Category Archives: Phoenix Suns

Congratulating Alex Len, who now has more points than fouls

In between back-tapping missed shots and setting solid screens, Alex Len found a way to tally a career-high nine points last night while not committing a single foul. While that might only be baby steps for the Suns’ rookie center (he’s only played 12 games), the performance helped kick himself out of the as-many-fouls-as-points (AMFAP) club, at least for now. He has 25 points and 18 fouls for the season.

Good for Len, because the AMFAP club is one usually reserved for elite hackers and the offensively-challenged. There will be outliers since members often experience a majority of their minutes either during garbage time or very short, situational stints. Those with short-term contracts are also vulnerable to being cut from their respective teams before they can work their way out of a club only 12 players are a member of this season.

Those 12 players (via Basketball-Reference):

The current 2013-14 AMFAP club

Player Team MP* PF PTS PER
Greg Stiemsma NOP 263 46 46 7.8
Louis Amundson NOP 184 49 38 9.2
Jamaal Tinsley UTA 110 10 9 2.0
Aaron Gray TOT 109 30 23 2.3
Peyton Siva DET 76 11 4 -4.5
Hamady N’Diaye SAC 74 15 6 2.9
Ognjen Kuzmic GSW 51 11 8 -3.9
Earl Watson POR 49 11 2 -2.8
Andris Biedrins UTA 45 6 3 2.4
Erik Murphy CHI 41 4 4 -3.2
Hasheem Thabeet OKC 38 10 8 3.4
Mike James CHI 38 8 2 -4.6

* – Minimum 36 minutes played.

260 different players have been in the AMFAP club for at least one season. Five are VIP members, ones who finished their careers with over 1,000 minutes and more fouls than points. Charles Jones is the President after qualifying in 11 of his 15 seasons. He logged over 14,000 minutes with 2,076 fouls and 1,826 points.

Here are some other notable players who finished at least one season in the AMFAP club, sorted by their combined minutes in the seasons they qualified:

Notable AMFAP members

Player Seasons in AMFAP club AMFAP Minutes AMFAP Fouls AMFAP Points
Jason Collins 2007-11 4530 743 519
Manute Bol 1989-92, 1994 4215 530 419
Mark Madsen 2005-09 2017 360 238
Dennis Rodman 1998-2000 1046 112 83
Reggie Evans 2012 771 118 104
Juwan Howard 2008 353 62 57
Luc Longley 2001 301 51 49
Vin Baker 2005 204 38 35
Robert Swift 2005, 2008 170 32 29
Tim Legler 1998 76 11 9

There are still 42 games left in the Suns’ season, which gives Len both plenty of time to distance himself from the not-so prestigious club and find himself back in it. Let’s hope it’s the former since the Suns could use extra contributions from everyone while competing without Eric Bledsoe. Heck, if he finishes the season with more points than fouls I’ll celebrate with a ham sandwich.

Last but not least, here are 15 players (not including Len) who are flirting with the AMFAP club:

2013-14 AMFAP close calls

Player Team MP* PF PTS PER
Steven Adams OKC 630 122 164 13.0
Kendrick Perkins OKC 765 114 134 6.4
Ian Mahinmi IND 611 102 111 8.0
Brandon Davies PHI 430 70 91 5.8
Reggie Evans BRK 356 50 65 8.8
Phil Pressey BOS 468 43 62 7.0
Alexis Ajinca NOP 203 40 58 13.1
Rudy Gobert UTA 198 33 40 10.0
Gorgui Dieng MIN 122 30 33 13.1
Meyers Leonard POR 140 29 38 10.6
Ronnie Price ORL 198 25 37 9.8
Andre Roberson OKC 142 22 29 11.8
Jamaal Franklin MEM 137 18 27 3.0
Ronny Turiaf MIN 132 15 21 12.3
Joel Anthony MIA 37 4 6 8.

* – Minimum 36 minutes played.

Not listed is Jan Vesely, who’s resembled a professional basketball player this season. He had one of the more exciting AMFAP chases in league history last season. Or something like that.

Also, the AMFAP club could use a more clever name or abbreviation. Recommendations are welcome.

Will the good times continue in Phoenix?

Phoenix_Suns_2013_LOGO

All sorts of weirdness in the NBA has gone down yet we’re only entering the third week of its season. Among other things, two of the most obviously tanking teams–Phoenix and Philadelphiahave actually started out above .500.

That may not last much longer for Philadelphia, who are 4-3. They host the Spurs tomorrow and follow that up with Houston on Wednesday. From there, it’s a threegames-in-four-days kind of road trip to Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas. Finishing 6-6 would be a very respectable outcome.

As for the 5-2 Suns, their schedule is quite soft until the end of November. For the rest of the month they play Sacramento, Portland, and Utah all twice while playing Charlotte and Orlando once. Brooklyn and Miami also linger in the schedule and it’s a roadheavy one overall (six games on the road and four at home), but it’s a 10-game stretch where winning five is not out of reach.

Anything more would be a nice bonus for a team that on paper would be lucky to win 25 games all season, but they’ve already generated nice buzz around the league such as this tweet from Marc Stein about head coach Jeff Hornacek:

It’s tough to tell how long the Suns’ success will last, especially when we’re entering only week three of a five-month season, but who doesn’t enjoy a fairy tale? The rest of this month is set up to keep Phoenix’s going. 

Eventually, the grind of the season will get to their youthful roster. For now, they have their moment in the spotlight. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Fantasy basketball history: Shawn Marion ruled the mid-2000s

460px-Shawn_Marion

Photo by Keith Allison

If you have any interest in either fantasy basketball or the history of basketball (but preferably both), I suggest giving RotoMonster a look. It’s a simple, easy to navigate fantasy basketball archive that covers every NBA season from 1952 to now. There’s a ton worth discussing from there and maybe I’ll dedicate a series of posts to what I find, but for now I wanted to use it to write/brag about one of my favorite players ever, Shawn Marion.

In a weird place called reality, Marion might be the very cutoff separating great NBA careers from Hall of Fame-caliber ones. Among other accomplishments, he was good for 20 points and 10 rebounds on both the pre-D’Antoni AND D’Antoni-led Suns of the mid-2000s, all while being a third banana. (Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash were the first two great bananas of those Suns squads, in my opinion.)

But if there’s one description for both the real-life Shawn Marion and his fantasy basketball version, it’s that they were both freaks of nature during their time with the Suns. He could do it all statistically with his average line from 2001 to 2007 being 19-10-2-2-1 with 48/34/83 splits, one chest-passed three, and 2.8 free throws per game. He wasn’t a turnover machine either, ranked outside the top 50 in that category. That made him more valuable in 9-category leagues than 8’s, the difference in the leagues being the inclusion of turnovers in the 9-cats.

Equally as important was Marion’s durability. From 2001 to 2007, he always played 79 to 81 games, making him one of the most valuable commodities in those seven seasons. He was at his greatest from 2005 to 2007, the best in 9-cats during the primes of Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kobe Bryant, among others. Here’s a screenshot of his fantasy basketball career (click to enlarge if you’d like):

shawn marion

For Marion’s entire fantasy basketball page, click here.

The absence of Amar’e Stoudemire in 2006 led to Marion’s greatest season statistically. Though it was only good enough to make third team All-NBA, it was his most convincing first place ranking in fantasy basketball and arguably the most convincing season of his career in terms of his real, on-court value. He bested the 9-cats over second-place Nowitzki and Elton Brand by nearly .40 points in overall value, the largest margin since 1990. Marion was the only player that season ranked in the top 20 in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and minutes. 

Freak. Of. Nature. Basketball-Reference had him listed at center that season. If fantasy basketball leagues gave him multiple positions, he was that much more valuable.

Stoudemire’s return in 2007 put a dent in Marion’s production, but he still placed first and second in 9-cats and 8-cats, respectively. Kobe bested him in the latter, thanks to turnovers not being accounted for. 2007 was a monster season for the Suns both in real and fantasy basketball. The core of Nash, Stoudemire, and Leandro Barbosa, along with Marion, made the top 15 in each kind of fantasy basketball league.

Per game wise, Marion was one of the best in 2008, ranking fourth in 9-cat leagues and sixth in 8-cats, but he only played 63 games. It was that season when the fantasy basketball torch was passed to Chris Paul, which was then passed to Kevin Durant in 2010. Marion has continued to be a nice addition to fantasy leagues, often ranked in the top 75 in each league since 2009.

Where real basketball is played, Marion’s Hall of Fame status is up for debate, though it might be a losing one. In fantasy basketball, however, there’s no doubt the Matrix was one of the greatest of his time.

The Clippers round out their lineup, the Suns acquire a rebuilding piece and the Bucks continue their nosedive

trade

Not exactly the assets I’ll be talking about.

2014 was supposed to be the summer of sheer excitement and terror for teams looking to either rebuild or hang on to their superstars, but 2013 hasn’t failed to keep fans tuned in (at least for the first week or so). Key signings and trades are flying around left and right. The Pacers even gave Tyler Hansbrough a qualifying offer worth $4.2 million, then rescinded it and made him a free agent. Life is weird.

Basically, I’m afraid to take a nap after work in fear of Twitter exploding about the most recent transaction, most likely reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. I’m almost sure he’s a robot. 

Unfortunately for me, one trade went through while I really was dreaming (about eating at an all-you-can-eat cheesecake buffet, no less). It involved one of the most intriguing players in Eric Bledsoe, but also two of my favorite role players in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. The former was acquired by the Phoenix Suns (along with Caron Butler), the latter was gobbled up (om nom nom) by the Los Angeles Clippers.

One more team had to join in which, because of Redick’s involvement, was the Milwaukee Bucks. All they could squeeze out (I guess) were two second round draft picks. I’d rather avoid talking about that and focus more on the Clippers’ and Suns’ side of things:

Now that Chris Paul signed a max contract worth $107 million over five years, losing Eric Bledsoe wasn’t as big of a blow for the Clippers. They had to get something in return before his rookie contract expired next summer, as well as Caron Butler’s contract. They landed two excellent role players in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick. I’m especially excited for Dudley, who’s been a roleplayer on a lottery-bound team for three straight years and one of my favorite Twitter handles to follow.

Both players give the Clippers maximum stretch at the wing positions, though Redick’s one of the finest shooters in the league. Steve Kerr tweeted Redick would be used under Doc similar to Ray Allen in Boston. I both nodded and disagreed with that tweet. I agree that he could be used like Allen to make for a more fluid offense, but I find it hard to believe that Paul will pound the ball like Rondo did near half court for 10 to 15 seconds at a time, waiting for Redick to come around screens. It sure seemed like Rondo disagreed with those plays. For Chris Paul, who’s an old 28 years of age, he’ll probably be more open to it.

The Clippers were already an elite offensive squad last year, even with the troubles that came with a stagnant, predictable offense. With the upgrade of Redick at the 2 instead of Willie Green while also starting Jared Dudley at the 3, the Clippers should once again be in fine shape on offense (at least in the regular season). Whether it carries over into the playoffs remains to be seen, but unfortunately that’s still over nine months away. Shucks.

The Clippers have needed a lockdown perimeter defender for the last two years. There was a small chance Grant Hill could fill that role last season, though injuries prevented him from ever gaining traction in Vinny Del Negro’s 27-man rotation. Unless the Clippers find a way to get Matt Barnes (or some other defense-first player, which is becoming more of a scarcity by the hour) back in a Clippers uniform, the role of defending the team’s best perimeter scorer will be up to Dudley.

I’m not sure why this is the case, but NBA.com only goes ~60 games into the season when looking at advanced stats regarding team vs. players. Maybe that’s just my laptop, who knows. According to the site though, the Suns allowed four less points per 100 possessions when Dudley was on the court, from 107.1 to 102.8 and the former being in the middle of the NBA defensive efficiency across the league. The latter would’ve been third-worst.

Here’s Zach Lowe’s comments on both Redick and Dudley’s defense from his Deal Report:

Redick is a solid team defender, but he’s not up for that, and Dudley’s reputation as a stopper is wildly overblown. He’s solid on the right nights, but he’s slow and prone to ball-watching; look for those back-door cuts next season, Clippers fans.

So yeah, the Clippers should dive into the pool of defense-first wings while it still has some H2O.

Dudley and Redick don’t exactly contribute to the ‘Lob City’ nickname the Clippers have been given for the last two years. Neither are all-stars or even that athletic, but they give the Clippers their best shot ever at advancing through the playoffs. At the cost of a few highlights here and there, I’m sure Clippers fans will take that sacrifice. Hopefully.

As for Phoenix, they did what every rebuilding team should do: acquire assets. Whether Bledsoe turns into the all-star every team seemingly wanted to trade for or not, it’s worth taking a gamble on a player when they’ll be one of the five worst teams next year no matter what.

Though the Clippers’ defense was better with Bledsoe on the floor, their offense sputtered both according NBA.com and 82games.com when looking at on/off floor statistics and top lineups. The Clips allowed five less points per 100 possessions when Bledsoe was on the floor for a defensive rating of 97.4, per NBA.com, which was the same rating the Memphis Grizzlies had this season. This is quite amazing when Bledsoe logged over 700 minutes in lineups with both himself and Jamal Crawford on the floor. Matt Barnes was on the floor for a similar amount of time, but so was Lamar Odom.

The offense was a different story, dropping eight points when Bledsoe was on the floor, from 110.6 points per 100 possessions to 102.1. The former number would’ve led the league in efficiency while the latter would’ve been a middle-of-the-road type.

Neither mean Bledsoe is a terrific lockdown defender or a horrible offensive player. He’s prone to both gambling on passes and falling asleep when playing off the ball. With his athleticism though, he makes some breathtaking blocks and gets into the passing lanes quite often. It also helps that he’s aided by a 6’7”½ wingspan. Bledsoe averaged 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes last season, which is a half-block more than the next guard in the NBA,Tony Allen. He was second in steals per 36 minutes at 2.5. The leader in that category was former-teammate Chris Paul with 2.6.

The tools are there for Bledsoe to be one of the best lockdown defenders in the league. Offensively, he has a ways to go. He shot nearly 40 percent from 3, but only took one attempt per game and was just 29 percent from 16-to-30 feet, according to Basketball-Reference. His form isn’t the most fluid, sometimes kicking his right foot out even while given wide open jump shots. That’s a bad habit that should only be spotted at the worst of pickup basketball games. It has to change.

Rounding out his game, or at least showing signs of improvement from outside the paint, will help Bledsoe get a hefty raise in his contract for the Phoenix Suns.

But Eric Bledsoe isn’t the only player the Suns acquired in the three-team trade. They also took on the expiring contract of Caron Butler. Even though Butler’s versatility has declined to where he’s become the most ripped spot shooter in the NBA, playing with someone with a defined role like his over the likes of Michael Beasley should be considered an upgrade.

But now the four best players on the Suns are at point guard and center with Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Alex Len, and Marcin Gortat. Dragic’s contract is moveable at $7.5 million over the next three years and he’s only 26. Arron Afflalo of Orlando comes to mind when looking at potential trade partners for Dragic because the Suns could use another wing while Orlando is in search of a point guard, but the Magic are considering experimenting with Oladipo at that position next season. Basically, the trade makes too much sense since both teams are scrapping for a top five pick next year.

Marcin ‘Tater Tot’ Gortat (going to try my best to get that nickname trending) will also be on the trading block. Gortat’s mobility or lack thereof keeps him from playing power forward, but with Phoenix going nowhere anytime soon they could experiment with Len at the 4 alongside Gortat at the 5. It just might be bad enough to give them the most lottery balls possible.

Dragic could also continue to start games, this time at shooting guard alongside Bledsoe. Having two guards who can create off the dribble is never a bad thing, though Bledsoe’s improvement with his jump shot should be mandatory for Phoenix to make the best—at least on the offensive side—out of playing two point guards at once.

It’s not like it would be the first time a team has experimented with that kind of lineup before and it could be useful in order to make the most out of Dragic’s productivity when either shopping him or looking for a reason to play out his contract. That contract is 100 percent guaranteed and takebacks. Ouchies.

Both the Suns and Clippers got what they wanted in the trade. I can’t say the same for the Bucks, who have had one of the biggest head-scratching off-seasons in recent memory. Some of it isn’t their fault, thanks to Monta Ellis not re-signing for a more expensive price than the free agent market can offer him.

But if we’re counting at home as far as trades involving the Bucks and Redick, Milwaukee traded Tobias Harris for Redick in a six-player trade February 21 and then flipped Redick for just two second round picks 19 weeks later. Also, they’re supposedly going to match any amount of money a team offers at Brandon Jennings and are finalizing a deal with O.J. Mayo. Life is weird.

The Bucks will likely see a rise in my Tankapalooza Power Rankings, whenever I decide to come out with the second version of it. It probably won’t be for a while because the silly season of the NBA has been more hectic than I expected. In fact, another three-team trade went down yesterday, involving the Kings, Blazers, and Pelicans. As much as I’d like to tackle it, I’ll cut my losses. In the 24-hour news cycle we live in, I might as well post this (and other couple-days-late postings) next summer.

It seems like the Bucks are in a similar boat as I. We’re both a little behind the curve this summer. For them, they’d be advised to throw in the towel until next year’s draft. I can’t say I’m allowed to do the same.

Edit: Though I probably should.

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