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Suns notebook: The Suns are winning second halves with the defense getting turnovers

      
 
 

The Suns' big man played only 19 minutes Monday versus the Lakers, and is reportedly dealing with soreness in his foot.

The Phoenix Suns have won 13 of their last 17 games with Alex Len as their starting center, and this has been no coincidence. Len has been enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign with per-36 minute averages of 11.1 points, 10.6 rebounds (3.7 offensive) and 2.8 blocks, and has recently began to curb his ignominious foul rate. His active play in the paint has allowed Jeff Hornacek to go as small as he wants at the other 4 positions, and the team's overall efficiency has spiked as a result.

Alas, this is a big man for the Phoenix Suns, so there has to be a caveat.

Len arrived in the NBA fresh off of surgery on both ankles, which reduced his rookie season to little more than a redshirt year, so what seemed like a rather benign statement by Hornacek on Tuesday is instead all the more troubling.

Hornacek revealed on Doug and Wolf 98.7 FM that Len's foot is "a little sore right now", which explains why the big man played only 19 minutes versus the Lakers on Monday night in a Suns win.

"I think he's got a great future. The one thing is we always have to be a little careful with the ankle. His foot is a little sore right now."

Hornacek went on to speculate that it could be a case of tendinitis as a result of Len's recent surgeries, but gave no indication that Len would be missing significant time or even a single game in the near future.

On one hand, it's encouraging that Hornacek mentioned the soreness only in passing, alluding to it being not much more than a minor, nagging issue that the team's medical staff will be monitoring closely.

On the other hand, foot injuries for a man of 7'1 should never be taken lightly. Yao Ming and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, both over 7 feet tall, battled foot injuries throughout their career, with Yao eventually being forced into early retirement.

For us fans, all we can do is hope and trust in the Suns' vaunted medical staff to work their wizardry.

Again, as of now there is no indication that Len will miss any games. The Suns host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight and until further notice, Len will be in uniform. Expect the Suns to be extremely cautious with his minutes, however. The health and future of the young center is abundantly more important than any regular season game the Suns will play this season.


The Suns just swept the Lakers and are 3-0 on an eight game homestand. It turns out the Suns might be pretty good, but an upcoming brutal stretch will reveal much more about the team. The winds of trade rumors are also still swirling as Miles Plumlee's name is making headlines.

Sean Sullivan is the guest of honor this week and joins me in discussing the red hot, trade happy Phoenix Suns. The Suns had a light week, but swept a pair of games... including one that gave them a season sweep over the hapless Lakers. We talk about the next potential ex-Suns, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green among others, as Ryan McDonough continues to wheel and deal. We wrap things up by speculating on whether the streaking Suns are really coming into their own facing a daunting stretch of games against the league's best.

Sean also calls out Isaiah's boy Floyd Mayweather for dodging Manny Pacquiao. Let's make this fight happen, IT.

Enjoy.

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#Top5Protected Report will take a look at draft possibilities for the Phoenix Suns both with their own first-round pick and the Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick, which the Suns will own it falls outside of the top five. I'll be bringing you frequent posts on all of the players graded around this range of the draft and their fits in Phoenix.

Kevon Looney

PF/SF, 6'10", 210 lbs, Freshman (19 in February)
32.1 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 46.0 FG%, 30.4 3P%, 63.8 FT%

There aren't going to be many prospects that cause more intrigue than Kevon Looney. Looney was all over the place on draft boards last June and most of those draft boards didn't have him in the first round. The talent was there, but most scouts saw him as too unpolished of a player and thought that he needed at least two years in school to reach lottery status. Well, it didn't take that long.

Looney emerged out of all the summer camps as a top 10 player on draft boards, even reaching the top 5 in some. The raw potential of his rare skill set has some scouts drooling looking for that "maximum ceiling" in a prospect. Looney has point forward skills combined with the length and ability to be a very good rebounder and shot blocker on the interior. Looney looks like a mix of Lamar Odom and Marreese Speights and that's pretty freaking riveting as an NBA prospect. There's so much that jumps out about Looney's game that we don't really know what is real and what's not and that risk is what makes him so fascinating.

Point Forward Skills

At 6'10" Looney played point guard for his high school team in his senior year. He has decent enough ball handling and passing skills to get this done at his height, but what separates him is his floor vision. Looney understands where to attack defenses and the unique matchups he presents lets him decide what to do with the ball in his hands. He can glide past a bigger and stronger defender and either finish at the rim or execute a drive and kick.

Defenses are starting to pay a lot more attention to him now and Looney has started to notice more where his shooters are on the floor. With these attributes in mind, Looney is still only averaging 1.8 APG so it's not like he's an emerging playmaker. Then again, this requires him to have the ball in his hands a lot more on the perimeter and that's not really where you want Looney anyway. The proficiency with the ball in his hand is there though and that's the most important thing about his overall package.

Jump Shot

The biggest wildcard of Looney's game is his jump shot. The scouting report on him is to obviously let him shoot, but he can have games like he did against Stanford where he shoots 7-12 with a lot of those makes being jumpers. The progression of his jumper over the past year brings promise that he could actually be a legitimate threat off of the dribble and that's not even going over his potential with being a spot-up shooter as a stretch four.

This of course is the most optimistic way of going about Looney's improvement as a shooter. Looney still needs to add the necessary range to his jumper and that's especially true if he is going to play small forward in the pros. He's shooting 30% from deep this season, but that's only on 1.3 attempts a game and his makes aren't necessarily that convincing. We will get to this next, but the most important part of him being a jump shooter is that we could see him start to drift away from the basket. With his ability as a rebounder, I don't think he should be playing dominantly as a small forward.

Rebounding

While Looney's versatility with the ball in his hands is a big reason he's this high on draft boards, he really excels when he's working on the glass. He has perimeter tendencies, but Looney has a great nose for the ball and really understands how to rebound like a true 4. He's a good enough athlete with both his leaping and his length to get that extra advantage. He's really going to need put on some weight (210 lbs.) to keep that advantage in the pros, but he's only 18 so that will come with time.

Flaws and Consistency

The one big worry about Looney is the consistency in his complete game with some of the other weaknesses he already has. His flaws are that he doesn't have a real post game yet, struggles with his left hand, and is not terrific enough as a ball handler to have you feel supremely confident when he tries to go off of the dribble. With all that in mind, you still have to rely on Looney's jump shot and hope he doesn't get outmuscled and bullied on the glass.

Sometimes Looney is just a monster. He had 27 points and 19 rebounds in a double overtime win against Stanford, including 17 free throw attempts. He showcased everything in his wheelhouse during that game and that's the footage you will see on his scouting tapes. Other times, he will not get to the free throw line and struggle with his jump shot. His turnover numbers aren't very worrisome, which is a huge relief, but there's still that concern about his overall steadiness as a basketball player besides his rebounding.

Fit in Phoenix

Looney's fit like anyone else in the draft depends on where the Suns roster is on draft night and your perspective on where that roster should go. If the Suns still have T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Archie Goodwin, and their overall balance on the roster, does that mean they can afford a risk like Looney? Or does that mean they have too much development still to do and they need a more polished prospect?

I think it's the latter because the Suns are still going to have areas they need to improve in June. Looney's such an alluring prospect, but the consistency issues and wondering whether he is a small forward or a power forward is too much risk for the Suns in my opinion. This the Suns final draft to stock up and seal the door on their final core and I don't think they can afford to miss, especially with the Lakers pick, which is what they would need to draft Looney with. He's a captivating prospect, but there are better fits for the Suns in June.

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