This is the second of a two-part series in which each player on the Phoenix Suns’ active roster is assigned a grade for his respective performance leading up to the All-Star break.
Disclaimer: The grade might be a reflection of a lenient professor more so than what the individual player might actually deserve, so VotS readers feel free to chime in. And my apologies to Dionte Christmas and Slava Kravstov, who were not given a pre-break grade.
P.J. Tucker (B+/B-): On most playoff-bound teams in the Western Conference, Tucker’s skill set might not warrant a starting nod, but for Phoenix, he is the quarterback of Mike Longabardi’s defense. Nothing has changed defensive when it comes to No. 17. He’s still the same bulldog he was a season ago, constantly scrapping with the opposing team’s best perimeter players. What has changed is his play at the offensive end. The third-year has been more assertive with the basketball, posting career-highs in points (9.4), rebounds (6.8) and assists (1.4) per game to go along with a stellar 40.9 percent from downtown. The one knock on his game is his inability to convert on shots from short range. Tucker hits 38.8 percent of his shots from 20 to 24 feet and 40 percent on shots from 25 to 28, but fails to duplicate that inside of the arc. On attempts from five to nine feet, Tucker makes an abysmal 26.1 percent and hits on an even lower percentage from 10 to 14 feet.
Marcus Morris (B): The younger of the two Morris twins hasn’t quite made the same leap from his sophomore to junior season in the league, but he’s been productive off the bench to say the least. And unlike last year, Marcus (9.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game) has shown much more of an interest on getting to the basket and committing himself to rebounding at both ends of the floor. Hornacek and his coaching staff seem to have connected with the two brothers, and it has paid big dividends when they play with one another on the court. There are still nights where the 6-foor-9 forward puts together head-scratching performances, but it’s almost become a nightly expectation that one or both Morris twins will provide the team with some type of spark. That type of reliability has never existed in either of their NBA careers before 2013-14.
Ish Smith (B/B-): Rarely does an organization part with its lottery pick after one season, but the acquisition of Smith from Milwaukee was enough to convince the Suns’ front office to do just that with Kendall Marshall before the 2013-14 season opened. Fifty-one games in, Smith has proven to be a worthy back-up point guard for Goran Dragic without all the baggage and Twitter nonsense. The fourth-year guard out of Wake Forest didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in January after taking over the back-up duties on a more full-time basis, but he’s done a nice job of running the second team since Eric Bledsoe went down. Since Jan. 1, Smith has five games with at least five assists and seven games with at least seven points. It’s hard to ask for much more production than that.
Leandro Barbosa (B): Injuries and time have certainly changed the Brazilian Blur to some degree, but his addition has in some small way lessened the blow created by Eric Bledsoe’s absence. He’s not the consistent 10 to 15-point per game guy that he was early in his career, but that’s not to say Barbosa can’t provide instant offense off the pine every now and again. If Bledsoe returns, it’ll be interesting to see how Hornacek uses the 11-year veteran going forward.
Alex Len (C): If there’s a blemish on Ryan McDonough’s first year as an NBA general manager, the selection of Len is probably it. Offseason ankle surgery has more or less derailed the 7-foot-1 center’s rookie season, as he’s only played in 191 minutes to date. Len has showed glimpses of what he’s capable of, including back-to-back impressive performances in road wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks last month. But those glimpses are still few and far between. An incomplete grade might be more appropriate than a C, however it’s hard to see when he’s been on the court where progress has been made with his post game at the offensive end. There’s definitely untapped potential there, the question is will it ever come out of the No. 5 overall pick? And if not, would the selection of a Nerlens Noel or Ben McLemore have been a safer bet?
Archie Goodwin (Incomplete): Goodwin was the youngest American born player taken in the 2013 NBA Draft, so nothing that has gone on during his rookie campaign is all that surprising. On a team full of talented guards, the former Kentucky standout was never going to be the recipient of big minutes this season. His shot is a work in progress, as are his point guard skills. One of encouraging things about Goodwin, though, is that he seems to being making the most of his trips down to the D-League. Both stints resulted in big numbers with the Bakersfield Jam, and that can only be a good thing for his confidence as the year marches on.