Suns players and coaches helped some of the Southwest employees at the airport yesterday.

Since 2015-16 has been a struggle on the basketball court for many reasons, the Phoenix Suns gave airport work a shot yesterday by helping out Southwest Airlines employees:

A fan Jake Black decided to beat box at @southwestair's Trading Places. #WeArePHX https://t.co/j2KYtiLcCk

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

Need to board the plane. But first, let me take a selfie. @DevinBook at @SouthwestAir Trading Places. #WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/B5QsDyAb8q

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

Coach Hornacek and @DevinBook scan passengers in for their flight at @SouthwestAir Trading Places. #WeArePHX https://t.co/zBYzokC7o8

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

.@Devinbook sends travelers off in style at the @SouthwestAir Trading Places event. #WeArePHX https://t.co/1RE7BgjZtz

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

.@tysonchandler and @A1Laflare10 at @SouthwestAir's Trading Places with the Suns. #SunsTradingPlaces pic.twitter.com/Orj6kJkYal

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

.@alexlen helps taxi a plane during @SouthwestAir's Trading Places. #SunsTradingPlaces #WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/MggtCFivZX

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

#SunsTradingPlaces with @SouthwestAir. #WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/eOSNspaDY4

— #WeArePHX (@Suns) January 22, 2016

(h/t Phoenix Suns on Twitter)

The Suns are beaten, battered, and bruised. Can they find a way to muster a win tonight against the Hawks?

What: Phoenix Suns (13-31) host Atlanta Hawks (26-18)

When: 7:00 pm

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

TV: FSAZ (locally)

Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona Sports

Game Preview

Let's face it, the Phoenix Suns are a bad team right now. And to make matters worse, they are seemingly being plagued by various injuries as well.

The Suns have only managed to eek out one win in the last month...no, really...I'm serious.  They last won a game on January 6th against the Charlotte Hornets. Their last win before that came on the 18th of December against the New Orleans Pelicans.

There's no end in sight, either, with the Suns best player out for the season, and the rest of the team seemingly dealing with a number of different issues.

The Hawks, on the other hand, are playing relatively well. They are led by the very solid trio of Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford; playing their way to a 26-18 record in the much improved Eastern Conference so far this season.

They are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, but have won three of their last five, and will almost certainly come to Phoenix determined to add another mark to the win column against the spiraling Suns.

Probable Starting Lineups

Archie Goodwin vs Jeff Teague

Devin Booker vs. Kyle Korver

P.J. Tucker vs. Kent Bazemore

Markieff Morris vs. Paul Millsap

Tyson Chandler vs. Al Horford

Game Prediction

The Suns should probably get a couple of players back tonight, after ending the last game vs. the Spurs with only eight healthy bodies. This should certainly help, but although Brandon Knight is listed as questionable, it doesn't look good that he'll be ready to return. That likely means more Archie Goodwin playing out of position as the starting point guard.

However, even if Knight returns, the Suns just simply don't have the firepower or fortitude to compete against teams with winning records right now. Devin Booker, a 19 year old rookie, has emerged as the best player on the team. And while that is certainly something to be excited about for the future, it isn't saying much for the present.

I believe that the Suns will at least play competitively tonight though. But they simply won't be able to end their losing streak against a team with the talent and veteran leadership of the Hawks.

Suns lose 106 - 92

On Tuesday night, Markieff Morris made his third start in a row. But he did not get out of the first quarter after failing to complete a massive, but ill-advised dunk attempt.

He wasn't hit. He wasn't tripped. He simply jumped too early.

As result, he hit the front of the rim so hard with the ball that injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the game, as well as the next. He might not even play tonight. Paul Coro has the scoop.

Morris is the most likely of the group to return Saturday after going through a practice with limited contact. He injured himself Tuesday when he came up short on a dunk try with fatigued legs.

"I would say, for sure," Morris said of being the closest to returning. "Still, I'm sore inside, though. It...

The Phoenix Suns' highest draft pick in 30 years has been slow to adapt to the NBA, and may never become a high-end starter. But could he still become a difference-maker on a playoff team?

As we've written and discussed many times, the Phoenix Suns have drafted in the Top 5 only one time in the past thirty years. That one player is Alex Len, who in his third NBA season still hasn't become a foundational NBA starter despite being blessed with ideal NBA size and talent.

1986-2006

Sure, the Suns sometimes have hit it big in the NBA Draft in the past thirty years. Jeff Hornacek (#46, 1986), Dan Majerle (#14, 1988), Michael Finley (#21, 1995), Steve Nash (#15, 1996), Shawn Marion (#9, 1999) and Amare Stoudemire (#9, 2002) all were named to at least one All-Star team in their careers after being drafted to play for the Suns.

Additionally, the Suns draft position was occasionally used by other teams to take future All-Stars as well, including Luol Deng (#7, 2004) and Rajon Rondo (#21, 2006). It's tough to give credit to the Suns for the Deng/Rondo picks since the pick was traded before the player was named, but the point is that the pick position produced an All-Star talent.

That's six players in 20 years of first-round drafting (30%) who went on to play in at least All-Star game after being taken by the Phoenix Suns. Each of those drafts were overseen by a Colangelo, either father Jerry or son Bryan.

2007-2015

But in the past 9 drafts, from 2007 to 2015, no Suns picks have become All-Stars. Even worse, none of them even project to be All-Stars in the future.

Note: Bryan C. drafted six times for Toronto since leaving the Suns, taking one All-Star in that time (DeMar DeRozan, who made it in this fifth season)

Those 9 drafts were overseen by a trio of GMs from Steve Kerr to Lance Blanks to Ryan McDonough. Kerr's only major draft picks were Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic and Earl Clark. Kerr traded most of his picks. In fact, between Colangelo and Kerr, the Suns traded their pick in 2004 (Deng), 2005 (Nate Robinson), 2006 (Rondo), 2007 (Rudy Fernandez), 2008 (Serge Ibaka) and 2010 (Quincy Pondexter).

Huh. And somehow, the Suns had no kids to take over for aging veterans.

Blanks' major picks were Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall. McDonough's picks are all still 23 or younger, but each of Alex Len, T.J. Warren and Devin Booker have been starters at different times. Even overseas-stash Bogdan Bogdanovic (two-time Rising Star in Europe) has potential. Booker, in particular, appears to have a bright future.

But Alex Len is the highest of all those picks mentioned above.

Shouldn't Alex Len become the first All-Star draftee since Amare?

Probably not.

In fact, I'd be shocked. Even if Len reaches the height of his super power potential, the NBA is moving away from big, lumbering centers.

Len is the old school prototype NBA center in terms of size - 7'1"+ height, 7'3"+ reach, 260 pounds - and he has the raw talent to be a force on offense and defense. He lumbers around a bit, but he's got feet quick enough to defend the rim and the pick-and-roll on the perimeter. He can also score inside, and has a good shooting form, as well as a good sense for rebounding.

Len's problems are in his head. He still overthinks the game, and when he's not playing aggressively and instinctively, he's struggling.

He can go from one great game, like this one where we scored 19 points and pulled down 13 rebounds against the Pelicans on December 18...

...to going 11 straight games with no more than 7 rebounds or 6 points. During that stretch, he suffered from a pair of sprained fingers and Tyson Chandler's return to the starting lineup.

But still, that's 11 games of real poor results. Len went into one of his funks. He was not playing with confidence, and when he loses confidence he loses effectiveness.

Then this week, after resting his injured fingers for a few days, Len has come back with a vengeance off the bench. On Tuesday, he pulled down 12 rebounds. Thursday night, he scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds as the power forward, sharing time with Tyson Chandler. His 13 points included a pair of mid-range jumpers and two posterizing dunks over an Ent.

Len is steadily improving on a regular basis despite lacking a good facilitator to set him up for easy shots. He just needs to be more consistent for his career to continue to progress.

len-per-36-numbers

Could Len become a major starter for a playoff team?

Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic both grew into starting-caliber players for a playoff team. Neither are All-Stars, but they play well enough to make about $30 million per year between them.

Could Len join that group, becoming a regular starter on a good team? You betcha.

Robin Lopez is a perfect example of a player growing into that starting role later in his career. Both Lopez and Len were raw, 20-year old products coming out of college. Both had great work ethic. Both dealt with frustrating injury problems. And both were pushed to the bench in their third year by proven NBA veterans (Marcin Gortat and Tyson Chandler) after some second-year starting experience.

Hopefully, the Suns learned their lesson from giving up on Lopez too early and will show more patience with Alex Len as he matures into his body and the NBA game.

Robin Lopez matured, got healthy, and found his niche in the starting lineup with the Portland Trailblazers from 2013-2015 before that team was blown up in LMA's wake. He now signed for $13 million per year to start for the New York Knicks.

In two years, the Suns could be rising out of this rebuild and Len will still only be 24 years old. By then, his consistency and health should have improved with age, and his double-double potential could be closer to reality.

Don't get frustrated with Len's injury problems or slow adjustment to the NBA.

Just enjoy the good times when they appear.

Tyronn Lue signs a mutl-year deal to take over as coach

      
 
 

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