As you may have heard, over this past weekend the Suns added some more talent to their already prolific backcourt after a sign and trade with the Kings sent Isaiah Thomas To Phoenix. Many might be questioning the move following Goran Dragic winning the 2014 Most Improved Player Award and being selected to the 2014 All-NBA Third Team and with Eric Bledsoe still on the market; but this trade all but guarantees that Phoenix will have a starting caliber guard on the court all game long. In my eyes, this move benefits the Suns a lot more than potentially trading away either Dragic or Bledsoe. There have been rumors of Phoenix potentially trading Dragic to the Pacers for big man Roy Hibbert, but this move sounds, what’s the term for it… ill-advised. Trading away a guard with tremendous upside for a center who went scoreless four times in the postseason the Suns are so desperately trying to get back to does not bode well for the Suns. For Indiana, if this move ever went through, it would be a fantastic move – not so much in Phoenix.
The Suns received Thomas for Alex Oriakhi, the 57th pick in the 2013 draft, in a sign and trade and locked him up with a fairly cheap (a 4 year deal worth around $27 million) following a breakout year. Thomas averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game last season with Sacramento, all of those numbers being career highs for him. Despite his great season, the Kings still failed to make any noise in the Western Conference last year, so now Thomas will have the chance to fight for the postseason with the young Suns. Phoenix’s backcourt certainly looks to all be moving in the right direction with Dragic, Bledsoe, and Thomas all coming off of terrific seasons. Although the Suns have lost Channing Frye to Orlando, they were able to retain forward P.J. Tucker and by adding Thomas and keeping Tucker, this offseason should be looked at as an improvement period for the team. Not to mention, after the younger players (Goodwin, Warren, Len, Brown, and Ennis) get more experience playing together this summer, imagine how much more success this team can see come October.
In other words, as much as people want to scratch their heads over Phoenix hoarding as many skilled guards as they can get their hands on, their depth will make them a formidable opponent for any team in the NBA.
The race for the 8th seed never seemed like must-see basketball, but the Suns are aiming to prove otherwise. Today they find themselves on the outside looking in with the same record as the current 8 seed Grizzlies. This just goes to show how close the Suns really are. While going 7-3 in their last 10 games, including a terrific outing against the playoff-bound Trail Blazers, the young Suns are facing the reality of how tough the Western Conference really is. To put things in perspective – if Phoenix took their current 45-31 mark to the Eastern Conference, they’d be the number 3 seed and about ten games up on the 8th and final seed.
Now of course it is notable to mention that Phoenix would be the 3rd seed in the East, but the solid play of both the Mavericks and the Grizzlies is just as notable. The Memphis Grizzlies have won 11 straight games at home and are 6-4 in their last 10 and the Dallas Mavericks are winners of their last two – which includes a quality win against the Clippers and a Blake Griffin triple-double.The Suns still have six games left to clinch a playoff birth, and in the NBA that’s plenty of time.
Phoenix has a very difficult schedule to close out the regular season, with a game against the Thunder tomorrow and a trip to San Antonio to take on the Spurs next Friday. Although their upcoming schedule is difficult, they still have a road game against the mathematically eliminated Pelicans and a home game against the Kings. For the Suns to make the playoffs, they will need to capitalize on those two games against noncontenders because among their final six games are crucial matchups against Dallas and Memphis.
The Suns will hope to see more games like their last win against the Trail Blazers where they outscored Portland 30-13 in the fourth quarter. Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris each had over ten rebounds in the victory (16 and 11, respectively). Two very huge pieces to the victory were Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green. Bledsoe finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Green finished with 32 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.
Down the stretch look for production from every player mentioned above and of course Goran Dragic as Jeff Hornacek coaches this young bunch to a potential playoff birth in his first season in Phoenix. Whether or not the Suns end up in the playoffs, Hornacek certainly looks like as good a candidate as any for Coach of the Year.
Gerald Green had a career night against the Nuggets, finishing with 36 points. Of his career-high 36, 27 came in the second half and overtime. The final in Denver was 112-107 with the Suns coming back after going into the 4th quarter with a one point deficit. Phoenix played hard the whole game, with Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, and Goran Dragic all finishing with double-doubles and heads up late game plays to clinch the victory.
Hard to imagine the surging Suns dropping this one to the Nuggets without Ty Lawson and Dragic dishing a season-high 14 assists to go along with 21 points. The Nuggets saw a big contribution from a usual suspect – Kenneth Faried putting up 21 points and 11 boards – and received a pleasant surprise from Evan Fournier scoring a career-high 25 points and 8 rebounds. Fournier’s performance helped to account for the missing Lawson and Randy Foye’s off night at the point. Foye was just 3-11 from the field and scored just 8 points while fouling out. Lawson should be returning soon for Denver though, which is good news for Nuggets fans.
Good news for the Suns came from all angles: winning a close overtime game on the road, breaking the Nuggets’ eight-game overtime home winning streak, a career-high in points from budding Gerald Green, a nice start after the All Star break for Markieff Morris (13 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 steals), and the return of versatile guard Eric Bledsoe out on the horizon.