Phoenix Suns All-Star Break Grades: Part II

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.

Phoenix Suns All-Star Break Grades: Part I

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.


Tags: Leandro Barbosa Marcus Morris Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis Pj Tucker

  • foreveris2long

    Dave I strongly suspect the Suns will be very happy with the drafting of Len. He does not get many touches on offense but he is going to be really good. We just have to be patient.

  • EBJM

    I would have agreed with your opinion on Len IF he was still experiencing pain in his ankles. But in limited minutes he has displayed a lot more than Nerlen Noels who is still recovering from ACL surgery.

    Noels good very easily go the way of Fab Melo.

    I know Archie Goodwin is a favorite of Forever but he really is Alando Tucker 2.0 to this point. Two phenomenal athletes who slashed and over-powered their opponents at the college level and neither entered the NBA with a good shot.

    Goodwin could have greatly benefited from staying in college, Kansas, Memphis or somewhere other than playing for coach John Calipari.

    Yeah, yeah, I know Tucker played PF at Wisconsin and Goodwin SG and filled in for injured PG Ryan Harrow. Goodwin does have superior ball-handling skills to Tucker but the bottom line is they both came into the league with NBA-ready bodies that are the size of natural SGs. Neither came with good mechanics on their respective shots.

    Working in Goodwin’s favor is Hornacek, one of the best pure shooters of all-time. Working against him is it took fellow teammate Gerald Green seven years to figure it out. Suns former 2nd rd pick Stephen Jackson was 24 and a three-year veteran before he had his break-out season with the Spurs.

    Goodwin is so far behind the curve Ryan brought back Barbosa.

  • CART Jeff

    Against the best scorers in the league, Tucker provided little resistance. Small and slow by NBA standards with an average shot and terrible ball handling skills for his size. He needs to drop 5 lbs and add speed!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    I think Len will be fine and i think his grade should be incomplete

    none of the rookies in this draft class other than Oladipo and MCW are doing anything for their teams this season

    Len is not being developed right now because miles plumlee has played so well

    and also the Suns never seem to develop their draft picks

    the team wants to get to the playoffs this year and so guys like Len and Goodwin are being benched in favor of win now players

    If Len doesnt start, or get a solid 25 minutes a game just send him down to the D League

    7-1 guys with his skills and athleticism are hard to find, you drafted him with the highest pick this franchise has had in 28 years

    develop him in the NBA starting this year, or send him to the D-League with Goodwin

    thats the only way it makes sense

  • sunsn7

    If Suns give up on Goodwin, they will regret it. Fortunately that’s not the case. He is a hard working kid with upside. Let’s not lose sight of that.

    Alex Len? Patience with him is also important though the lingering foot problems are not a good sign. We’ll see.

    Just hope the Suns dont make a boneheaded trade for a RETREAD. Putting a couple extra asses in the seats the 2nd half of the nba calendar at the expense of assets and/or team chemistry just isn’t worth it.

    Hopefully McDonough sees it the same way.

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    I very strongly disagree with statement that the Alex Len pick is “a blemish.” It’s obviously too soon to know, but I think in a couple years we’ll see that Len was the best big in this draft.

    I feel the same about Archie, I still think he’ll be the steal of the draft. He has a lot more talent than Alando, and the potential to be an All Star. My only fear is that it will be for another team… Our Suns don’t exactly have a very good track record in recent years for player development, or for not giving up too soon on our young players. Hopefully this is a new era in that regard…

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    I agree Sunsn7

    obviously it would be impossible for a team to properly develop every single draft pick, but the suns have a very poor record of developing their draft picks

    outside of shawn marion, amare stoudemire, steve nash, and goran dragic, who have the Suns drafted they have actually kept and developed?

    not many

    They may be changing that soon though, and i hope they are

    Markieff Morris is being developed

    i hope the same for Len and Goodwin

  • Foreveris2long

    Yeah EBJM you know I am a fan of Goodwin. I love how you qualify your thoughts about Goodwin being A. Tucker 2.0 at this point. I thought I was in court when I read your qualifying statement. Funny stuff.

    I think Goodwin’s ceiling is so much higher than Tucker’s I hate referencing them in the same sentence. If I am right, this will be the last year you can make that comparison counselor.

  • EBJM

    Hey don’t get me wrong, Goodwin was a fantastic choice at #29. But the fact remains, he impressed everybody after one year at Kentucky because of his phenomenal athleticism. He was a scorer, not a highly skilled player.

    Those lack of skills is why the Suns needed to sign Barbosa.

    Tucker left Wisconsin as their All-Time leading scorer, besting former Sun Michael Finley.

    I’d wish someone would post their definition or the difference between words such as “talent” , “skills”, and “athleticism”.

    Seriously, how can someone say Goodwin has more “talent” than Tucker? Tucker was also the “the Big Ten Player of the Year”.

    Barkley has said that Amare has lost his “skills”. Well we all know Amare wasn’t a very skilled player, he relied on athleticism which is all but now gone.

    Using Goodwin’s success in the D league means nothing, Tucker dominated the D league. If Goodwin played fundamentally sound defense, he would be on the floor this season, but he doesn’t and he isn’t.

    Similar to saying Nerlens might have been the better choice? Based on what? He hasn’t even played a single minute in the NBA. Fab Melo was hyped and tore up the D league also. He was the “big East Defensive Player of the Year”.

    He had less of an NBA career than seven-foot center Patrick O’Bryant who was a 9th overall pick.

    I have faith in Hornacek, Sichting and Longabardi to provide Goodwin the best environment to develop into an NBA player. Forever has also been on a roll with his “boys”, Robin and Henson to name a couple.

    So, sure he will more than likely turn into a good player. But his grade is currently a “D” or “C” because he is healthy but raw. Len on the other hand missed half of the season because of his ankles. So is it fair to grade him? If not, how do you compare him to another injured center?

  • EBJM

    Most of you that refuse to objectively accept the Tucker/Goodwin comparison are subconsciously being prejudicial towards Tucker because he has already failed in the NBA.

    Goodwin has played 37 games thus far so lets compare that to Tucker’s first 36 games:

    Tucker: 4 pts/1 bd / 30% threes/42% FGs/80% FTs
    Archie: 3pts/2 bds /11% threes/48% FGs/69% FTs

    Your Honor, the Prosecution rests!

  • Foreveris2long

    If I was to give Goodwin a grade now it would be a C for meeting expectations. The only thing I expected is that he received more playing time. When the Suns started exceeding expectations, they understandably did not want to compromise the early success of the team for the individual growth of Goodwin.

    While I do not necessarily take exception to the Tucker 1st year comparison, to be fair you have to show how many minutes Tucker played in comparison to Goodwin. Then when you consider the fact Goodwin was drafted when he was 18 years old and Tucker I believe was a junior or a senior in college when he was drafted, in all likelihood this will be the only season Tucker will be mentioned in the same sentence with Goodwin. I am just saying.

  • Foreveris2long

    I just checked, Tucker was 23 years old when the Suns drafted him after playing as a senior at Univ of Wisconsin.. He should have dwarfed the stats of Goodwin. Are you kidding me?

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    I just don’t really understand how the two players can really be compared. Tucker played a full college career and was what, 23 or 24 when he was drafted?

    Archie is the second youngest player in the NBA and John Calipari has said that had he stayed another season at Kentucky he could “very well have been a top 10 pick.”

    Tucker was much further along in his development and was much closer to achieving his full potential when he came into the league. So, he had already developed his skills.

    Archie has raw talent and athleticism, but not a lot of skills. Talent and athleticism are built in (however, athletic ability can be improved with hard work,) while skills can be learned.

    So to me, it’s apples and bananas…

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    Ya what he said ?

  • DZ

    This is just how I think of how “talent”, “skills”, and “athleticism” should be defined.

    Athleticism is pretty simple. It’s raw athletic ability.

    Skills are basically what a player has learned and developed such as jump shooting, rebounding, ball handling, etc.

    Talent (to me) is how well a player puts together the other two plus thier BBIQ. Lots of players who lack athleticism have had very good careers by combining good skills with a high BBIQ which equals a high talent level.

    And I honestly think that a good BBIQ is the main thing that a player needs in the NBA to become successful. The next most important thing is skills. While athleticism seems to be the thing that excites fans the most (think of those great high flying monster dunks we all love to see), it’s IQ and skill(s) that actually wins games.

    Just look back at last season’s Suns. Beasley had the athleticism and the skills but a low BBIQ which made translated into a low talent level. On the other hand, Scola had a high BBIQ and high skill levels but a fairly low level of athleticism. But that translated into a higher level of talent on the court.

  • Brenton

    People still seem to be in denial about Alex Len. He sucks, and will never be a productive NBA player. Archie Goodwin was taken at the end of the first round, and he is an end of the bench player with some upside and a cheap contract. Not much else to be said there. Markief has surprised me this year, he is playing much better, rebounding like a legit NBA PF. Tucker too. I said last year that if he could develop a 3pt shot he would be a useful NBA player, and he did just that. He is no longer a black hole on offense. You need those 3 and D guys, and he has become exactly that. A perfect glue guy willing to make the hustle plays while shooting 40% from 3.