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What #NBARank reveals about the Phoenix Suns

ESPN began unveiling the top 50 players in #NBARank today yet the final Phoenix Sun was announced yesterday.

That in itself is one more telling indictment of the lack of top end talent on the Suns’ roster, something you undoubtedly already knew before viewing the results of this crowd-sourced project in which 104 ESPN contributors (including yours truly) ranked every NBA player on a scale of 0-to-10 based on “the current quality of each player.”

Yet three Suns still managed to rank among the top 83 NBA players and a full rotation worth of eight players were slotted as better than average by being among the top 250 in this 500-player project (#NBARank was graded on a curve with only 26 percent of the league ranked as a five or higher, including three Phoenix players).

Without further ado, here are the Suns in #NBARank:

No. 57 Marcin Gortat (6.38) – last year No. 86

No. 68 Luis Scola (6.18) — last year No. 53

No. 83 Goran Dragic (5.83) – last year No. 201

No. 137 Jared Dudley (4.94) – last year No. 133

No. 158 Michael Beasley (4.72) — last year No. 109

No. 191 Channing Frye (4.45) — last year No. 160

No. 235 Shannon Brown (3.99) — last year No. 181

No. 238 Markieff Morris (3.96) — last year No. 349

No. 296 Kendall Marshall (3.36) – last year NR

No. 322 Wesley Johnson (3.13) – last year No. 245

No. 369 Sebastian Telfair (2.77) – last year No. 322

With Jermaine O’Neal and P.J. Tucker not on the #NBARank ballot, Bassy Telfair must rank among the best “worst players on a team,” for my money at least. Most of the voters much have tuned the Suns out in April when Telfair enjoyed a superb month of play as based off the strength of that month alone I feel he deserved a higher ranking.

If the wisdom of the crowd were setting a starting lineup for the 2012-13 Suns they would send out my preferred unit of Gortat, Scola, Beasley, Dudley and Dragic based on the voting.

Gortat, Dragic and Morris were the only Suns to improve in the ranks from last year to this year. The Dragon shot up a whopping 118 spots while the Polish Hammer improved by 29 to sniff the outskirts of the elite and Morris ran past his artificially low rookie ranking in upping his standing by 111 spots.

Meanwhile, Wes Johnson went the other way after a dismal sophomore season in falling 77 spots while Shannon Brown tumbled 54 spots, Beasley 49, Telfair 47 and Frye 31. So much for Brown parlaying a monster year into a better reputation and a fat multi-year contract on the open market as he had hoped to do when he signed his one-year deal in Phoenix.

Scola dropped 15 spots after ranking No. 53 following his career year in 2010-11, and JD was not pleased to fall four spots despite becoming a full-time starter for the first time.

Last year the top Sun ranked No. 14, but with Steve Nash in Tinseltown now it was unfair to expect a repeat of that.

The Suns’ average ranking is 195, which bodes well for the team’s depth when considering half the league ranked above and below 250. It’s worse when considering O’Neal and Tucker were not involved, though. Their median score is 191, so the talent is at least fairly evenly distributed. The real issue is that even their best possible #NBARank starting lineup would score an average of a No. 100 ranking.

If the NBA were a re-draft 30-team fantasy league and teams picked roughly according to these rankings in a snake draft, that would mean that the Suns would have to forfeit their first-rounder and start with a late second-round pick to wind up with this same roster based on expected draft position. The rest of the team is roughly distributed the way one might expect this draft to go, but the lost first-round pick is appropriate considering the star this roster lacks to be a true factor in the West in an era in which the elite teams possess three or four theoretical first-rounders.

I see Michael Beasley as the best candidate for a massive rise because he is simply more talented than a No. 160 player in the league should be, and he will receive plenty of opportunities to succeed in the Valley. Johnson is so low that he figures to improve quite a bit if he shows any kind of a pulse, and I expect Dragic to continue on his improvement path.

Frye could continue dropping if he does not carve out a significant role on this team, and although I expect Scola to be solid, he should fall from No. 68 and no longer be the Suns’ second-best player next season. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that Phoenix was able to acquire its theoretical second-best player off waivers at a bargain price.

In all, #NBARank paints an accurate picture of a Phoenix Suns team that lacks high-end star power but has nice overall depth and a few legitimate top-100 players.

And 1

Dragic took The Noc along for a behind-the-scenes tour of a recent beach workout with trainer Tom Vachet in which he performs a variety of grueling exercises, including an insane five-minute plank challenge. The “Training Days” piece with Dragic will air in segments all week, and the first episode is embedded below.

In the interview, Dragic notably says, “I don’t want to be like Steve Nash because I can’t. I want to be Goran Dragic, I want to play my game. I’m going to fight 120 percent.”

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