Tag Archives: Phoenix Suns

If The NBA Playoffs Started Today

The playoffs start in the last weeks of April, and it should be a good one this year. For starters there is the return of the injured Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, the new big three in Cleveland, and the always powerful western conference. These results were based off the week of November 14-17.

If for some strange reason the playoffs kicked off tonight there would be quite a mix-up of the usual teams that are in the playoffs each season. 

For example, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs with the eight seed would face the hot Memphis Grizzlies with the first seed.

That is one of the surprises early in the season.  Yes we know that it will never happen having playoffs in the middle of November, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the other irregular playoff matchups as of now. 

Let’s start with the always powerful Western Conference

We discussed the defending champs taking on the Grizzlies.  These teams actually battle it out come playoff time, but most of the time the Spurs are first place while the Grizzlies are in the eight seed.  

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are two great teams.  So whether one is first, last, or vice versa.  These playoff bound teams will always put on a show in the stacked western conference.

Next, there is the battle of the 2 and the 8 seed.  There is the second seed Houston Rockets, and the 7th seed New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Rockets, since picking up James Harden and Dwight Howard are always a force coming out of the west.  They are no strangers to the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans on the other hand are the new kids on the block but with their star Anthony Davis having a stellar season and their offense improving since last season; it is not farfetched to see the Pelicans chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

The third seed in the west in this young season is the Golden State Warriors and their young high flying team.  With names like the “Splash Brothers” both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lead this team with fast-paced offense and high percentage shooting. 

Besides their superb shooting, they also have big men that can hold down the paint, and yes take great shots.
The team that they will face off against will be the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns were not even a playoff team last year, but with star Eric Bledsoe showing the league and the naysayers criticizing him of his big contract in the off season why they paid him so much. 
He also has the likes of Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup it is time to consider that the ever so difficult has improved even more with the Suns stepping it up this season. 

They are moving in the right direction to be a force in the west for the next few years.

If this team were in the eastern conference it would be a playoff team without a doubt.  That just shows how difficult the West is.  Not only do you have to win, but win a lot. 

The Phoenix Suns should be in the playoffs come April, but we shall see how that goes. 

The final hypothetical matchup is one between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers have the 4th seed while the Mavs have the 5th seed.  These two teams are always in the mix. 

The Mavs won it all back in 2011.  They were able to take care of the Miami Heat in six games.

These teams still have a tough long road ahead of them.  In this hypothetical situation there is a  team that  finished in second place last season, but are not even in the playoffs. 

This team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder has an excuse a pretty good one at that.  They are missing not one but two of its stars.  The Thunder had initially started out with their biggest star, Kevin Durant. 

Durant’s loss was an instant impact.  Durant is the defending NBA scoring champ, so you know that the Thunder is missing that.  

If that was not enough of a tough loss, a few games in the season they lose their other star Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder look to get their stars back sometime during the season, and hopefully they are able to bounce back and be in the playoffs again.

Now let’s look at the Eastern conference.  The East has been known to have a handful of good teams. 

Yes they are not as stacked as the West is but the teams that are in the playoffs and most notably the top five or six are constant visitors to the playoffs. 

The first mock matchup comes with the number one Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets.  The Raptors are looking to bounce back from last season. 

This matchup will be a rematch of last years first round playoffs where the Raptors who were the Atlantic Division champs and the 3rd playoff berth. 

The Raptors are one of the hottest teams this season.  They stumbled in the playoffs where they were able to take the Nets to seven games, where they were able to beat the Raptors.

With young stars like Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry the Raptors look to continue being on top of the Atlantic and what looks like the Eastern Conference as well.  

They face off against the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets are kind of a mystery at times. 

They are not talked about as much as other notable Eastern Conference teams.  With a combination of young and old stars the Nets are always in the mix come playoff time. 

The current leading scorer Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez it’s hard to say that they cannot succeed in April.
The next matchup comes with the seven seeded Miami Heat vs. the Washington Wizards. 

The Heat coming out of the NBA Finals a loser, and losing their biggest player in the offseason look to show what they got without the services of LeBron James.

They still have the majority of their core in Miami, with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Yet, without James the Heat struggle, but that does not mean that they will get it together and show why they went to the NBA Finals for four straight years.

The Wizards, who are trying to go back to the playoffs after they took on the heavily favored Chicago Bulls and taking care of them in five games.  

They still look to continue from last years success and after adding some help on the bench and starting lineup its looking good for Washington’s chances. 

They have the services of John Wall, and the veteran Paul Pierce to help them get there.

The next matchup is the Chicago Bulls vs.  The Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bulls who were taken care of by the Wizards last season look to come back to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. 

They will also have their young star Derrick Rose somewhat healthy after missing all of last season and only playing 10 games in the last two seasons. 

Besides Rose’s return they were also able to add the team with the Spaniard Pau Gasol joining the Bulls this season, after he left the Lakers for the Windy City.  

The Bucks are a surprise team right now even early in the season, but yet they are still in the mix.  Who knows if that will continue this season. 

Yet they have a stacked roster on paper.  There is O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Larry Sanders, and Zaza Pachulia it’s easy to say they are playoff bound.

The final matchup is the fourth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.  The biggest news of the offseason was in Cleveland. 

For starters the Cavs got the first overall pick again, the return of LeBron James, and the signing of Kevin Love. 

The Cavs are the favorite to win the NBA Finals now that they have both James, and Love, but you cannot forget the young Kyrie Irving it is difficult to bet against this new big three. 

The Hawks on the other hand are playoff bound again after last season where they were able to nab the 8th seed before being taken out by the number overall seed Indiana Pacers.  

Yet they continue to be there when playoffs start.   Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are the ones leading the Hawks to the top of the east, but can they push through the first round of the playoffs or will it be the same story as the last few years.

Talking about the ones that are currently not in the mix is the former first seed in the Eastern Conference the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers have a dismal record and look pretty bad in this young season.  They are also missing their star Paul George, who was injured playing with Team USA in the FIBA championships. 
They are trying to come back and be a force in the east how they have for the past two years.  They took on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last two years.

So you know they are doing something right, but will that be the same this season.

We will hypothetically see this season, to see if these teams will be in the same spots they are now. 

Or will we see one of the teams that are currently out of the playoffs be the first seed or will they stay out?  Will teams that were in the conference finals, that are now out of the playoffs make a run again. 

We will see but if the playoffs started today it would still be a good two months of playoff basketball.


Eric Bledsoe and the Pitfalls of Restricted Free Agency

By Matt Graber

Restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe is in a tough spot, trapped in stasis due to the conflicting nature of restricted free agency. For those who aren’t totally aware of his situation, here’s the quick rundown:

  • Bledsoe wants a max deal of five years and around $80 million.
  • The Suns won’t give him a max deal, instead offering a 4 year, $48 million deal.
  • The Suns already added his potential replacement(s) in Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ennis.
  • No one else but the Sixers can offer him a max deal, and they’ve shown no interest in him.
  • Teams that had cap space and a need at the position, like the Bucks or Lakers, never put forward an offer sheet, fearing that the Suns would match it.
  • A sign-and-trade looks unlikely.
  • It looks like Bledsoe will either have to agree to a lesser deal with the Suns, use his $3.7 million qualifying offer and wait for unrestricted free agency next year, or hope for a great sign-and-trade offer.

Bledsoe, while a phenomenal athlete and defensive talent, isn’t a max-level player, at least not yet. He’s battled injuries, including a meniscus injury last year, and he’s started less than a season’s worth of games in his career. But we live in a world where Gordon Hayward makes $16 million a year, so angling for more than the $12 million the Suns reportedly offered is reasonable. The problem is, Bledsoe has no leverage in this situation. The Suns don’t have to offer him more because they’ve scared everyone else away by stating they’ll match any offer sheet. Teams didn’t want to spend three days waiting for Phoenix to inevitably match the deal while other teams were filling out their roster. Now the only team with the cap room to offer Bledsoe a max deal is the Sixers, and that won’t happen with last year’s Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at point guard.

Bledsoe could always use his $3.7 million qualifying offer, but that has pros and cons. He would be able to enter unrestricted free agency and play with the team of his choice next year, but he’d be making way less this year, and another injury or a disappointing season would kill his chances of ever getting a big payday.

If Bledsoe does sign with the Suns, it likely won’t be for four or five years. He’s more likely to follow LeBron or Lance Stephenson and sign a two or three year deal. That way, if he can prove his value over the next couple of seasons, he can cash in on an even more lucrative deal once the salary cap rises, as is expected.

The sad thing about this situation is that all kinds of intriguing opportunities existed for Bledsoe outside of Phoenix. Orlando could have paired him with Victor Oladipo in a young backcourt that would have had scary defensive potential. The Lakers could have made him one of their faces of the future. The Rockets could have added their third star; Bledsoe patrolling the perimeter alongside Trevor Ariza and running the offense alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard could have made the Rockets serious contenders. The Kings could have reunited him with friend and former teammate DeMarcus Cousins. My personal favorite; the Bucks. Bledsoe, Larry Sanders, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the same team, with Jason Kidd as coach? That’s an intriguing young team, and entertaining as hell, both on and off the court.

However, at this juncture none of those teams seem to have the cap room or trade assets to make a sign-and-trade doable. Bledsoe seems destined to return to the Suns, where he’ll pair with Thomas and Goran Dragic to form Jeff Hornacek’s three-headed guard monster. That’s hardly a bad situation, as the Suns are among the NBA’s rising contenders.

Restricted free agency is a confusing landscape. While players like Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward cashed in with questionable contracts (not trying to bash Hayward, I like his game, but 4 years, $63 million?), Bledsoe, a player with a higher ceiling than both of them, will miss out on his payday and settle for less than he wanted. It’s not like he’s getting ripped off; he’ll make about what Kyle Lowry, a comparable player, will make. But with the Suns holding all the cards, all the intrigue was taken out of what could have been an intriguing situation.

Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley and an editor at Wizards 101. You can follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber.

Photo credit: Joseph Glorioso Photography / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)