The Suns and their All-Weird team status

After a pretty wacky trade deadline in February, the 2013 offseason likewise trended differently under the relatively new collective bargaining agreement. With teams strapped with only one or two players on max or near-max contracts, they are either going full-speed ahead or tanking – there’s little in between.

Both modes led to questionable, if not interesting, player movement. There are some weird rosters, and CBS Sports’ Matt Moore pinned down the weirdest. The New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers joined the Phoenix Suns on Moore’s All-Weird team list for 2013-14 and unsurprisingly, the Suns are billed as the worst off of those four clubs.

The Suns are like a meteor shower. Not pulled into any gravitational rotation, just speeding through the NBA universe on their way to the 2014 draft. But they sure are bizarrely interesting, and that’s before you bring up Michael Beasley.

Why is this Suns team so awfully weird?

Michael Schwartz and Ryan Weisert talked about this in our last VotS podcast. This team will probably win a few more games than last year, though it’s hard to see them winning too many. But the entertainment value of the new-look Suns will increase considerably.

Since making a depth chart based on reason is still pretty difficult, we might as well rework the lineups based on some themes.

The All-Dunk team

Ryan McDonough’s two major offseason trades alone turned Phoenix from a plodding team into one that could throw out one of the more athletic lineups in the league. Last season, Goran Dragic was barreling into defenders on one-man fastbreaks and hurting himself via hard falls in the process. Now he could actually find fellow Suns running with him. And if we’re being real about this, Dragic might not even make the All-Athletic team. There have been jokes thrown about the web about the Suns’ layup line being more entertaining than the game-time product, and here’s why.

PG – Eric Bledsoe
SG – Shannon Brown
SF – Gerald Green
PF – Markieff Morris
C – Miles Plumlee

The All-Veteran team

The weird thing about the Suns is that they still have a few too many veterans than a tanking team should. Last year, the Suns’ average age was 26.9 years old, which was only 19th-youngest in the NBA. Taking Luis Scola and Jermaine O’Neal out of the picture helps, and doing so last season made the Suns in the top-7 of the NBA’s youngest teams by average age.

This year’s team has an average age of 25.1 years old not including draft-day acquisition Malcolm Lee or un-signed second-round pick Alex Oriakhi. Phoenix can still put out an relatively grizzled lineup, though Caron Butler is the oldest Sun at just 33 years old.

PG – Goran Dragic (27)
SG – P.J. Tucker (28)
SF – Caron Butler (33)
PF – Channing Frye (30)
C – Marcin Gortat (29)

The All-Future team

Who’s going to be the core group down the road? We know Archie Goodwin and Alex Len will be in the mix. Eric Bledsoe is an intriguing piece that Phoenix must try out this year; that will help them determine if it’s worth keeping Dragic around even though he’s entering his prime. Kendall Marshall is the odd man out, but the Morris twins did themselves some good this summer in proving they can develop into, at worst, a solid duo of second-string players.

PG – Eric Bledsoe
SG – Archie Goodwin
SF – Marcus Morris
PF – Markieff Morris
C – Alex Len

The All-Small team

Since this season will probably be a throwaway as part of the #TankForWiggins campaign, there’s no reason not to try some new things. The athletes on the roster could make for one of the fastest end-to-end teams in the NBA. This might become a completely reasonable lineup for coach Jeff Hornacek if he really wants to run – it should be noted that I’d tag Archie Goodwin in there at small forward if I could, but Green’s transition ability ain’t too shabby and Goodwin’s strength at this point has no shot defensively against small forwards.

PG – Goran Dragic
SG – Eric Bledsoe
SF – Gerald Green
PF – P.J. Tucker
C – Markieff Morris

The All-Big team

Just because we have an All-Small team …

PG – Archie Goodwin
SG – Gerald Green
SF – Michael Beasley
PF – Marcin Gortat
C – Alex Len

The All-Castaway team

The Suns’ future is uncertain, but it’s likely we know who the new front office will keep and who’s either heavily on the trading block or really just biding their time on a pretty bad team. The names are pretty obvious if you’ve watched the Suns – probably even if you haven’t.

PG – Kendall Marshall
SG – Malcolm Lee
SF – Caron Butler
PF – Michael Beasley
C – Marcin Gortat

  • Foreveris2long

    Going for the “W” has a new meaning for the Phoenix Suns this season. In our subtle way, it means going for Wiggins, not wins and I like it because we have some promising young pieces in the fold and some young athletic pieces who have yet to consistently show promise. We will give the probationary players a platform to showcase their skills, while we try to get the “W”. Not bad at all.

  • Ty-Sun

    As I said before, at least this should be an interesting season for the Suns. Expectations are so low that all the Suns have to do is play hard and be entertaining. The main question I have about the Suns this season is whether they can improve defensively.

  • Azbballfan

    For what it’s worth, Alex Len is giving me 14 and 8 and Goodwin is giving me 10 points a game as rookies in nba 2k13

    If they both came close to that in real life that would be excellent

    If len is the starter after the all star break those numbers don’t sound crazy for the last 34 games or whatever

  • Serek

    Speaking of chasing the “W”.

    I was reading an interview with The Steve on the other day, and one of the topics discussed was the growing popularity of basketball in Canada. They might be on to something. In all likelyhood next year will be the second consecutive year in which a Canadian was picked first in the NBA Draft.

  • Daniel

    I think that we should draft Aaron Gordon. I’ve seen his game and he is a better version of Blake Griffin with a Kenneth Faried mentality in terms of effort! I don’t want to completely tank I mean give the fans a few more wins! Lol

  • Ty-Sun

    Here’s a little info for the Len doubters:

    “Len opened his sophomore season on November 9, 2012 against the reigning champion Kentucky Wildcats, led by ESPN’s #1 player of the 2012 recruiting class, Nerlens Noel. The game was played at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Len overpowered Noel throughout the entire game, scoring 23 points with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks, while holding Noel to 4 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks.”

    Len’s overall stats at Maryland last season weren’t that great but Maryland didn’t have a very good team over all and Len played part of the season with a stress fracture. I’m not saying he’s going to be “great” in the NBA but he certainly outplayed Noel in the one game where they played against each other. A fact the obviously didn’t go unnoticed by McD.

    As to going after the “W” this season, I can only see maybe 5-6 other teams that could challenge the Suns for the #1 draft pick next season (unless some other teams deliberately tank by not playing their best players). It is possible that they Suns starting 5 could actually play very well at the beginning of the season (before the possible trades of Gortat and/or Butler before the trade deadline) but the Suns have an ace (perhaps that should be spelled with an “ss” instead of a “ce”) in the hole to avoid that by giving Beasley another shot to prove himself.

  • Smovas

    I definitely see more wins in the Suns upcoming season over last year. It’s not how I would like it, because, like many, I am down for achieving the other W, Wiggins. But I can’t help but think that the saying, addition by subtraction, rings true in our team’s case. Out is Lance Blanks and Hunter, and that alone probably adds more wins.

  • Ty-Sun

    As I see it GS, OKC, LAC, Houston, SA and Memphis will take the top six playoff spots in the West this year (not necessarily in that order). Minn, Dallas, LAL, NO and Portland will fight it out for the last two spots with the Jazz and the Nuggets having a slight chance to compete too. That leaves the Kings and the Suns at the bottom of the heap although with all the changes in both teams’ FOs and coaching staffs that isn’t written is stone.

    In the East you have Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago and NY as the frontrunners with Toronto, Cleveland, Washington and Detroit the best bets to fill out the remaining 3 playoff spots. Boston, Atlanta and even Charlotte have a punchers chance to make the 8th seed too this year. That leaves the Magic, 76er’s and Bucks in the running for the “W” sweepstakes.

    I like the Suns potential for the future but I also like their potential to win the “W” sweepstakes.

    And I really like the Pacers’ chance to win it all this season. I think they’ve improved their second unit enough to beat Miami in the Eastern conference playoffs this year. I think the NBA finals will be the Pacers vs. either the Warriors or the Clippers with the Pacers winning it all.

  • john

    Heat/OKC with Heat completing the trifecta is my prediction. LeBron is simply too good to be beaten by the Pacers, in my opinion. I’m hoping against that because I can’t stand LeBron, but in the NBA, the best players usually come away with the W’s when it comes to playoff time, and LeBron is the best player on the planet.

    My prediction for the Suns (and obviously a lot can change with some trades/injuries thrown into the mix) is 28 wins, 14th in the WC, 25th overall.

  • Scott

    BTW, if you want to be sure to plunge the Suns to the bottom of the league, just X out Bledsoe with a trade or injury.* If you do that, then – I suspect – all of a sudden the ball will start sticking again, there’s no P&R with Gortat, and the fast pace the Suns hope to attain will be challenged by defenses playing bully ball against Dragic.

    The Suns would have to play Brown and Goodwin at SG as secondary ball handlers to counter attempts to stop Dragic, and it likely won’t be much help.

    And if Frye is not available as well, the Suns are likely to thrash around unproductively all season, probably beating last season’s low win record.

    IMO, the Suns this season are very dependent upon Bledsoe.

    *Assuming here that if Bledsoe is traded, whatever asset comes back is not comparable in terms of immediate production of similar offense / defense / shot creation / distribution.

  • Chad

    Scott, he didn’t mention our Jeff Van Gundy tribute line up!

  • Roger

    Team with new faces, possibly more new faces next couple of months, new set of coaches, new GM, new philosophy, new culture, etc. in other words lots of moving parts and dynamics about how the team will be built. We have no clue today what different combos Horny will be testing out during the training camp. Once the roster is ready after 90 days, we can opine on combos and individual players. Even then, depending on trades and health of players, we may continue to see rebuilding and re-tweaking of the roster until the trade deadline. After the trade deadline, I believe we will have some stability and a better view of the direction of our team for the long haul.

  • Scott

    @Chad -

    How could any fan of the game overlook the UNIQUE opportunity the Suns have to put Marshall, Brown, Green, Beasley, and Plumlee on the court?

    What would be even more amusing is if they played well together.

    It could happen! :)

  • David

    The idea of wasting an entire season to have a few more ping pong balls in a lottery pick based on luck that the worst team rarely wins anyways is ridiculous. Not to mention all this suggestion of giving away a season on purpose is over a player who has yet to play a college game just because you heard his name mentioned by a few espn or NBA tv guys. Not all high school phenoms even pan out to be franchise changers, most don’t. No team is going to willingly throw a season away with all these uncertainties. I’m just excited for he possibility to have entertaining season regardless of what happens next off season.

  • Scott

    @David -

    I agree that wasting a season is bad, and there are several teams that have done this a lot (Charlotte comes to mind). Sadly the Suns have wasted some years already due to poor management (remember Childress and Turkoglu?). However, using a season to develop younger assets – like Bledsoe, Goodwin, Len, the Morris twins, Plumlee, and Marshall – is a good idea.

    If it should happen that developing those young assets involves a lot of losing and a higher pick in the lottery, then that is how the league works: teams with fewer or less talented assets float to the top of the lottery so they can get more talent on their team.

    Keep in mind that veterans like Gortat, Butler, Beasley, and Brown are not likely to be with the Suns next year. The Suns have to develop their youth now, and that means playing them.

    If the fates are kind, the Suns will have 3 picks in the first round of the next draft: one high, one in the middle, and one low. Those 3 players will be taking the spots of the current team’s veterans as their contracts expire.

    So the young players the Suns have right now really need to develop their talents, and the Suns need to know if they should stick with them, cut them, or deal them. Because 3 more young players are coming in next year, and if the Suns draft well, the talent they are collecting now and next summer should act as the foundation for a resurgence of the franchise.

  • Luka


    That sums it up well.

    I’m ok with tanking. I now believe the Suns have a clear idea of what they want to do. The three ring circus with: Blanks, Hunter, and Gentry is thankfully over.

  • Brenton

    I agree with Scott, but only for this specific year with such a great draft. The overall strategy of tanking usually doesnt work, since you could very well end up with Greg oden, Andrea Bargnani, Kwame Brown, Darko, etc… You should only strategically tank when there is a once-in-a-generation good draft class, like 2014. The Suns would be stupid not to tank this year. If they have a .500 record at the all star break, I want to see big minutes in the second half for Marshall and Beasely, along with “fluke” injuries to Dragic and Bledsoe, and a trade of Gortat.

  • Scott

    @Brenton -

    From my point of view, it really has little to do with the assumed quality in this summer’s draft. It’s just a matter of where the Suns are at in their trajectory. Years of bad management have depleted the Suns of talent, pushing them to the bottom of the league, and this was only officially recognized in the 2nd half of last season.

    I think probably everyone agrees that one thing Blanks can be praised for is that he got the Suns a lot of first round picks. If the Suns didn’t have those, it would take much, much longer to turn the team around.

    So it’s not like the Suns are really tanking for Wiggins. It’s more like they really don’t have the talent to compete, and the losses are inevitable.

    As for this season, with all the veterans but Green, Frye, and Dragic coming off the rolls by summer, the Suns are obligated to exercise foresight and play their young guys more. Those young players who impress and make it through the year will be starters in Phoenix in 2014.

    Goodwin, Len, and Marshall, in particular, are going to need a lot of play time to develop.

  • Scott

    ^^ Let me clarify: the lack of talent was evident at the middle of last season, when Gentry declared it was time to play the young guys.

    The poor management was only admitted when the Suns fired Blanks and signed McD.

  • Animan

    Alex Oriakhi just signed to play in France next year, so there’s that. One less roster spot needed.

  • Azbballfan

    a losing season doesnt have to be a wasted season if you draft correctly, have a vision that makes sense, and you develop your young guns

    unless the NBA starts doing the lottery differently, there is little incentive for teams like the Suns to acquire talent to win alot of games quickly

    we would have to give away everything we have built up the last 3 years in draft picks and expiring deals to turn a terrible team into a marginal 8th seed treadmill

    Getting Wiggins would be great, and there is no such thing as straight from highschool to the NBA anymore

    that era was closed with players having to play one season of college ball or overseas like brandon jennings did

    even if Wiggins isnt the LBJ savior this franchise wants, he still projects to be a very very good player

    and if we dont get him, thats ok too

    this draft is going to be special and we should be happy with any pick we get

    if the Suns really want to make sure they get a top 5 pick, all they gotta do is finish with one of the 3 worst records in the NBA

    this team is looking at 3 or possibly more 1st rounders in 2014, and they can package 2 of them and an asset like Bledsoe or Dragic plus cap space contracts to get a real superstar

    i dont know who that is, but you better believe thats the plan, long term

  • foreveris2long

    According to Hoopshype today, Gortat is leaving his Polish team to have his foot examined as it is still bothering him. In addition to his dwindling numbers last season, this could explain the Suns inability to trade Gortat, assuming for the moment the Suns tried to trade him.

    I said during the playoffs the center is starting to become more prevalent in the NBA. With that in mind Miami reportedly is signing Greg Oden to a two year deal.

  • Greg Oden

    What’s up everybody? I just want to say I can’t wait for the season to start. I’m so proud of my son LeBron and what he’s accomplished. As a member of the Heat I will play not one, not two, not three, but four games for the upcoming season. I’ll have Juwan Howard suggest a good tailor in South Beach.

    See ya later!

  • Rickster

    The Suns better sign Arinze Onauku, the guy is a beast and and take up a lot of space down low. He could be a double double guy if given the minutes..