The seven-layer dip that the Phoenix Suns (23-51) season has become added another flavor to the dish with what some are criticizing as blatant "tanking" late in the season.

Game Recaps

@ Utah Jazz- L (103-88)

vs. Sacramento Kings - L (117-103)

vs. Indiana Pacers - L (112-104)

The dip is of the pre-made, pre-packaged variety and this weeks layer was like that sour cream substitute that reheats awkwardly making the entire dish inedible. That is the taste left in the mouth of fans after this past week.

There was a subtle (not so subtle) tactic played out this week by the coaching staff in sitting Goran Dragic. In an 82 game season that is filled with bumps, bruises, and nagging injuries there is no questioning a player sitting out two games to get back in good health. Completely in-bounds.

However, there is something to be said about sitting your best player who is fully healthy, ready to play, and when the two games happen to be against two teams that, if they lose, benefit the Suns long-term cause.

It has been mocked ad nauseum over the past few days in the national media, so I guess any press is good press was not entirely accurate. Losing to the Jazz gives them a half game on the Los Angeles Lakers, who owe their pick to the Suns if they miss the playoffs. The Jazz are battling them in the standings. The Kings are battling the Suns in the standings. If they win the Suns create a full game of separation in the lottery standings. Both were accomplished last week.

2013 NBA Draft Update

Right now the Suns are slotted in the 4th spot in the Lottery Standings and 30th via the Miami Heat. For the lottery pick, the New Orleans Hornets (won four of six), Sacramento Kings (won two of three), and Washington Wizards (won 8 of 13) are moving the other way giving the Suns some comfort and separation in having solid odds of finishing with a bottom five record.

The Lakers are in the playoffs today, Jazz own the tie-breaker over the Lakers which puts them in the playoffs today, but the Dallas Mavericks are surging to rally back into the race. It could get real interesting this week leading down to the final stretch.

Lakers (38-36): vs. Mavericks, vs. Grizzlies, and @ Clippers

Mavericks (36-37): @ Lakers, @ Nuggets, and @ Kings

Jazz (38-36): vs. Blazers, vs. Nuggets, vs. Hornets

On a side-note the NCAA Tournament has reached a Final Four that will showcase potential lottery picks Trey Burke (Michigan), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), and Glenn Robinson III (Michigan). It will also feature Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Russ Smith (Louisville), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Chane Behanan (Louisville), and C.J. Fair (Syracuse) as potential late first-to-early- second round prospects for the Suns to keep an eye on.

The Highs

Two games, two starts, and 23 total assists for Kendall Marshall. The results were not ideal as both games ended in defeat, but Marshall showed promise in the games. It is really easy to mock the rookie as a lottery pick that is not producing at a high level right away, but the steady improvement over the season is noticeable if you are willing to look for it. Getting on the court and having playing time helps in the process.

First 9 Games w/15+ Minutes: 4.2 PPG (42.1%) 3.8 APG 1.7 TPG

Last 7 Games w/15+ Minutes: 7.0 PPG (37.5%) 6.28 APG 2.57 TPG

The more recent games are a smaller sample size, but the numbers across the board are better. Marshall is shooting more (10 more total attempts) and playing with much more confidence.

The Lows

As a franchise the Suns have lost 50 or more games only seven times (including this season) showing remarkable consistency. This team is the second fastest to 50 losses for the Suns, ever. Only the 1968-1969 team that lost 66 games did it faster, by nine games to be exact. This years Suns lost their 50th game in the 73rd game of the season and are four losses away from owning the second worst record in franchise history.


A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • B- for Kendall Marshall: Two starts with double-digit assist totals for the rookie was capped off with a 10min game to continue the remarkable inconsistency of this seasons rotations.
  • D+ for Markieff Morris: In 91 minutes the Suns original Morris Twin finished with 15 combined defensive rebounds/blocks. He made a defensive play once every six minutes. The new "defensive-minded" mindset has not set in for everyone.
  • B+ for Wesley Johnson: Smilin' has been consistently solid on the offensive end scoring 15.7 points per game this week getting it done from the perimeter.

Player of the Week:

Luis Scola - 17.7 PPG 5.3 RPG 0.3 APG 0.7 BPG 56.8% FG

In the absence of Dragic the Suns next best offensive weapon stepped up to score 45 points, shouldering the offensive load. Scola did not lead the team to a victory in either of the games, but his scoring was the difference between losing by 30+ points. Even in this week, in typical 2013 Suns fashion, Scola finished the week with an 8 point forgettable performance.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, April 3rd @ Los Angeles Clippers (49-25)

Friday, April 5th vs. Golden State Warriors (42-32)

Sunday, April 7th vs. New Orleans Hornets (26-48)


Dave King asked me via email if I hate Kendall Marshall. No, I don't hate Kendall Marshall but I still think he has a LOT of work to do on his game. Yes, all rookies need to improve in a lot of areas. The difference for me is how far behind he is on so many fundamental NBA skills.

He has one great and valuable skill, but as he said on the podcast with Kris and Jim, he understands the need to improve other areas. He said exactly the same thing at media day back in October.

To my eye, he's not improved much this season since I first watched him in Vegas in July. I don't see any change in his shooting stroke (you can see for yourself below) and he's still not scoring the ball. Sure, he doesn't look completely lost like he did in his first couple of games and he's confident enough, but that's a pretty low bar.

Most importantly, can and will he improve? As I've said, I think his hill is too big to climb. We'll see.

We previously looked at Kendall's three-point shooting. Those numbers speak for themselves and in the last video on the page here you can hear Kendall talking about his shooting while looking at clips from both North Carolina and with the Suns. Judge for yourself.

But there's more to his game than shooting so I dug into his pick and roll play. As you might imagine, he shows some nice flashes as a passer out of that most basic NBA set.

Here's the numbers via Synergy.

72 percent of the time he passed out of pick and roll. That's 123 possessions (as of Friday) with a fairly decent overall result rate of .984 point per possession (PPP). If you are getting one point per possession you are doing well so this is a pretty good sign, especially since he's mostly passing to a shooter (Scola) or another young player (Morris) and has played very little with a finisher (Gortat).

In the first video, we look at several types of pick and roll passes.

One thing that caught my eye about his passing is the exclusive use (from what I saw) of his left hand. There's a play in the video where a right-handed bounce pass to the roll man on his left would have been better. Kendall was still able to make a nice pass with his left hand despite the angle. Among the things that concern me, this is pretty low on the list. It's the kind of thing he'd need to work on to be an elite pick and roll guard. We're very far from that due to the shooting/scoring issues.

On 28 percent of Marshall's pick and rolls he's taken a shot. Of these 47 possessions, he's averaging just .426 PPP. That's bad.

One set of data that surprised me was the gap between his effectiveness when the defender went under the screen versus going over. You would think with a poor jump shooter defenders would give him that shot -- and many do -- but on 16 of those type possessions Synergy recorded, he averaged .875 PPP. Not all that bad.

However, on 16 possessions where the defender went over the screen his average plunged to just .250 PPP. If you chase a Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic over screens, they are going to get in the paint and kill you by finishing or passing.

Marshall, however, is such a poor finisher that defenses don't have to rotate an extra man. That inability to draw help might be an even bigger flaw than his shooting.

This all prompted me to look at his finishes in the restricted area. On the season, out of 555 total minutes, he has just 18 attempts inside the circle.

I looked at all of them and nine were in transition, mostly from leak outs on defensive rebounds or turnovers. Of the other nine that came out of half court offense, Marshall converted just four. Of those four, two came off cuts where he moved without the ball, had his man screened, and finished an open layout. That left only two examples all season where Marshall beat his man and finished.

The second video looks at that and we'll show you all nine clips and a bonus clip of Marshall's first attempt at working in the post (which he talked about on the podcast as well).

VIDEO: Passing out of pick and roll

Video: Finishing at the rim

Video: Marshall interview on shooting

Am I picking on Marshall? Honestly, I don't really care. He's a big boy making grown-ass dollars. He's saying all the right things about wanting to get better and he knows what he has to do. It's on him.

Music in the videos was produced for SB Nation by Cleveland artist, Sicksteen. Check out his work at Yesterday's Nothing.


The Bottom Five:

If the NBA Draft Lottery were to happen today, and the ping-pong balls were to hold true to odds, the Phoenix Suns would be given the 4th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Here is a look at the bottom five teams and their current records, as well as a look at their up-coming games this week, and some predictions on where they could be positioned afterward.

5. Detroit Pistons: 24-49

Upcoming games this week: 3/31 @ Chicago Bulls, 4/1 @ Toronto Raptors, 4/3 @ Boston Celtics, 4/6 @ Minnesota

With a four game road trip on the horizon, all against teams with better records than themselves, it is quite possible the Pistons could finish the week 0-4. Still, I expect them to get at least one win, either against Toronto or Minnesota, and will probably be 25-53 by the start of next week, and stay in the 5th spot.

4. Phoenix Suns: 23-51

Upcoming games this week: 4/3 @ L.A. Clippers, 4/5 vs. Golden State Warriors

The Suns have a short schedule this week, against two high powered opponents. Although the Suns have shown the ability to play their best against the toughest teams in the league, I believe the most likely outcome of both these games would be two more added to the loss column. The Suns will likely be 23-53 to start next week, and could move into the 3rd lottery spot.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: 22-49

Upcoming games this week: 3/31 @ New Orleans Hornets, 4/1 @ Atlanta Hawks, 4/3 vs. Brooklyn Nets, 4/5 vs. Boston Celtics

The Cavs have a busy schedule this week with two road games and two home games. Despite the fact that the Cavs have been in a major slump due to Kyrie Irving's shoulder injury, he's reportedly set to return tonight against New Orleans, and I think the Cavs should win against both the Hornets/Pelicans as well as the Celtics at home this week. I expect the Cavs will finish the week with a record of 24-51, and move up to the 4th spot.

2. Orlando Magic: 19-55

Upcoming games this week: 4/1 @ Houston Rockets, 4/3 @ San Antonio Spurs, 4/5@ Chicago Bulls

The Magic have three road games this week all against playoff teams. Unless a fluke happens or one of these teams decides to rest their starters for the night, I can't see Orlando winning anything, and should finish the week at 19-58...remaining in the second lottery position.

1. Charlotte Bobcats: 17-56

Upcoming games this week: 4/1 @ Milwaukee Bucks, 4/3 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 4/5 vs. Miami Heat, 4/6 @ Brooklyn Nets

The only game I could see the Bobcats maybe winning this week is against the Bucks...and I still doubt it happens. Still, I'm going to say they either get a win against the Bucks or the 76ers at home and finish 1-3 on the week, which would give them a record of 18-59 going into next week, and still good/bad enough for the first position in the lottery.

The Race for 8th

Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a virtual tie with the Utah Jazz for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, and are currently ahead of the Dallas Mavericks by 1.5 games. As I'm sure everyone reading this is well aware, if the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns will receive their first round pick...likely the 14th overall. However, if the Lakers make the playoffs, they get the Miami Heat's pick instead, which will likely be the 30th or 29th overall at best. So yeah, the Suns very much have a vested interest in the Lakers' success, or lack thereof. Here is a look at these three teams' current records, and what they may look like by the end of the week.

8. Utah Jazz 38-36

Upcoming games this week: 4/1 vs. Portland Trailblazers, 4/3 vs. Denver Nuggets, 4/5 vs. New Orleans Hornets

The Utah Jazz have not been the same team since the all-star break, and have since let the Lakers back in a race that at one tome looked very unlikely. Still the Jazz were able to get a win last night, and with three home games this week, could go 2-1 overall giving them a record of 40-37 at the end...which might be good enough to stay in 8th place, for now.

9. Los Angeles Lakers 38-36

Upcoming games this week: 4/2 vs. Dallas Mavericks, 4/5 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The game against the Mavericks could have huge implications in the Lakers' playoff aspirations. Although they will be playing at home, Steve Nash suffered a hamstring injury last night which could either sideline or stifle him in the upcoming game(s). Although listed as day to day, hamstring injuries can linger, especially with older players, and will likely have an effect either way. Still, there's nothing more dangerous than a cornered Mamba, and it's very possible the Lakers could overcome yet another obstacle in their tumultuous season. I have a feeling they will win against the Mavericks but will lose against the Grizzlies, giving them a record of 39-37 on the week...and still barely out of the playoffs for the time being.

10. Dallas Mavericks 36-37

Upcoming games this week: 4/2 @ L.A. Lakers, 4/4 @ Denver Nuggets, 4/5 @ Sacramento Kings

The Mavs have a tough week ahead with the Lakers and Nuggets on the road...then a back-to-back against the Kings. I don't think Dallas will be able to pull out more than one win this week which will give them a 37-39 record at the end of the week, which will keep them in the 10th spot and further out of contention.

Feel free to voice your opinions and predictions in the comments below!


The Indiana Pacers are rolling while the Phoenix Suns are getting rolled.

Since losing starting C Marcin Gortat to a foot injury, the Phoenix Suns are 2-10 and looking worse by the day. The Indiana Pacers, on the other hand, have been missing their best scorer, Danny Granger, almost the entire season and have thrived.

The difference? Better collective talent, and an excellent, defense-based gameplan.

Pacers a model?

If you are looking for a model the Suns might want to emulate, you might want to look at the Indiana Pacers for inspiration. After making it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004, the Pacers declined slowly. Eventually, they missed the playoffs for 4 straight seasons from 2006-2010 under a coach (Jim O'Brien) that had them (failing to regularly) score from the perimeter while playing middling defense.

When the team stopped progressing, they handed the reins to untested Frank Vogel, who had never been a head coach before (though he had spent 10 years as an NBA assistant). Vogel instituted a defense-first mentality that used an efficient inside-out offensive scheme (offensive rating jumped from 26th to 7th), took the Pacers to the playoffs and now has them seeded third in the East with an even more focused defense sans Danny Granger's offense.

Their best draft moves were getting lucky with Danny Granger (17th overall in 2005) and then Paul George and Lance Stephenson (10th and 40th in 2010). But that's the highlight of their draft prowess using their own picks during that timeframe.

They traded erstwhile All-Star Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto for the rights to rookie C Roy Hibbert (17th in 2008), who went on to exceed expectations along with Danny Granger.

Hibbert and Granger developed with a ragtag group of middling players who wouldn't be starting for any playoff team, and certainly didn't in Indiana.

Then the 2010 draft came along (George) and they fully revitalized their team in 2011. The Pacers bookended the 2011 lockout by trading the 15th overall pick (Kawhi Leonard) to San Antonio for George Hill, and later signing free agent David West before the 2011-12 season finally started.

Since then, the Pacers have been on the rise in the East without boasting a top-10 player in the NBA. They are doing it with defense - ranked #1 overall this season by a wide margin.

The Phoenix Suns could do well to emulate this pattern. They already have the several-seasons-outside-the-playoffs thing going, and won't pick up a franchise-changer in the upcoming draft. But that's where the similarities end.

At some point, the Suns have to start trending back up. It won't happen in these next 9 games, but this summer is crucial to start turning the tide in the right direction.

The Suns reportedly want to win with defense going forward, and getting the right coach into position to do so (like the Pacers did with Vogel) is vital. Is Lindsey Hunter that coach? Maybe. Maybe not. The Suns have to put Hunter against a number of other candidates this spring to find out.

Vogel was in a different position than Hunter is in right now. In fact, Hunter's position more closely resembles Jim O'Brien's in Indiana - the guy who presided over the team while they got younger, after the playoffs slipped away.

Vogel took over a team that was already young and ready to implement his teachings, while Hunter is still going through the roster transition. Will next year be different? Who knows, at this point. Depends on how the summer goes.

Earlier Matchup

Goran Dragic missed the first game of the season series, where the Suns lost in Indiana 97-91. The Suns played a tough game but came up short at the end. Telfair put up 19 and 6 in Dragic's absence, while Marcin Gortat had 15 and 10 against Roy Hibbert. The Suns don't have either of those players tonight.

This is Indiana's only trip to Phoenix this season.

Tonight's matchup

The Pacers' #1 defense in the NBA face the NBA's worst overall offense since Hunter took over. Expect starting point guard Goran Dragic back in the lineup tonight, along with Jermaine O'Neal.

The Suns like to "get up" for playoff teams, so maybe tonight will be a revelation of effort and execution like we saw against Houston, the Lakers and New Jersey. But don't count on it.

The Pacers are on a roll while the Suns are getting rolled. Expect more of the same, no matter who starts for the Suns tonight.

Cute little fun-fact that means nothing

Tonight's game against Indiana will be the FIRST EVER NBA game to feature two pairs of brothers facing off against each other. Indiana boasts Tyler and Ben Hansbrough, while the Suns boast Marcus and Markieff Morris.

Let's get ready to rumble!

Check out the other side of the coin

SB Nation's Pacers blog - Indy Cornrows

Indy Stats

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Paul George 72 37.5 6.4 15.1 42.5 2.2 5.9 37.5 2.7 3.2 82.0 1.1 6.7 7.8 4.0 3.0 1.8 0.6 2.9 17.7
David West 66 33.3 6.9 14.0 49.2 0.1 0.3 22.2 3.3 4.3 75.9 2.0 5.7 7.7 3.0 2.1 1.0 1.0 2.0 17.2
George Hill 69 34.4 5.1 11.5 44.6 1.7 4.6 37.5 2.2 2.7 81.5 0.6 3.2 3.8 4.7 1.6 1.1 0.3 1.8 14.2
Roy Hibbert 72 28.7 4.7 10.7 43.6 0.0 0.1 25.0 2.0 2.7 74.1 3.7 4.5 8.3 1.5 2.0 0.5 2.7 3.5 11.3
Lance Stephenson 70 28.9 3.4 7.6 45.6 0.8 2.4 32.7 0.8 1.3 63.6 0.6 3.3 3.9 2.8 1.3 1.0 0.2 2.0 8.5
Tyler Hansbrough 73 16.8 2.2 5.1 43.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.7 3.7 72.5 2.0 2.6 4.6 0.5 0.9 0.4 0.2 1.9 7.1
Gerald Green 55 18.2 2.4 6.9 35.2 0.9 3.0 31.1 0.9 1.1 80.6 0.5 1.9 2.5 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.4 1.1 6.7
Danny Granger 5 14.6 2.0 7.0 28.6 0.4 2.0 20.0 1.0 1.6 62.5 0.6 1.2 1.8 0.6 0.8 0.4 0.2 1.2 5.4
Ian Mahinmi 73 16.5 1.9 4.3 45.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 2.2 65.2 1.4 2.5 3.9 0.3 1.2 0.5 0.9 2.5 5.3
D.J. Augustin 68 16.3 1.4 3.9 35.1 0.9 2.5 36.4 1.1 1.3 83.9 0.3 1.0 1.2 2.3 0.9 0.5 0.0 0.9 4.7
Orlando Johnson 43 12.2 1.5 3.4 44.2 0.7 1.7 42.5 0.5 0.7 72.4 0.4 1.8 2.3 1.0 0.6 0.2 0.2 1.0 4.2
Jeff Pendergraph 32 9.7 1.6 3.4 45.9 0.1 0.1 66.7 0.5 0.5 94.1 0.8 2.0 2.8 0.4 0.6 0.1 0.3 1.3 3.7
Sam Young 49 12.7 1.1 2.8 39.0 0.3 1.0 32.7 0.4 0.7 54.3 0.5 1.8 2.3 0.8 0.6 0.3 0.2 1.0 2.9
Ben Hansbrough 26 7.0 0.5 1.4 32.4 0.2 0.8 30.0 0.6 0.8 72.7 0.0 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.2 0.0 0.8 1.8
Miles Plumlee 12 3.8 0.2 1.3 12.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 75.0 0.9 0.8 1.7 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.4 0.6

Bold Prediction

At some point in the second or fourth quarter, all four brothers will be on the court.

One of the four (either Markieff or Tyler) will have a significant game, while the other three lay an egg.

Lindsey Hunter was talking small victories and Goran Dragic praised Markieff Morris' effort.

Page 1423 of 2363


Web Links

Sponsored Ads