Center of the Sun: The Phoenix Suns Stoop To An All-Time Low

USA TODAY Sports

Down to eight games remaining in the 2012-2013 NBA Season for the Phoenix Suns. Let's take a look back at the last three in what was a controversial week that actually made ripples on the National scene.

The seven-layer dip that the Phoenix Suns (23-51) season has become added another flavor to the dish with what some are criticizing as blatant "tanking" late in the season.

Game Recaps

@ Utah Jazz- L (103-88)

vs. Sacramento Kings - L (117-103)

vs. Indiana Pacers - L (112-104)

The dip is of the pre-made, pre-packaged variety and this weeks layer was like that sour cream substitute that reheats awkwardly making the entire dish inedible. That is the taste left in the mouth of fans after this past week.

There was a subtle (not so subtle) tactic played out this week by the coaching staff in sitting Goran Dragic. In an 82 game season that is filled with bumps, bruises, and nagging injuries there is no questioning a player sitting out two games to get back in good health. Completely in-bounds.

However, there is something to be said about sitting your best player who is fully healthy, ready to play, and when the two games happen to be against two teams that, if they lose, benefit the Suns long-term cause.

It has been mocked ad nauseum over the past few days in the national media, so I guess any press is good press was not entirely accurate. Losing to the Jazz gives them a half game on the Los Angeles Lakers, who owe their pick to the Suns if they miss the playoffs. The Jazz are battling them in the standings. The Kings are battling the Suns in the standings. If they win the Suns create a full game of separation in the lottery standings. Both were accomplished last week.

2013 NBA Draft Update

Right now the Suns are slotted in the 4th spot in the Lottery Standings and 30th via the Miami Heat. For the lottery pick, the New Orleans Hornets (won four of six), Sacramento Kings (won two of three), and Washington Wizards (won 8 of 13) are moving the other way giving the Suns some comfort and separation in having solid odds of finishing with a bottom five record.

The Lakers are in the playoffs today, Jazz own the tie-breaker over the Lakers which puts them in the playoffs today, but the Dallas Mavericks are surging to rally back into the race. It could get real interesting this week leading down to the final stretch.

Lakers (38-36): vs. Mavericks, vs. Grizzlies, and @ Clippers

Mavericks (36-37): @ Lakers, @ Nuggets, and @ Kings

Jazz (38-36): vs. Blazers, vs. Nuggets, vs. Hornets

On a side-note the NCAA Tournament has reached a Final Four that will showcase potential lottery picks Trey Burke (Michigan), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), and Glenn Robinson III (Michigan). It will also feature Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Russ Smith (Louisville), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Chane Behanan (Louisville), and C.J. Fair (Syracuse) as potential late first-to-early- second round prospects for the Suns to keep an eye on.

The Highs

Two games, two starts, and 23 total assists for Kendall Marshall. The results were not ideal as both games ended in defeat, but Marshall showed promise in the games. It is really easy to mock the rookie as a lottery pick that is not producing at a high level right away, but the steady improvement over the season is noticeable if you are willing to look for it. Getting on the court and having playing time helps in the process.

First 9 Games w/15+ Minutes: 4.2 PPG (42.1%) 3.8 APG 1.7 TPG

Last 7 Games w/15+ Minutes: 7.0 PPG (37.5%) 6.28 APG 2.57 TPG

The more recent games are a smaller sample size, but the numbers across the board are better. Marshall is shooting more (10 more total attempts) and playing with much more confidence.

The Lows

As a franchise the Suns have lost 50 or more games only seven times (including this season) showing remarkable consistency. This team is the second fastest to 50 losses for the Suns, ever. Only the 1968-1969 team that lost 66 games did it faster, by nine games to be exact. This years Suns lost their 50th game in the 73rd game of the season and are four losses away from owning the second worst record in franchise history.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • B- for Kendall Marshall: Two starts with double-digit assist totals for the rookie was capped off with a 10min game to continue the remarkable inconsistency of this seasons rotations.
  • D+ for Markieff Morris: In 91 minutes the Suns original Morris Twin finished with 15 combined defensive rebounds/blocks. He made a defensive play once every six minutes. The new "defensive-minded" mindset has not set in for everyone.
  • B+ for Wesley Johnson: Smilin' has been consistently solid on the offensive end scoring 15.7 points per game this week getting it done from the perimeter.

Player of the Week:

Luis Scola - 17.7 PPG 5.3 RPG 0.3 APG 0.7 BPG 56.8% FG

In the absence of Dragic the Suns next best offensive weapon stepped up to score 45 points, shouldering the offensive load. Scola did not lead the team to a victory in either of the games, but his scoring was the difference between losing by 30+ points. Even in this week, in typical 2013 Suns fashion, Scola finished the week with an 8 point forgettable performance.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, April 3rd @ Los Angeles Clippers (49-25)

Friday, April 5th vs. Golden State Warriors (42-32)

Sunday, April 7th vs. New Orleans Hornets (26-48)

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