The All-Star Break has arrived and the Phoenix Suns are sitting at 30-21, which is good for the 7th seed in the brutal Western Conference. It seems like just yesterday when these Suns would “be lucky” to win 20 games this year.
Oh, how things have changed. Even without Eric Bledsoe in the lineup they are still competing and very much alive in the playoff hunt. They just keep proving the naysayers wrong and deflect every obstacle that comes their way.
Erik Spoelstra and Mark Jackson both agreed on one thing before playing the Suns in their last two games: They are for real.
They were both quoted saying the Suns are “definitely legit” and that any team that is able sustain their success all the way through the All-Star Break is not a fluke.
That being said, the Suns will not get the upper-hand as the underdogs anymore. Coaches, players and even some fans (yes, the East Coast may be a little slow to recognize) know that this team is good.
Goran Dragic will be the focal point of the opponent’s defense night in and night out with how well he’s been playing of late. Goran has been playing on another stratosphere the past few weeks. Think being snubbed from the All-Star Game might’ve had something to do with that?
It has been quite a ride the past 4-5 months, so now let’s take time to reflect on what has got us here through 51 games played.
Team MVP: Goran Dragic. Without a doubt Goran has been their most valuable player. He’s their leader, their extended coach on the court and a straight up warrior. Dragic is averaging a career high 20.3 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on 50% shooting.
Biggest Surprise: For me, it’s a tie between Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green. Both players came over from Indiana in the Luis Scola trade and not much was expected from either of them initially.
Green has been incredible offensively averaging 14.2 points and 2.5 three pointers made per game giving Phoenix a much needed scoring threat on the wing. He brings excitement with his high-flying dunks, but no one knew he had such a great stroke from downtown.
Plumlee is playing in what is practically his rookie season in the NBA since he only “played” in 14 games with the Pacers averaging 3.9 minutes per game last year in his first season. He is averaging close to a double-double and also throwing down some amazing dunks and blocking shots at a very high rate.
Best Story: Channing Frye. This one wasn’t close, either. Channing is coming off missing an entire season due to an enlarged heart. He is not only back and playing, but he is back and producing in a big way averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and nearly a steal and block per game to go along with his great shooting touch.
Frye’s return has been key to the Suns success this year, as he has been able to help spread the floor which really bodes well for Hornacek’s style on offense.
Biggest Disappointment: Alex Len. I know he was injured for a good portion of the year and is finally getting his conditioning back, but he has done little to nothing so far this year. Even 19-year-old rookie Archie Goodwin has shown flashes of his tremendous upside this year.
The good news is that Len still has plenty of time to right the ship. I am hoping he gets more of an opportunity to prove himself after the All-Star Break and that he thrives when he gets his chance.
Grading Jeff Hornacek: A+. The first year head coach has exceeded expectations big time with his new squad. He has proven to be a great hire. The players love playing for him and his style of play fits the team perfectly. Not much more to be said here.
All-Star Representatives: Goran Dragic will participate in the Skills Competition and Miles Plumlee will be in the Rising Stars Challenge.
No one was selected for the All-Star game even though many believe Dragic was snubbed. There’s still a chance he could make it as a replacement with Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker both banged up, but that remains to be seen.