It's that time of year for us at Bright Side of the Sun to hand out our final grades to the Phoenix Suns following a disappointing 2014/15 campaign.

The 2014/15 Phoenix Suns offered very little in the way of reliability, and have created a myriad of polarizing questions. Is Eric Bledsoe worth his contract? Is Alex Len destined for greatness or injury-plagued mediocrity? Will Archie Goodwin ever have a breakout season? Is Ryan McDonough a one-hit wonder? What exactly happened on deadline day?

Ask ten people those questions and you might get ten different answers per person. However, there are two things I think everyone can agree on.

Wright was acquired from the Celtics (who acquired him from Dallas via the Rajon Rondo trade) on January 9, as the Suns were looking to shore up their frontcourt in light of the regression of Miles Plumlee. In exchange, Boston received a top-12 protected first-rounder that was obtained from Minnesota during the Robin Lopez trade of 2012 (the Suns also sent out Hakim Warrick and received Wesley Johnson).

Also worth noting is that the Minnesota pick will become two second-rounders by the time of the 2017 draft, which is the likeliest scenario unless the Wolves hit an unexpected acceleration in their current rebuilding period.

All this is to say, the Wright trade was what you call one of them "no-brainers".

On an enigmatic team characterized by baffling inconsistency and questionable behavior, the quiet Wright could be always be counted on to deliver his trademark mixture of sneaky scoring, heady defense and highlight-reel alley-oop crushes. The insane efficiency he became known for during his years as a Maverick dropped a bit with increased minutes in Phoenix, but he was one of the few positive takeaways from the moribund post-trade Suns.

The Numbers


Wright notched 11.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2 blocks per 36 minutes. His advanced numbers contribute a 17.8 PER with a .600 TS%. Ranked among his teammates (including those departed at the deadline fiasco) he comes in at 13th in points per 36, behind the likes of Tyler Ennis and Marcus Thornton.

On the contrary, he comes in with the third highest PER, only bested by Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, and boasts the highest TS% of anyone to suit up for the Suns this season, though he is hardly the type to boast at all. His 12.4 Total Rebounding Rate is only topped among regular frontcourt players by Alex Len, as is his Block Percentage of 4.2 (equaled by Miles Plumlee).

Furthermore, he is the leading Phoenix Sun in the category of Win Shares Per 48 Minutes with a score of .170 (Isaiah Thomas was the runner-up at .162), despite a minuscule Usage Percentage of 12.8. Only Reggie Bullock and Plumlee scored lower in the USG% category, and the likes of Shavlik Randoph, Anthony Tolliver and A.J. Price actually used more possessions than did Wright.

To recap, Wright held true to his claim as an uber-efficient big man despite the fact that he bore more minutes per game (21.5) than he did during any season in his NBA career. His efficiency dropped from his days as a Maverick, but that should have been somewhat expected given the fact that his numbers with Dallas came alongside Dirk Nowitzki, who is probably the greatest-shooting big man the league has ever seen.

The Eye Test

Beyond the advanced stats, Wright's value to the Suns was obvious due to his unique skillset. For a team that infamously struggled to generate assists, Wright's style of play was a godsend. He is very nimble for a 'big man', and is constantly moving to create passing lanes for his team's ball-handlers. While many big men tend to set up position on the block, Wright constantly keeps himself in an attack-minded position in which he can see both the rim and the ball-handler, and uses his lithe frame and quick hops to generate assist and scoring opportunities that otherwise would not exist.

He isn't particularly adept at creating his own shot -- 73% of his field goals were assisted -- but perhaps this epitomizes exactly what the passing-challenged Suns need. He has a number of unorthodox shots in his arsenal, from flips to hooks to shotputs to floaters, but his real magic lies in his ability to create passing lanes that any point guard worth his salt can find.

Watch the 2014/15 Phoenix Suns for one quarter and tell me they couldn't do with a few passing lanes.

On defense, he squeezes every inch of ability from his 208 pound frame. He'll always be too lightly-built to hold his own against the Gasols and Howards of the world, but he uses his sprawling length to function as a decent rim protector, at least for a second-string center. He also shows considerable instincts and is rarely caught out of position.

If by chance my words are failing you, here is his best game as a Sun that basically encompasses everything I've already said.

Final Grade

If Wright held true to his levels of efficiency as a Maverick, he'd be getting an A+ for sure. However, I must factor in the unfortunate fact that his tenure as a Sun produced the lowest TS% of his career. On the other hand, in this maddening season full of inconsistencies, it was rather nice to depend on at least one player to deliver what you might envision on practically every night.

Wright delivered exactly what the Suns were hoping for when they traded for him, if only at slightly less than superhero levels. He leaves very little to be desired from the backup center position, and if the Suns are looking to shoot for playoffs in 2015/16, that is a pretty important box to check.

And hey, it's pretty bitchin' to be able to say that the Suns unequivocally won this trade in light of the curious moves made at the trade deadline.

He gets a B.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the massive ripple effect that follows the firing of an NBA head coach plenty of times. Over the last year or two, that ripple effect has extended into the...

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Small forward might be the weakest position for the Suns. It's also the most populated.

The Phoenix Suns were infamous during the 2014/15 season for their crowded backcourt that featured Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and rookie Tyler Ennis. When the situation became untenable and Trademaggedon 2015 ensued minutes before the trade deadline, Dragic, Thomas and Ennis all headed to new teams while Brandon Knight came to Phoenix.

Suddenly, the backcourt went from cluttered to frighteningly thin, yet the small forward position -- also in need of some trimming down -- was not addressed and on the contrary might have become even more compromised.

During Ryan McDonough's exit interview with the Suns' RISE Network, he identified four specific areas of need to be addressed over the summer.

  • Size on the front line
  • Rebounding
  • Shooting on the wing
  • Veteran leadership

We can chalk up the first two to the power forward position, where Markieff Morris desperately either needs a backup or an upgrade. The latter two ideally should receive contributions from the small forward position, and the results in 2014/15 were spotty at best.

Last year the small forward spot was fielded by a platoon of sorts that included P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris and rookie T.J. Warren. Add the possibility of veteran Danny Granger receiving a role on the Suns, and what remains isn't just a logjam, but a special kind of logjam. The kind that can't be uncluttered easily.

P.J. Tucker

The Good: Perimeter defense, decent corner-3 shooting (.359), boards and steals (7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per 36), lots of floorburns, heart and soul of the team (partly by default)

The Bad: Embarrassing off-court incidents including a Super Extreme DUI and managing to miss the bus twice, poor midrange game (shot .276 from 10-16 feet), not a good passer (7.4 AST%)

Tucker sadly might be the odd man out when the Suns look to upgrade over the summer. With a mere two years at $10.8 million left on his contract, he can easily be shipped to a contender in need of a wing stopper or packaged in a larger deal.

Tucker's impact on the image of the Phoenix Suns is quite paradoxical. He is adored by fans for his underdog persona and feisty play, but has also found his name in the wrong kind of headlines over the past year while the organization is suffering from a prolonged popularity crisis.

With all that considered, if the Suns have to part ways with Tucker in order to secure a veteran small forward that can defend and hit better than his 34.5% from 3, they aren't likely to hesitate.

T.J. Warren

The Good: Young, shifty, shot 72.5% at the rim and 52.8% overall, excellent work ethic

The Bad: Shot 5/21 from three, only 6.5 combined rebounds and assists per 36, is quiet as a churchmouse

Warren appears to have a future in the NBA as a capable scorer off the bench, but until he learns to knock down an open shot and expand his game beyond his ability to score around the paint, it's hard to see him as a starting small forward.

Look for him to hit summer league and training camp with a vengeance, as he'll once again likely be in position where he'll have to fight for his minutes. However, as McDonough showed with Tyler Ennis, just because he drafts you doesn't mean you get immunity from the trading block.

Marcus Morris

The Good: Can get hot from time to time (5 games of 20+ points), improved defense, is Markieff's twin brother

The Bad: Shooting fell of a cliff after All-Star break, screamed at coach on national TV, classic tweener, might be in prison soon

Let's go ahead out on a limb and assume that no NBA team will be interested in trading for a player who is currently awaiting trial for felony assault and will receive prison time if convicted. The Morris twins' spots on the roster will be represented by two gigantic, immovable lumps of petrified dung until their legal situations are concluded.

In the meantime, don't expect any sentimentality from the Suns. They won't hesitate to send Mook plummeting down the depth chart if they can find a suitable replacement that will stay out of trouble, assuming he is even a part of the team by October.

Danny Granger

Here's where things really get interesting. Might it be possible that the solution to the Suns' lack of veteran leadership and perimeter shooting is already be present in the form of Granger, who has put up a 3P% of .380 during his ten year career? This is a potentially sticky situation that could possibly yield dividends for the Suns.

Granger has been training with the warlocks on the Suns' medical staff, and is already seeing results.

"I've only been here a month but I have felt a difference," Granger said. "I've been improving. I'll use the rest of the summer to keep improving. I think the guys have done a great job with correcting a lot of imbalances that I've had and I've played with for the last 10 or 11 years."

Read more here.

He has a player option of $2.1 million that he can exercise to stay with the Suns, or he can enter free agency. He has reportedly already purchased a home in the valley. There are complications, though.

For one, he happens to play a position that is already quite cumbersome in Phoenix. Suppose for a moment that he follows a similar path of Grant Hill, who experienced a resurgence with the Suns that saw him reinvent himself as a defensive ace while playing in no fewer than 70 games in a season (excluding the lockout year in 2011/12), after being notoriously plagued with injuries during his tenure in Orlando.

While Granger has never been confused for a defensive stopper, who can honestly say that the Suns couldn't use a veteran 38% 3-point shooter, especially as they continue to attempt a dual-PG system with Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe that depends greatly on floor-spacing?

Yet what assurance would Granger have to pick up his player option with Tucker and Warren theoretically ahead of him on the depth chart? On the same token, what assurance would the Suns have to knock down the minutes of Tucker and/or Warren for a guy who hasn't played more than 41 games since the 2011/12 season?

While both sides have potential pitfalls to consider, the decision is ultimately Granger's. On the Suns' side of things, they'll have a considerable amount of maneuvering to do if they want to bring in a DeMarre Carroll or even a Draymond Green into the fold.

As underwhelming as the small forward position is to the present Suns team, it is equally encumbered. Not exactly an ideal dynamic for summer trading.

So ... What Happens Next?

No easy answer here. If the Suns want to pursue a small forward via free agency or trade, which McDonough's comments allude to, they'll be faced with the unenviable task of either moving or demoting Tucker and/or Warren, one of which is the closest thing they currently have to a veteran leader and the other will be a second-year player that has shown promise.

And that's not even considering the Danny Granger angle.

Apparently this is why Ryan McDonough gets paid the proverbial big bucks, and this is only one of the urgent matters he will be trusted to resolve over the summer.

Under his tenure, we have had one magical season (as magical as 48 wins can get, anyway) and one season of pure foolishness. 2015/16 will be his tiebreaker for better or worse, and a lot will depend on what he does with the curious situation at small forward.

Best of luck to him.

And to us, of course.

62 players were originally invited to this week's NBA Draft Combine.


MVP Stephen Curry scored 21 of his 33 points by halftime.


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