For whatever reason, and despite all the kinks, the Suns sit securely 2nd in the West, a full game ahead of the Hornets, Rockets and Jazz, who each have beat the Suns this year in their only matches played. The Blazers and Nuggs are right there with the rest of the pack and the Spurs are, against all odds, only a game behind. The Suns have a chance to gain ground today against the Miami Heat.
As the Heat come to town, they come in as a far better team than in the disastrous past two years. This should be a good game and a real challenge to come away with the George W.
Dwayne Wade, East Coast NBA player of the week this week, has added an outside jumpshot to his repertoire. The outside shot forces defenders to gaurd him closer and gives him even more driving options. He is averaging 27 points on 48% shooting and is nearly leading the league in free throw attempts, going to the line 10 times per game. D-Wade looks to be handful for Bell and it should be a matchup. I'm curious to see how much time Barbosa, Barnes and Hill spend trying to cover Wade. Also, will we see TP work Wade on the defensive end?
Michael Beasley is a ROY candidate and second leading scorer on the Heat at 15 ppg on 45% shooting. Although OJ Mayo and Russell Westbrook are legit ROY candidates, it's hard to argue with Beasley's contributions to Miami success. Typically records do not matter in the ROY race, but why not? Despite obviously talent, Mayo and Westbrook are playing on teams with crappy records. Only Derrick Rose is contributing more on a team with a comparable record.
Before I get a ton of responses about considering records in the ROY rankings, let me say that I understand that it should be the improvement in records, rather than the actual record. After all it's the crappy teams (OKC, Griz), the lucky teams (Bullz) and the sandbaggers (Heatest) that get the best players. As such comparing records, or improvement in records may be difficult. Also, part of the improvement in the Heat's play should be credited to rookie Head Coach and Pat Riley protege, Erik Spoelstra, 38, youngest Coach in the League.
As you know, Marion should be back. He missed the last game due to a death in his family. Shawn Marion is and was awesome, but is pitching in only 12.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and shooting a miserable 25% from 3. Without the two or three alley-oops per game, Shawn's overall FG% has dropped from 52% to 47%. Part of this is sucking it up for the team and allowing Beasley to get his, but that cannot fully explain the shooting slump. Shawn is a scrapper and can perform in many systems, even in the pre-7SOL era, so it's is mystifying that the Heat cannot get more out of him in this critical contract year. Other than the coach being a video freak, I don't have a sense of how good he actually is.
Meanwhile, Shaq has held steady following the trade, his FG% is rock solid at 58% and his 3 point shooting % is more consistent than death and taxes holding at 0% like a flat line. Okay, it is a flat line. Overall, Shaq is pitching in 16/9 in 28 mpg, in line with what he did in Miami during their best years and better than half what he was doing in 40 minutes with the lakers on twice as many shots.
Overall, I sense to mood around Planet Orange about Marion is a positive one. Let's give Marion a break. Dish the blame to all the bad agents, and even the Colangelos who spoiled him mercilessly. Don't diss him for wanting it all. The guy doesn't deserve any boos at the game. Besides, who knows, he could be back next year. =)
JSun has the recap, so look for the Dirty!