full season as head coach was the inception of the Markieff Morris era (that's what we're calling this, right?), who was just involved in one of the most bizarre contract negotiations in recent history. Markieff played in 63 of the 66 games in the lockout season (always remember it was a lockout, not a strike - especially when the owners try to screw the players out of a fair share of the new $100 gazillion dollar tv deal), averaging 19.5 per game for a total of 1,227 minutes. This, despite the fact that after a sizzling start Morris just flat out wasn't very good that year.
The next season (2012-13) was marred by a perfidious imbroglio that included the ouster of Gentry and the introduction of the "esteemed" Lindsey Hunter. Feel free to insert a different word for esteemed at your discretion. Out of the misery of that season came the impetus for change, which in retrospect seems an acceptable amount of pain for the prodigious growth since that summer. Still, amid the futility of a lost season lottery pick Kendall Marshall only saw 702 minutes of live action. Fellow rookies Diante Garrett and Luke "one of the best shooters in the world" Zeller combined for just 207 more. It's astounding that Lance Blanks managed to say so many stupid things despite being so conspicuously and habitually absent...
Enter Jeff Hornacek and the beginning of a new strategy of making multiple first round picks. The first such iteration landed the Suns Alex Len and Archie Goodwin. However, due in part to injuries (Len) and in part to youth neither of the players made any real impact. Archie played just 533 minutes last season and Alex a mere 362. Dionte Christmas also dazzled fans for 198 minutes of holiday joy.
Maybe it wasn't just D'Antoni that didn't play rookies. That's a decade worth of draft picks and only Markieff Morris eked out more than 732 minutes in his first season. That includes six more seasons, of mostly forgettable basketball, after Mike D left for browner pastures. Watch your step, Mike, that's not grass...
Now the Suns roster is replete with precocious players that may perpetuate the proclivity of paltry playing time. Because p.
There was a reason the Suns implemented the draft and stash strategy with their selection of Bogdan Bogdanovic #27 overall in the draft. They know there is already a disproportionate amount of youth to available minutes on the team.
T.J. Warren just turned 21 (9/5/1993) and Tyler Ennis turned 20 just before him (8/24/1994). That means Goodwin, who was born August 17, 1994 is no longer the youngest player on the team, with Tyler edging him out by seven days. The 21 year old Alex Len (6/16/1993) is the elder statesman of the group.
Len doesn't seem to face the crunch (insert bone joke here), though, as he will seemingly be given time unless he plays his way out of it. The Suns are thin up front and are counting on the second year player to pay dividends. Goodwin, on the other hand, isn't in as auspicious of a position. Playing behind Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green makes earning playing time a daunting task.
That's why I basically put Archie in the same uphill battle position as the two newest first round picks.
He knows he's facing a fierce struggle. It was common knowledge that Goodwin was a regular around the Suns facilities this summer, even running sprints with the players that came in for pre-draft workouts.
"It was just being here. Being here is always good to let the coaches see that you're working and that you're dedicated," Goodwin said about his time in Phoenix this summer. "It helped me become a better player. Becoming more of a consistent knock down shooter and making better decisions offensively. Also becoming more solid defensively and getting stronger."
Ennis also reported to Phoenix for early workouts at the beginning of September to get his feet wet and work on his game.
"I've been working on the NBA three, getting my feet set. I think I've made a lot of progress with that," said Ennis. "Also, finishing around the basket. This is a new level, there are bigger stronger guys here. Conditioning wise I think I'm at a level I've never been at before.
"We have a lot of guards that play the one and the two, myself included, so I think I'm fighting everyone for minutes," continued Tyler. "Regardless of whether you're more of a scorer or more of a passer I think as long as you're doing what it takes for the team to win the coach will put you out there. I look at it as a positive. I have three really good point guards on this team that I can learn from and ask questions and get adjusted to the NBA game."
Not only that, but Ennis is most likely fighting for sixth on the guard depth chart with Zoran Dragic (who is actually a rookie in his own right), below second year Goodwin.
The Suns may already face problems finding players consistent minutes before Goodwin, Warren and Ennis are even considered. Dragic, Bledsoe, Thomas, Green, P.J. Tucker, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Anthony Tolliver, Miles Plumlee and Len all figure to be ahead of them on the depth chart as of now in training camp. That's 10 players. The Suns even experimented with Tolliver starting in their last game, a 97-89 win against the Denver Nuggets. The team is looking for a stretch four and Tolliver hit three from long range in 18 minutes.
Still, staying prepared is of paramount importance as a spot in the rotation may just be a trade or injury away.
Could part of that preparation include honing their skills in the developmental league?
Ennis doesn't seem too enamored with the prospect of playing on the Suns D-League affiliate Bakersfield Jam this upcoming season, despite trying to say the right things.
After a long pause... "At this point I'm really just listening to whatever the coaches say," said Ennis. "Whatever the coaching staff thinks is best for me, best for my development, that's what I'm going to do."
As I wrote above, there was a long pause. Read into that what you want, but these guys are obviously competitors.
The always succinct Warren didn't seem as conflicted with the prospect.
"It would be great," responded T.J. to my query. "It's basketball. Anytime there's basketball to play I'm ready to go."
Of course Warren is still concentrating on becoming a forcible presence on the Suns.
"I'm sharpening up the offensive stuff I do. Staying confident. Learning the offensive system and defensive rotations. I'm just trying to work hard and play the underdog role. The way the team wants to score fits my game very well."
T.J. didn't appear to lack aplomb this summer, as he dazzled with his ability to put the ball in the basket.
"I knew there was an opportunity for me to be aggressive and help my team. The guards did a great job of finding me in the open floor to get me going," commented T.J. on his performance.
Warren also just went for 10 points and six rebounds in the Suns last preseason game. Will those chances still be there, though, during the regular season when he's fighting for playing time with Marcus, P.J. and the four fingered assassin?
Positional battles abound for the Suns youngsters this season, but they are ready for the challenge.
"I don't fear anyone on our roster," said Goodwin with tangible boldness. "I feel like I can compete with anyone. I feel like I can be a really good player and contribute to this team."
Unfortunately for Archie, on this deep team being a really good player may not necessarily translate into an opportunity to contribute much.