There is not much more you can ask for coming out of the All-Star Break for a team than going 3-1 and playing at a high level. The Phoenix Suns (33-22) are playing very well and going into this week have a chance to catch-up with a few of the contenders that are currently in front of them. More on that later in the preview at the bottom.
One thing that defines a good team is how they play against the teams that are currently below them or in the lottery picture. This week the Suns dumped two clear lottery teams and split against two contenders that are ahead of them.
The Suns took care of the Nuggets and then the Celtics before dismantling the short-handed Spurs at home.
It was impressive how the Suns did not play too relaxed against the bottom teams and even more impressive how they did not take their boot off the Spurs that were visibly not the Spurs we are used to seeing. So often teams let off the gas and let short-handed or bad teams back in the game giving them false confidence that they can win. A mark of a truly good team is not doing that.
Gerald Green was a monster this past week with a 36 point outburst against the Nuggets while averaging 22.3 points per game (2.5 threes a night) and 5.0 per rebounds per game.
With Eric Bledsoe potentially returning in the near future having a confident Green shooting and scoring could be the difference between an average Suns playoff team or dangerous team that no contender would want to see in any round of the playoffs.
Last night, for the third time in 46 calendar days Goran Dragic has netted a new career-high in points scored in a single game. This season Dragic has taken his game to the next level as a scorer, leader, and overall offensive player and the Suns have benefited from his evolution. For most of his career Dragic has been a reserve or a role player. Even looking at his Per36 numbers in previous years they have always been in the neighborhood of 15-16 points and 5-7 assists per game on roughly 45% shooting. This year he is "the man" for lack of a better of term and playing like a Top 5 point guard in the entire NBA this year. The evolution will continue as Dragic has always been a better second half player in games and in seasons. Buckle up.
Quote of the Week
"We thought that if we played hard, you never know how you are going to get a team, they have been on the road for a long time, they were probably itching to get back home and they had an off night and we had a decent night. We will take it." - Coach Jeff Hornacek after defeating the Spurs
2014 NBA Draft Update
Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, none of which are in the lottery. A slight change of pace from pre-season projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:
Minnesota Timberwolves (27-29) -- No. 13 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) Wayne Selden, Freshman Guard, Kansas
Washington Wizards (28-28) -- No. 18 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Chris Walker, Freshman Forward, Florida -- While he has not played a lot this season, Walker is an ideal NBA forward with his athleticism, length, and versatility on both ends of the court. He might come back for a second year to boost his stock, but either way Walker is a special talent.
Phoenix Suns (33-22) -- No. 22 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Mario Hezonja, Guard Croatia -- Going International for a "draft-and-stash" makes sense here with the Suns roster full of young, developing talent already. Hezonja might need a year for strength and conditioning for the NBA, but again he is the type of athlete and shooter McDonough appreciates.
Indiana Pacers (42-13) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Clint Capela, Forward Switzerland -- One of the best athletes and frames not playing in college right now comes from the France Pro A League and is rising fast up draft boards. He might not be on the board this late come draft night. This is another "draft-and-stash" potential athlete.
Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.
News & Notes
- There were no trades made by the Phoenix Suns at the Trade Deadline
- Conversations around Evan Turner happened per Paul Coro, but the players on the Suns roster were not as available as the media made them out to be
- Eric Bledsoe is believed to be 1-2 weeks out from making his return
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Tuesday, February 25th vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (27-29)
Wednesday, February 26th @ Utah Jazz (19-36)
Friday, February 28th vs. New Orleans Pelicans (23-32)
Sunday, March 2nd vs. Atlanta Hawks (26-29)
What an opportunity this week. Last week the Suns took advantage of two lottery dwelling teams while splitting with two legitimate contenders. This week they face four teams that are a combined 31 games under .500 and for the most part are all struggling at this point in the season.
The T-Wolves have actually won three out of their last four after dropping six of seven before that. They have turned the corner behind Kevin Love's strong play, but even Love was not enough as the Suns topped them in Minnesota in early January this year. In that game Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee frustrated Love into a 4-20 shooting night which was the worst of his career.
So far the Suns are 4-1 against the Pelicans and Jazz combined this year and have not faced the Hawks who have been struggling since Al Horford went down.
The three teams are 8-22 combined in their last 10 games each all moving in a downward spiral towards the lottery. Trey Burke and Ryan Anderson gave their teams hope when they came back from injury, but, for the Jazz, overall talent is lacking and the Pelicans cannot seem to defend with their best five players on the floor.
It may be a bit arrogant of me, but I am seeing W's this week and a 4-0 week with the toughest game coming at Utah on a back-to-back.