Since the change, the Suns are 2-1. They have scored 114, 111 and 101 points for an average of 108.7 points per game and have held opponents to 87, 108 and 104 for an average of 99.7 points per game. In the 11 games with the original starting line-up, the Suns had a 4-7 record and scored 98.3 points per game while giving up 104.3.

It is true the Suns played some weaker teams in their last three games, but I think it is safe to say that there has been at least some improvement with Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown in the starting five. The primary issues with the old line-ups and rotations were poor play from a few of the players, slow starts in the first and third quarters by the starting five and an inability to score by the second unit. So what effect has Gentry's adjustments had on these areas? Let's take a look.

Old Players, New Roles

A few players struggled in the roles they began the season with.

One of the most notable of these struggling players was Jared Dudley. Dudley, known affectionately as the Junkyard Dog, began the year as the starting shooting guard just as he did last year. And just like last year, he came out of the starting gates ice cold. He bricked all manner of open shots from deep, mid-range, coming off of screen and probably even a couple of bunnies. But worse than that, the same level of activity and hustle that earned him the JYD moniker was absent, for whatever reason. He just wasn't having the same positive effect on the team that he had his entire prior Suns career. So instead of having the patience to let him shoot out of his slump like last year, Gentry decided to make a change. And so far for Dudley, it has had the desired effect.

Starter Reserve
Games 11 3
PPG 8.5 6.7
FG% 42.7 40.0
3FG% 31.4 40.0
ARS 4.5 6.7
MPG 32.2 24.7

He's still not shooting as well as he normally does, hitting just eight of his 20 attempts over the three games. However, he has made four of his 10 3-point attempt, and more importantly, he's much more active.

In the chart above, ARS stands for Assists+Rebounds+Steals and it's a measure of how much Dudley is doing on the floor other than shooting. I'm talking about smart plays and hustle plays, the things that defined Dudley's game before this year. As you can see, Dudley is playing nearly eight less minutes per game yet his ARS has gone up over two per game. We're starting to see more of the hustle we've come to expect from Dudley, and hopefully that trend will continue.

While +/- isn't worth much without context, it is worth noting that over the past three games, Dudley is a combined +37 and one of only three Suns that have been in the positive in all three (the other two being P.J. Tucker an Jermaine O'Neal). The bench has been kicking butt, an he's been a part of it.

He still hasn't quite found his stroke, but he is a career 47.2 percent field goal and 40.5 percent 3-point shooter, an I still have complete faith that he will get back to shooting that way before long.

Replacing him in the starting line-up was Shannon Brown, and although Brown is averaging less points and shooting worse from the field, he's fit in better with the starting line-up than I anticipated. He is taking better and fewer shots with the starters and isn't disrupting the flow of the offense too much. Meanwhile, the bench is doing better without him taking every shot.

The most dramatic change in play has come from Markieff Morris, who is now starting at the power forward spot. Morris was one of the Suns' worst players in his 11 games coming off the bench. Horrible shooting numbers, poor decisions and plenty of foul trouble negated anything positive Morris was able to do. However, since being moved into the starting line-up, he has been a beast.

Reserve Starter
Games 11 3
PPG 7.6 16.7
FG% 35.4 64.7
3FG% 28.6 60.0
RPG 4.6 6.7
MPG 19.6 28.7

Morris has fit seamlessly into the starting line-up and has adjusted to his new role. Morris was 4-14 from deep as a reserve, but has already connected on three of his five attempts as a starter. As a rookie, we saw that he was capable of hitting 3-pointers at a high rate but we also saw he was capable of falling into big slumps. Three games is a tiny sample size, but the fact that three of his seven made threes have come as a starter may mean something. In addition to knocking down his 3-pointers, Morris is taking smarter shots and finishing at a much higher rate inside. He's also not fouling at a ridiculous rate any more, which is nice. Overall, the move to the starting line-up has had the exact opposite effect as it did a year ago when he was a rookie.

Luis Scola was the one moved to the bench so that Morris could start, and it has been to the benefit of the entire team. Scola was a defensive sieve in the starting line-up, and while he is a potent scorer, his post-ups and high post game took away from what guys like Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat an Michael Beasley were able to do offensively. He has replaced Shannon Brown as one of the primary options for the second unit, and although his numbers are down (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist per game on 52.6 percent shooting), the team is better off.

Slow Starts

The biggest reason for the change was the slow starts by the starters in the first an third quarters. Through three games with the new starters, the results are mixed.

In the Portland game, which the Suns won easily and controlled throughout, the starters opened the game very well. According to PopcornMachine.com, the starter played the first 8:46 and rode a 13-1 run to a +7 before Gentry made the first substitution. In the third quarter, they got off to a 10-2 run before giving up a 16-6 run by the Blazers. When Michael Beasley and Brown took a seat at the 2:28 mark, they had played the Blazers even. For the game, the starting five was +7 and the all-bench teams were +13.

But in the New Orleans game, things were back to normal. The starters played the first 8:16 of the game and were -6, and were -4 over the next four minutes or so after Dudley replaced Beasley. They were even worse in the third quarter, managing to end up -10 in only 4:10 of action.

In the Philly game, the starters were neither great nor terrible. The starting five was -1 in 9:25 seconds, but they were -6 against the Philly starting five before rattling off an 8-0 run after the Sixers subbed a few players in. They did a little better in their 8:49 of play in the third quarter, finishing +1.

Three games, three very different results out of the starting unit. It's too early to draw too much of a conclusion in this particular area, but I don't think the change has magically fixed our early game woes.

Second Unit Struggles

One thing we've seen since Jermaine O'Neal rejoined the team and the emergence of P.J. Tucker is the return of the five-man bench unit, and through three games, those units have been kicking butt and taking names. The former second unit really struggled offensively with Shannon Brown being the only real scoring threat (and the only one getting to shoot the ball). However, things have been flowing much better offensively with Scola and Dudley joining the reserves and the tough and scrappy defense by O'Neal, Tucker and Sebastian Telfair.

Over the past three games, the all-bench units are a combined +29. The bench produced 43 points against Portland, 50 against New Orleans and 40 against Philadelphia. That is not bad at all. In fact, the bench has been the Suns' biggest strength since the change, and it also played a huge part in the Suns early season comeback wins.

Final Thoughts

It has only been three games and we cannot draw any legitimate long-term conclusion as of yet, but things are definitely looking up since the change. I was in favor of giving the starters more time, but kudos to Gentry for making the right move. This hasn't solved all our problems (like that pesky 3-point line), but the Suns appear to be getting better.

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Phoenix Suns 91, Cleveland Cavaliers 78 The Phoenix Suns continue their six-game road trip with a trip to Cleveland to face the lowly Cavaliers, who have lost three in a row and nine of 10 since a...

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Bring it, folks!


On the surface, this appears to be the start of irreconcilable differences where yet another Suns star gets walked out of town when his deal expires.

First it was Joe Johnson, then Amare Stoudemire and finally Steve Nash. And those were just the guys who weren't traded for lesser talent before their contract expired in the first place.

But this impasse with Marcin Gortat is a most logical, reasonable impasse given the parameters of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed a year ago. Under the terms of the new CBA, the Suns can only offer Gortat up to two new years for about $16.8 million (or, $8.4 million per year).

Veteran Extensions (per cbafaq.com)

Veteran extensions are limited to four seasons, including the seasons remaining on the current contract.

The salary in the first year of a veteran extension may be any amount up to 107.5% of the player's previous salary

Gortat still has this season ($7.258 million) and next season ($7.727) on contract.

With the new CBA only allowing four total years, including those remaining on the current contract, the Suns could only offer two "new" years.

In addition, the Suns can only offer up to a $463,262 raise per year (7.5%) over of $7.727 million, the last year of his current contract.

With centers like Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan and Brook Lopez, to name few, getting a lot more than $10 million a year, it's no wonder that Gortat said no thanks.

Each of these guys waited until their contract was up, then re-signed with their teams like any free agent that's limited only by their years of service. By that time, Gortat will qualify as an unrestricted free agent for up to $17 million per year if a team wants to offer it.

Big difference between $8.4 million and $17 million per year.


"We just said we're going to wait," Gortat said to Paul Coro. "I want to finish this contract, and we'll see where I go from there. It didn't even bother me or change anything in my attitude or performance."

And you can't blame the Suns for trying. They might as well, just in case Gortat really wanted the job security because he will be 31 years old by the time he's asking for more money than $8.4 million per year.

Oh well, it was worth a shot anyway.


I don’t know about you, but I like Chanukah. I also like Hanukah, Hanukkah, and even Chanukkah! Not only for its superfluity of spelling options, but also for plethora of gifts one can amass. You see, us Jews get one gift for each night of however you spell it-akah. [I would have said ‘we Jews’ if not for both my short-man syndrome and distaste for proper grammar].

So, in that spirit, here are eight gifts I would like to bestow upon our Phoenix Suns.

Guardian Gear Nylon Muzzle - Black

FOR: Marcin Gortat

All your blabbery and what do we get from it; one night of impassioned play followed by inconsistency. DUDE, you are playing for a contract [now that you declined your extension], so put on the muzzle Marcin, and let your game speak for itself.

Heavy-Duty Auto Jumper Cables - 20-Ft Length

FOR: Our Starters

We are -50 points with a 3-10-1 first quarter record. Our third quarters are similarly bad [-33 with a 5-7-2 record]. Conversely our 2nd [+32 8-4-2] and 4th [+19 8-6] quarters. We are having a problem getting the engine to turnover, but once it is started, it will run great until we make a pit stop, then it won’t start again. It could be the alternator or just a dead battery. Either way, jumper cables can get the thing going.

Ipad Mini

FOR: Alvin Gentry

What better way to quickly check 82games.com for some easy stats to determine who should be playing. Tops on the team is PJ Tucker, with a +69, a team best .98 defensive rating, and a record of 9-3 when he is on the floor. O’Neal comes in second [+36, .99 DR, 5-2], while Beasley is dead last [with a whopping -104, team worst 1.19 DR and 3-10]. He can also check his 5-man units and realize that the Dragic-Dudley-Beasley-Scola-Gortat lineup has played to overwhelming majority of minutes [39%, more than 4 times the minutes of the next group] despite that group producing a team worst -68 and a 3-8 record. Access to that information over the LTE version of the Ipad Mini might give him that extra knowledge quick enough to sit Beasley and play Tucker.

Scathing Photos of Robert Sarver

FOR: PJ Tucker

Let’s face it, the guy needs to be on the floor, the number don’t lie. Yet despite the fact he is getting more time lately, and in crunch time, he needs to no longer be considered the "hustle" guy, and move into the "glue" guy role. I mean, if Bruce Bowen can start and play big minutes on championship level teams, Tucker warrants more minutes here and Beasley should be sitting on the bench next to Wes Johnson. Yet still he remains in the starting lineup and continues to gobble up uninspired minutes that do more damage than good. Maybe if Tucker had some evidence he could use to blackmail Sarver into forcing Gentry to play him, we might see better results.

Russian Bride

FOR: Goran Dragic

For some reason, I get the feeling Goran still lacks confidence at times. While his play has been consistent [and good], I would love to see some swagger from that guy. I want to see him demanding the ball from his teammates and not settling into running off to the weakside when dumb and dumber are handling the ball [guess who is who and you win a prize]. What better way to get some swagger than a Russian bride [or at least borrowing one for a few nights].

Basketball For Dummies

FOR: Robert Sarver, Lon Babby and Lance Blanks

I wrote an article in March extolling the virtue of being proactive in regards to moving players and making trades. The theory was that the market for players often heats up to its highest point right before something causes that player to drop rapidly from relevance. Back then I suggested trading Gortat amid a period where Suns fans were most coveting of the big man.

Again in July, I strongly urged consideration for making this trade, much to the chagrin of my BSOTS brethren. Now, Gortat has gone and shot his mouth off, declined his extension and played like crap. Suns leverage = disappeared. So, for the Suns front office, you need this book.

Recombinant DNA Machine

FOR: The Suns Roster

While I am not sure if you can buy this on Amazon [frankly I wouldn’t be that shocked, you can buy almost anything there]. Wouldn’t it be great? Imagine being able to take DNA from two sources and combining it to make a brand new cloned player. While this could spark a whole different kind of debate [and a fun one at that], I would take some DNA from both players and create Markieff Tucker, superstar power forward.

One Go-To Superstar Player

FOR: The Fans

One guy that causes teams to game plan for. One guy that efficiently scores, gets to the line, and keeps the offense flowing. One guy that can defend multiple positions, knows how to help, and has the aggressive streak you need to lead the defensive charge. You add that guy to this roster and in the words of George Costanza, "SOLID GOLD, JERRY!"

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