All 4 games in the series have been competitive and come down to the fourth quarter, with the last three being decided in the waning moments, but Miami is positioned to close out the series tonight because, ironically, they are playing team basketball and closing out games better than the Thunder.
It has been an entertaining series so far, but not great. Great series don't end in 5 games. The Thunder will have to extend this before the discussion can enter that realm. To do so, they will need an inspired effort.
Here are some quick stats, notes, and trends to watch for:
Lebron James 29.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 6 apg, 47.2% fg
Dwyane Wade 23.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 41.3% fg
Chris Bosh 12.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 39.6% fg
Kevin Durant 30.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2 apg, 55% fg
Russell Westbrook 29 ppg, 7 rpg, 6.8 apg, 48% fg
James Harden 10.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 35.1% fg
James leads the Heat in scoring, rebounding, and assists per game for the series (Westbrook is 1.3 points and .5 rebounds per game from the same feat). James will be the Finals MVP if Miami wins tonight. Believe it or not, Lebron = cramps clutch.
Durant has become a more one dimensional player in the series with less than 5 rebounds per game. He has also struggled with horrible officiating foul trouble and (possibly) the physicality of the series.
Harden has had an execrable series, reaching double figures just once in 4 games. He needs to step it up. He will be playing tonight with a bruised ego hand.
Miami has had a more balanced attack, with 5 players (Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Battier, and Chalmers) reaching double figures in scoring at least twice. Only Durant and Westbrook have done so for the Thunder.
The Thunder have had a player score at least 16 points in the fourth quarter in 3 of the 4 games (Durant 17 game 1, Durant 16 game 2, and Westbrook 17 game 4), but Miami has come up big when it mattered most.
Will tonight finally be the King's coronation, or will the series head back to the barn for game 6?
This year the NBA decided to a get little more social and started recognizing various players, teams and personalities for their impact on the basketball social media world. They're calling it the NBA SMA's (Social Media Awards).
Awards with quirky colloquial names like "FTW" and the "LOL" were handed out to individuals who impacted the social media scene with either plays made on the court or their direct interaction with fans through social media or in their communities.
The Phoenix Suns are proud to boast that in the inaugural presentation of the NBA SMA winners Jared Dudley was the winner of the "BIG" (Best in Game) award which honors a player who best connected with fans through the use of social media. Whether it's JMZ /JSPN vidoes posted on Twitter or Facebook, or engaging questions posed to fans about current events, trends or food spots around the country - Dudley does indeed provide a unique and entertaining perspective on the life of a professional basketball player in the NBA.
You can watch a short video of Dudley receiving the award here.
With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft.
Depending on the decisions the Suns make in free agency this season, nearly every position could be considered an area of need.
With the future of Grant Hill an uncertainty, and Jared Dudley and Josh Childress being the only wings currently under contract, small forward can certainly be considered a position in need of attention.
If the Suns choose to address this position, one of the candidates they could choose to draft this year is Jefferey Taylor.
For those of you who have been following the mock drafts, you may have noticed that most analysts believe Jeffery Taylor will be drafted in the late first or early second round, not the lottery. So why would the Suns have any interest in him with the #13th pick? Well, most likely they wouldn't.
However, as our own Alex Laugan pointed out, this is a buyers market with plenty of teams willing to trade or outright sell their picks for the right price.
So even though the Suns don't currently have any additional picks beyond the 13th, with as many holes as they have to fill, along with trying to convince their franchise free agent point guard to stay, they may feel the need to significantly upgrade their roster and acquire young talent through one of the cheapest means possible...the draft.
If the Suns choose to address one of the guard positions with their 13th pick, they may still seek a way to add an additional first round talent at another position for a lesser price. Jeffery Taylor is considered by many analysts to be one of the best values in the draft where he is currently projected to be taken, and many believe he will be a very solid contributor at the next level. We do know that the Suns already invitedJeffery Taylor in for a workout, so obviously there is some level of interest there, and Taylor's position is certainly a good match for Phoenix as well. So if the Suns do either buy or trade their way into the late first/early second round, Taylor would certainly be a viable option.
But would Jeffery Taylor be the right fit for the Suns? Read on after the jump for a closer look.
Jefferey Taylor is a 6'7" senior SF from Vanderbilt who is known for his tremendous athleticism, speed, quickness, and great defense.
Until his senior year, his skill-set could be said to end right there. One of the biggest knocks on Taylor has always been his inconsistency as a shooter. However, he has greatly improved his game in this regard, especially from beyond the arc. Taylor went from shooting just 22% from three in his freshman season to 42% beyond the arc as a senior.
Taylor also steadily improved his overall offensive game over his four-year career at Vanderbilt. He was the second highest scorer on the Commodores this season averaging 16.1 points per game while shooting 49.3% from the field, to go along with his 5.6 rebounds per game as well. Taylor also played a major part in helping to lead Vanderbilt all the way to the SEC championship this season by beating the heavily favored (and eventual NCAA champion) Kentucky Wildcats in a stunning upset. Unfortunately for Taylor, the Commodores wouldn't fare nearly as well in the NCAA tournament as they were defeated in the third round by Wisconsin.
At the NBA pre-draft combine, Taylor's numbers were even better than expected. He measured 6'7.5" in shoes at 213lbs with a 40 inch vertical, and an 8'5.5" standing reach. Taylor also posted the fourth lowest 3/4 court sprint time at the combine at 3.19 seconds, and the second lowest in the lane agility drill at 10.57 seconds.
Here are the stats from Taylor's four seasons at Vanderbilt:
% Tm Pos
Looking at these stats you can see that the three point shot is really the most noticeable area of improvement over Taylor's four years at Vanderbilt. He has always shot the ball at right around 50% from the field overall, and his points per game have really only increased due to his minutes increasing along with them.
That's not necessarily a bad thing though...One of Taylor's greatest strengths has always been his defense, and he has consistently done well in this aspect of his game. He has also always had a great first step and been very quick at getting to the rim. But his improved three point shooting gives him another way to contribute at the next level, and this is an area of his game he has really worked hard at developing and has really paid off for him...and could make him that much more valuable to a team that depends on the outside shooting ability of the wings, like the Suns.
The only real knocks against Taylor are his age (23) and that he's not a great iso scorer or all that great at creating his own shot. But Taylor brings a great deal of NBA readiness with his game along with incredible athleticism and a high motor, and could be a steal as a late first round pick, or especially as an early second round prospect if he's still available.
I expect the Suns will at least be ready to wheel-and-deal come draft day, and I wouldn't be surprised if Taylor is someone they keep a close eye on.
Who knows what's Plan A vs. Plan B vs. Plan C vs. Plan D in the Suns' thinking. We on the outside have no idea what order the Suns would put these potential point guards, but you've got to think the Suns have their order already laid out.
In the past 24 hours, the Suns have expressed interest in PG draft prospects Kendall Marshall and Damian Lillard. They've also been rumored to want free-agent-to-be Goran Dragic back, if Nash leaves. On top of that, Jared Dudley (Mr Social Media himself) recently told a reporter that the Suns have a real shot to keep Steve Nash, and other reporters have listed the Suns as Deron Williams' third-best free agent option this summer.
Wow. So maybe the Suns need to resolve their point guard problem, with Nash being 39 and a free agent? Whuda thunk it?
None of this is a surprise to Suns fans, for sure. None is breaking news.
The question I'm asking today is: in what order do the Suns have these guys on their secret white board? In any ranking, you have to weigh the likelihood successful acquisition against your love for the player himself.
Hit the jump for links to rumors/quotes on these guys, as well as my risk/probability analysis that must play into their thinking.
First, let's establish the substance of each rumor.
"I saw him a lot and it was impressive. He was the main focus of the other team's defense and still was the second leading scorer in the country (24.5 points per game). He didn't break out of the offense to get his points. They came out of the flow of the offense and within the rhythm of his team."
Visiting for the second time in a week, which shows some heightened level of interest in him over others in the draft.
From John Treloar, Suns' draft boss, to Paul Coro of azcentral.com: "There are going to be questions until he goes out there and shows what he can do in the NBA," Treloar said. "Personally, I think he'll improve in the NBA. He makes players better."
Sean Deveny of sportingnews.com has always had good dirt on the Suns over the years, despite the front office changes. So when he mentions Suns' interest, I'm inclined to believe it's real.
Assuming that is not Houston, a source told Sporting News, Dragic could wind up in a familiar surrounding anyway-back in Phoenix. Should the Suns lose Nash in free agency, Phoenix is expected to make a push to re-sign Dragic and give him the reins in coach Alvin Gentry's offense. That would suit Dragic.
"I learned a lot in Phoenix, I had a very good time there," he said. "I don't know what is going to happen, but that is an organization I know, obviously, and they helped me a lot."
Our own Jared Dudley recentlyexpressed optimism to Alex Kennedy of hoopsworld.com in Steve coming back: "If he wants to go try to win a championship, hey, more power to him," Dudley said. "If he wants to stay and help this process, more power to him. I definitely think he'll weigh his options and see what he can do. Steve wants to compete and he wants to play for an organization that wants to compete. If he feels that's the Suns or another organization, he'll definitely decide that, but I definitely think it's 50/50. I think the Suns have a huge, real shot at bringing him back."
That's a lot more positive than I remember him talking about Amare two years ago. Back then, he expressed concern over the Suns need to step up in a big way. This time, Dudley didn't mention concern over the Suns at all. It's in Nash's court, as its always been.
And then there's the repeated link to max-contract FA Deron Williams. It's the flimsiest of them all, but it's still there and it's not going away. Williams WILL sign a max contract. The question is: with who?
Chris Broussard recently wrote an insider piece for the mothership, detailing Williams' options. Of course, the Nets (most money, most years) and Dallas (room for max contract, still have Dirk and Cuban but much else) are the front-runners. No question they are the leaders in the clubhouse. But is there another very real option, a dark horse?
That leaves Phoenix. The weather and golf (Williams is a huge golf guy) is great, the offense is free-flowing (something Williams is definitely looking for), and with him, the team could be on the rise. While the Suns' first choice appears to be re-signing Nash, the younger Williams is a better option. I don't think the Suns could move ahead of Dallas on Williams' list, but they should not be completely discounted either.
So there you have the latest rumors on the Suns point guard for 2012.
First, let's rank these guys in order of 2012-13 talent, giving the Suns the best chance to win lots of games:
Next, let's rank these guys in order of longer-term talent, beyond 2012-13:
Finally, let's rank them in order of how EASY it will be for the front office to sign them:
It will be a complete shock if Williams signs with the Suns.The Suns would likely have to acquire another all-star level talent first, then talk Williams into spurning Dallas and NJ for a contender in Phoenix. On a lesser scale, the Suns still have to improve at least a little in free agency to keep Nash. But since the front office has shown little creativity to date, that could be difficult.
Signing Dragic to a big free agent contract or drafting a point guard, though, is a LOT easier. Neither requires a great level of creativity or agressiveness. That's why I ranked these higher in the "ease" category.
So what will the Suns do? In what order do they have these guys?
The Suns actual ranking of these options likely weighs both talent AND probability. To do that, the Suns have to decide what's most important. Spend money to win big in 2012-13? Or re-build the team around a rookie PG?
On opening night, you could see a contender step onto the court with Deron Williams leading the charge, flanked by a SG tandem of rookie/vet shooting guard, Hill/Dudley, new PF and Gortat.
Or you could see a rookie lead the charge with new, young faces all over the court and a 20-win season pre-ordained
But the most likely scenario might just be Nash leading the charge, flanked by a team of middle-tier "if everything goes right" playoff talent.