The Phoenix Suns, a team that was No. 1 in the Western Conference Power Tankings before the season started, are now 5-2 on the year. They’ve beaten the playoff hopeful New Orleans Pelicans twice, the playoff hopeful Portland Trail Blazers, the lowly Utah Jazz and the disappointing Denver Nuggets. The two losses have come against two Western Conference powerhouses, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, by narrow margins. Simply put, this Suns team might be too good to tank.
Markieff Morris…Best In The West:
In conference filled with big names like Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, James Harden, Dwight Howard and Stephen Curry, Markieff Morris ended up walking away with the Western Conference Player of the Week award. For the week of Nov. 4-10, Mark Morris No. 1 averaged 22.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals while shooting an absurd 69.8 percent from the field. Those marks had him at seventh in the West in scoring and first in the conference in shooting percentage.
What’s most impressive about this surprise? He did it all coming off the bench. In his last three games, Morris went 30-for-38 from the field and didn’t shoot less than 75 percent in any of the three. As much as I’ve questioned whether or not the Suns made a mistake drafting him ahead of Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Kenneth Faried and others, he’s been playing tremendous basketball recently. It’s too early to say for sure, but Mark Morris No. 1 could be on the verge of a slam dunk season on the same level as a Gerald Green windmill jam:
Eric Bledsoe Is Spectacular:
Markieff Morris had a tremendous week, but Eric Bledsoe is unquestionably the best player on the Phoenix Suns right now. I was hesitant to declare him the leader of the Suns coming into the season since Goran Dragic earned that title last season and Bledsoe hadn’t really proved anything with the Los Angeles Clippers (other than the obvious fact that his athleticism was out of this world). But with a few games as a starting guard under his belt, Bledsoe has removed any doubt in my mind that he’s an essential part of the Suns rebuilding process moving forward.
Bledsoe is putting up All-Star caliber numbers already and has led the Suns to their surprising 5-2 start. Averaging 20.9 points, 7.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game, he’s also shooting 52 percent from the floor, 33 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent from the free throw line. Bledsoe is scoring or setting up teammates out of the pick-and-roll, his defense is just as tenacious as ever and his Player Efficiency Rating is 25.75 (11th in the NBA as of Nov. 10). Basically, Bledsoe is doing everything under the sun (ha!) to help this tanking team do everything but actually tank.
On Sunday, with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday playing, Bledsoe was still the best player on the floor. He bailed the Suns out of countless the-shot-clock-is-winding-down-quick-someone-shoot-it situations, including a fadeaway 3-point dagger he banked in to put the Suns up 10 with 1:24 to play. This isn’t the first instance of Bledsoe being clutch, however, since his fourth quarter scoring (8.7 PPG) is second to only Kevin Durant (9.4) in the NBA. I still hope that Bledsoe doesn’t turn Dragic (who came off the bench in his first game since the ankle injury) into trade bait, but Suns fans have a lot to look forward to in their mini-LeBron James point guard. Like Anthony Davis rejections, for example:
Bledsoe’s not enough to win games by himself, however. Before we get to the other young guns who have stepped up, we need to take a second and appreciate what Jeff Hornacek has done in his first season in Phoenix. He’s the first rookie coach in Suns history to start off 5-0 at home and although I don’t know what voodoo coaching magic he’s working on this team, he’s gotten guys to buy in on both ends of the floor. As of Monday morning, Phoenix’s defense was eighth in the league for points allowed per game (96.0) and 11th in rebounds per game (44.0). Pushing the tempo has also been a great coaching decision to help the Suns score, as Phoenix has scored 20 fast break points in six of their seven games.
Moving on the the players, Markieff Morris and Goran Dragic have made the most of their minutes. But I can’t say enough about how improved Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green look this year. Plumlee nearly outplayed The Unibrow Sunday, finishing with eight points, 12 rebounds and five blocks on the night. His post game has been hit-or-miss at times, but he was going up against a defensive force in Davis and held his own on the other end. His athleticism is still shockingly impressive and he’s altering shots at the rim the way you want your center to.
As for Green, what a stark contrast between this Gerald Green and Indiana Pacers Gerald Green! He’s known for being not much more than an emphatic dunker and rightfully so; his unpredictable and often bad decisions made it hard for Frank Vogel to play him. But Hornacek has found a way to get through to Green and use him as a key role player. Not only is Gerald Green making tough 3-point shots but he’s also taking smarter shots within the offense, which explains his 16.2 points per game on 47.6 percent field goal shooting in his last five games. Green is also buying in on the defensive end, which is a huge improvement overall for the Suns this season. Oh, and he’s also still an emphatic dunker too:
Topics: Eric Bledsoe Phoenix Suns Highlights, Featued, Gerald Green Phoenix Suns Dunk, Markieff Morris Player Of The Week, Markieff Morris Western Conference Player Of The Week, NBA Western Conference Player Of The Week