Goran Dragic wins the 2014 NBA Most Improved Player award

Posted by on April 23rd, 9:34 am (8 hours ago)

A day after Jeff Hornacek came in second place to Gregg Popovich in the Coach of the Year voting, Goran Dragic ended the trail of Phoenix Suns snubs — fairly or unfairly labeled — during the 2013-14 season.

The NBA named the Suns point guard as the 2014 winner of the Most Improved Player award.

Out of 126 ballots from NBA writers and broadcasters, the Slovenian earned 65 first-place votes and 408 total points. Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson came in second place by earning 158 points and 13 first-place votes, and New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis trailed him with 155 points and 16 first-place votes.

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What we learned about the NBA from the 2013-14 Suns: Part 2

Posted by on April 23rd, 6:00 am (11 hours ago)

PHOENIX — The NBA playoffs roll on without the Phoenix Suns. While the results could add to ideas of where the league might be or should be headed, we can take a lot of lessons from the Suns themselves to apply to the NBA as a whole.

Here’s Round 2 of what the 2013-14 version of the Suns taught us.

Players develop faster in the NBA (with a caveat)

The NCAA wants its “student-athletes” to stay in school longer. The NBA cares about the age limit as well, for whatever reason.

The Suns drafted two of the younger players in the 2013 draft in Alex Len and Archie Goodwin, and each were different examples of showing why players developing more in college is a myth.

Two caveats: First, there are a few teams that haven’t got it right when talent development comes into play (see Bennett, Anthony and the Cavaliers). Second, this rule applies for first-round talents, not guys who are hardly projected to be selected in the second round.

“Me personally, I feel like I know what I want to do with my life, and I feel like I can be one of the better players to ever to play this game if I just continue to work,” Goodwin said. “For me to be only 19 and have a really bright future ahead of myself as long as I continue to work, listen to my coaches … the rest will take care of itself.”

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NBA Coach of the Year 2014: Jeff Hornacek is the runner-up

Posted by on April 22nd, 4:52 pm

Jeff Hornacek’s success as a rookie coach had a lot to do with the roster provided to him by general manager Ryan McDonough. That relationship and shared vision between the two is first and foremost the reason for the Phoenix Suns’ turnaround in 2013-14.

It directly led to Hornacek integrating Channing Frye with a young roster, utilizing untested Miles Plumlee as a starter for all but two games this season and of course, for melding Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe together in a small backcourt. Hornacek also got a career year out of Gerald Green and finally pushed the right buttons with the Morris twins. Thanks to Hornacek, Ish Smith played huge role on a 48-win team.

But Hornacek didn’t win the 2014 NBA Coach of the Year award.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich earned his third Coach of the Year award on Tuesday after leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 62-20 regular season record, and that meant Hornacek came in second place.

Coach 1st-place votes 2nd-place votes 3rd-place votes Total points
Gregg Popovich 59 23 16 380
Jeff Hornacek 37 44 22 339
Tom Thibodeau 12 22 33 159
Steve Clifford 8 21 24 127
Dwane Casey 5 9 18 70

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What we learned about the NBA from the 2013-14 Suns: Part 1

Posted by on April 22nd, 1:00 pm

PHOENIX — The NBA playoffs roll on without the Phoenix Suns. While the results could add to ideas of where the league might be or should be headed, we can take a lot of lessons from the Suns themselves to apply to the NBA as a whole.

Here’s what the 2013-14 version of the Suns taught us.

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The West is tough, but conference or playoff re-alignment is something to think about

Forty-eight wins and the Suns are sitting at home.

The 1-8 and 2-7 playoff matchups to kick off the Western Conference postseason action doesn’t include the Suns, but if it had, there’s a good chance it’d be as good as San Antonio facing Dallas and Oklahoma City grinding with Memphis. These are, at-worst, conference semifinal games in terms of entertainment value.

So is conference re-alignment, or probably more easily, playoff re-alignment, are serious points that commissioner Adam Silver will look at.

“When you look at the teams in the East and see where you’d be seeded in the East, it kind of irks you I think,” Phoenix center Miles Plumlee said. “But I think the landscape in the NBA might change in the future and maybe it might just be the top-16 teams that are in it.”

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NBA free agency: Suns must address Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker

Posted by on April 21st, 10:37 am

Lon Babby is searching for the Suns' next star but will not tank to find him. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

(Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

PHOENIX — Even heading into the summer of 2012, Suns president of basketball ops Lon Babby thought Phoenix was a prime free agent landing spot. Then, there was little to sell.

Now, the Suns can sell themselves, regardless of the intangibles.

“Great history, great infrastructure, great weather – never to be underestimated in the free agent process,” Babby said on Friday. “We have a better team. We have a coach that I think every player in the league wants to play for. We have one of the brightest young executives as our general manager. Free agents, when they come here, will have faith that what we say will come true. Sure, we’re in a better place than we were. If I put my former agent hat on, where else would you rather go than the Phoenix Suns right now?”

These days, the sell is especially more important for dealing within the organization.

Two summers ago, the Suns could only aggressively chase a player nobody else wanted (Michael Beasley), a player who was unproven but already had loyalties in Phoenix (Goran Dragic) and a guy nobody else had their eye upon (P.J. Tucker). In July 2014, it’ll be about re-signing Tucker and fellow restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe could earn a max contract while Tucker is looking for a pay-raise that could earn him the mid-level exception. According to ESPN Insider’s Amin Elhassan, Bledsoe’s projected annual average value as of February sits around $11.5 million including incentives, while Tucker’s is at $3 million, which is a solid chunk of a taypayer’s mid-level exception that sits at $3.278 million for 2014-15.

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Even with the core’s chemistry, stagnation won’t stall Suns

Posted by on April 19th, 6:37 pm

PHOENIX — From Day 1, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has been open about his plan. Draft picks will help promote growth from within, yet he’ll pull the trigger on bringing in a veteran star if the pieces fit.

While the Suns’ chemistry this year made it hard to imagine the front office reshuffling the roster to a great degree, the Suns certainly don’t want anything to stagnate.

The warning signs of sitting pretty despite any amount of success came Saturday, a day after McDonough, president of basketball ops Lon Babby and coach Jeff Hornacek held their season-ending press conference. It came from the NBA playoffs, where best team in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers, fell to the Atlanta Hawks in the first game of their playoff series. The Pacers’ early success certainly has seen chemistry issues bubble to the surface in recent weeks.

So how does that relate in Phoenix?

McDonough said that while the Suns have the option bring back the same squad that won 48 games in 2013-14 by picking up player options and extending current players, there will surely be changes.

The expectation is that this summer might be busier than adding draft picks and attempting to bring Eric Bledsoe back. And about those three draft picks this summer:

“I think it’s unlikely we bring in three rookies to the Suns next year,” said the Suns general manager.

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