Brandon Knight's imminent return raises questions; here are 5 reasons to bring him off the bench and keep the starters intact.

Allow me to preface this with the following disclaimers:

1. I really like Brandon Knight. The cache of assets that the Phoenix Suns gave up for him is a bit jarring, but I think he's an extremely talented player with a very good head on his shoulders.

2. Jeff Hornacek knows more than me and will make a decision that is much more informed than what comes of my nerding out on a laptop.

Ok, let's begin.

The Phoenix Suns have now won five of their last six games with newly-acquired guard Brandon Knight on the sidelines with a sprained ankle, suddenly vaulting themselves back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They have gone with a starting lineup of Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Alex Len, who has returned from a sprained ankle of his own.

Knight's return to the lineup is rapidly approaching, possibly as soon as their next game Wednesday versus the Sacramento Kings. Therein, the question is obvious: where in the lineup does Knight fit?

The easy (and perhaps correct) answer is to simply return him to his starting slot alongside Bledsoe in the backcourt and pick up where they left off. The problem is, where they "left off" was going 4-5 since the trade and suffering a handful of embarrassing defeats such as losing by 28 at home to the Spurs and getting smacked around in Miami by Goran Dragic's new team.

Knight has had very little practice time with the Suns and is adjusting to playing off the ball beside Bledsoe, so the struggles aren't a surprise and shouldn't be taken as an indication of what caliber of player Knight is, nor how well he fits with this team.

He is also heading into restricted free agency this summer and clearly would want as much time on the floor as possible to show what he can do, so there is a political factor to consider.

However, the Suns have found a new identity in the wake of his absence and need to play as close to perfect as possible if they want to pull off the improbable and steal a playoff seed. Perhaps Knight would contribute the most to this team in the Isaiah Thomas role as a supersub off the bench during these last 11 games?

Here are five reasons why that just might be the case.

#1: The bench is in desperate need of offense

Isaiah Thomas and his formidable scoring punch were traded to facilitate the arrival of Knight. Marcus Thornton is shooting 1-16 on 3PA's and 30.6% overall since landing in Phoenix. Gerald Green ate some viscous peyote a while back and has been wandering the desert barefoot ever since.

Brandan Wright and T.J. Warren are both gifted at willing the ball through the cylinder, but both operate best with someone feeding them the rock at the right time. Archie Goodwin has his moments, but is very much still a project. A.J. Price is A.J. Price.

Once perhaps the greatest strength of the team, the bench scoring is now abysmal. This weakness could easily be turned back into a strength, or at least be brought back to respectability, with Knight added to the second unit. Remember that cozy feeling when IT would enter the game with a 10-point deficit, and you knew there was always a chance that he could tie it back up all by himself?

Knight could fill that role, and it might even add more to his value as a free agent than being overshadowed by the frequent heroics of Bledsoe.

#2: Continuity

There's a reason why no one talks to the pitcher while he's throwing a no-hitter. While winning five out of six games isn't exactly a herculean effort, in the final days of a playoff race it might as well be a 20-game winning streak. It's wise to tiptoe during such instances; walk too heavily and you might just topple the whole structure.

Since the strength of the Suns during the current streak is clearly coming from the starters, inserting Knight into the bench rather than the starting lineup will have the least amount of ripple effect, and will yield the greatest potential for net gain.

Obviously Knight's return will take minutes from somewhere, but it would be best to take them from the places that aren't currently contributing to wins.

#3: The Morris twins are rolling, and they thrive on chemistry

Ah, those Morris kids. They live to annoy you, even if it's by playing extremely well just when you were ready to drop them down the laundry chute. Are there any players in the NBA that rely on chemistry (or biorhythms, or whatever you want to call it) as much as they seem to? One can almost tangibly see it when things are clicking for them, and when they go cold, they go absolutely frigid.

As touch-and-go as the twins are, when they're playing well just let them do their damn thing. It just so happens that cumulatively, they're playing about as well as they have ever played. Once the team scapegoats for one-dimensional and selfish play on the court, they have become all-around contributors in recent days.

Against Dallas, they both recorded double-doubles with a combined 30 points and 24 rebounds, and Marcus even added seven (7!!!) assists. The night before in Houston, they combined for 34 points, 15 boards and 10 assists.

At home versus the Pelicans they both suffered through dreadful shooting nights as they combined to go 6-26 from the field, but they also combined for 21 boards and seven assists.

A fire has been lit in their shared heart (cause they totally share a heart), and the Suns staff should do everything they can to fan that flame for as long as possible. If it ends up being a flash in the pan, fine. Make the necessary changes at that time. But don't put the fire out prematurely.

Unfortunately, reinserting Knight into the starting lineup might do just that as it would inevitably force Marcus back to the bench.

#4: P.J. Tucker was a 2-guard all along

Let's get this out of the way quickly: If you can successfully defend James Harden and Monta Ellis on back-to-back nights, you can play shooting guard in the NBA. As a bonus, Tucker has been a steady contributor on offense since the break, scoring in double figures in 14 of 17 games.

He didn't skip a beat when moved to the 2, where he suddenly has a matchup advantage in his favor. Generously listed at 6'5, there was little Tucker could do on offense against longer small forwards besides spot up and shoot when open. At guard, however, he can exploit his opponent in the low post and on the boards, and does so with an obvious glee as he makes his poor adversary work that much harder, thus having less energy to expend on offense.

He was already a bonafide badass at the 3. At the 2, he's just wrong.

Bringing Tucker off the bench should never be an option on this current team (missed buses notwithstanding). Running Knight in from the bench to spell either guard position makes abundantly more sense.

#5: Smash & Dash

The Suns have found a new identity recently as -- no, seriously -- a competitive defensive team that works hard on the glass. Rick Carlisle described them as "smash-mouth". Steve Kerr said that playing the Suns was "like a wrestling match".

They have won the rebounding battle in each of their last six games, this from a franchise that hasn't been an above-average rebounding team since the Scott Skiles coaching era. The current dynamic might seem more out of place than Hank Hill grilling with charcoal, but as fun as small-ball can be it's a welcome change.

While the starters are leaving their mark as a bruising unit that battles in the trenches, imagine a bench unit with Wright, Warren and Goodwin being led by the speedy Knight, coming in to crank on the afterburners and push the pace to 11.

Smash & Dash. There's already a name for it, so it pretty much has to happen.

Wrapping it up

Obviously most of the points I attributed are born from a small sample-size of only six games, and those six games could well end up being more of an exception than a rule. But with 11 games left to decide the fate of the season, those games are all we've got.

Even if it has been a fluke, it needs to be capitalized on as much as possible given the short window of opportunity.

For a team that needs every little thing to go right, they need to protect the things that have gone right. A shakeup to the starting lineup, however justified it might be, could be enough to doom the season.

Knight's free agency situation will be handled over the summer. The suggestions posited here only pertain to the remaining part of the season. The Suns owe it to themselves, and to us, to put that first.

I think he'll understand that.

"We've got a chance."

After 19 years in the NBA, former Suns guard Steve Nash announced his retirement from professional basketball on Saturday.

We know what he did here in the states. Check out this read about how Nash inspired a generation of Canadian basketball players.

Nash's career: By the numbers.

Last one. Was the Nash trade a "complete disaster" for the Los Angeles Lakers?

Get over that irrational sadness you feel over Nash's departure from the game by celebrating Los Suns Night, on March 25th. Plenty of freebies available.

"I think what kind of screwed everything up was the success of last year." Grant Hill attributes the Phoenix struggles to lofty expectations.

Don't give up yet, though. Eric Bledsoe says, "We've got a chance."

But many are saying there simply aren't enough games remaining to get to the postseason.

Should those playoff hopes fade and you lose interest, here's 10 things you can do in the Valley this week. Ok, nine.

"I'm confident enough in myself to know that I can make the right play, whether it's me shooting or creating for a teammate or getting a stop." Archie Goodwin is looking forward to contributing in crunch time.

Ryan McDonough weighed in on Goodwin's development.

Power rankings and playoff odds!

"Very, very high. Extremely high." Amar'e Stoudemire was interested in returning to Phoenix following his contract buyout from the Knicks.

If you missed it, A.J. Price is now a Sun, Seth Curry is not.

Eric Bledsoe talked about his college head coach John Calipari, and Kentucky's pursuit of perfection.

This Week's Show

The Geeks talk the greatness that was Steve Nash, the prospect that is Nerlens Noel, and who the heck is Carey Scurry?

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Show Notes

Mandatory Russell Westbrook Shout Out

We don't want to talk Westbrook every week. However, we'll leave up a promise. If Westbrook gets a triple-double, he'll at least get a mention in the show.

Steve Nash Tribute

Steve Nash's MVP seasons were remarkable. I don't think we'll ever see an under twenty point per game MVP like Steve Nash. I hope I'm wrong.

Grantland has a great piece up on how Steve Nash played unconventionally and "changed coaching."

Let's not forget that Steve Nash was also one of the league's best scorers. When you factor in misses, Nash is a top twenty all-time scorer, right behind Kobe.

Steve Nash is one of my favorite counter-arguments to the so-called "Usage Curve" -- the idea that a player's efficiency goes down as they shoot more -- because Nash shows the major hole in the theory. Namely, a player is allowed to pass the ball.

stats.nba.com has player possession stats. In short, the usage stat, for its original purpose -- to estimate how much a player handles the ball - is obsolete.

We respect the hell out of James Harden's game. That said, Patrick thinks a player shooting twenty-five free throws a game is boring basketball.

We discuss the notion that Steve Nash wasn't athletic -- an idea Dirk Nowitzki reaffirms. People often confuse overt athleticism with other natural skills that matter. Nash's hand/eye coordination was obviously off the charts. A great book on the subject is "The Sports Gene." Things like big muscles are obvious. But things like coordination, eyesight, arm-length, oxygen capacity, etc. matter a lot too, and people often miss this.

Dennis Rodman had a 7'3'' wingspan to go with a 6'7'' body. Rudy Gobert has a 7'9'' wingspan!

Reminder, Nash took a pay cut to play in Los Angeles. It's absurd to expect him to leave even more money on the table, when he already gave the team a discount and tried his best to help them win.

Steve Nash was a better scorer and ball-handler off the dribble than Kobe. Part of Nash's decline was him holding and shooting the ball less in Los Angeles. It's a lot like Kevin Love in Cleveland this season.

There are a few major gaps in data in the NBA.

  • In the 1973-1974 season, we got offensive rebounds, steals, and blocks added to the boxscore.
  • In the 1977-1978 season, we got turnovers.
  • In the 1979-1980 season, we got the three-point shot.
  • In the 2000-2001 season, we got the play-by-play data.
  • In the 2013-2014 season, we got complete SportsVU data for each team.

Turning good shots into great shots is pretty much the secret sauce of Steve Nash's greatness.

Sometimes us quants use complicated decision trees. Of course, I don't have a problem with that.

Steve Nash encapsulates the key behind using the boxscore to examine players. A ton of Nash's greatness was in making less than an extra three-pointer a game. This is hard to notice game to game. But when you dig into the efficiency numbers, Nash's greatness gets even better.

Nerlens Noel

Last week we had Layne Vashro on the show. According to Layne's numbers, Nerlens Noel was a prospect up there with the likes of Anthony Davis and Shaq!

The number one pick is winning the rookie of the year if they lead the league in scoring. Well, unless you're Glenn Robinson playing next to Grant Hill and Jason Kidd. I don't think Andrew Wiggins needs to worry about the reserved spot in his trophy case.

A rookie getting blocks, steals, and assists at the rate Nerlens Noel is almost unheard of! Carey Scurry in 1985-1986 was the last time it happened! I'd never heard of Carey Scurry before today. He only lasted three seasons in the NBA.

The list of players that put up Noel like numbers are rare. He's only twenty years old!

Every player on the 76ers that has put up over eight assists per forty-eight minutes has also put up at least five turnovers per forty-eight minutes. In short, it's possible a better point guard could help out Noel's subpar shooting going forward.

Patrick says Embiid doesn't need to be the next Patrick Ewing. That would actually be a bad thing, as Ewing spent several seasons before he was productive.

The sad reality is that Ewing wasn't that hot when the Knicks started making finals -- he was quite good in his prime. Underrated stars like Anthony Mason are why the Knicks were so good in the 90s.

Thomas Robinson has looked good on the 76ers. They may have a strong frontcourt next season. Now, they just need a point guard that can distribute the ball.

Shout Outs

Patrick shouts out the Oklahoma City Thunder Media. The Thunder's front office has pushed them back.

Carey Scurry gets a shout out. He was totally a Nerlens Noel player before advanced stats. We can only wonder what could have been if the NBA front offices were a little more savvy.

I got to see Penn and Teller live. In terms of introspective skepticism, they are fantastic. They're also great performers and were very open for photos with fans. A class act who deserve my shout out.

Brian makes sure we give Steve Nash an extra shout out.

The Suns came out of the Steve Nash trade with Archie Goodwin, Brandon Knight and left Nash to retire with a bad Lakers team.

      
 
 

The Suns came out of the Steve Nash trade with Archie Goodwin, Brandon Knight and left Nash to retire with a bad Lakers team.

      
 
 

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