The Heat and Suns will face off on Tuesday night at 9 PM.
1. Pacing the Suns in the Western Conference to the playoff mix is an impressive feat by Goran Dragic. What's the mood in Phoenix about Dragic not being selected an All-Star?
DK: Everyone agrees that Dragic is playing at an All-Star level. He's the leading scorer (20.4 ppg, #16 in NBA) and assist man on a 30-20 team with no other consistent 20-point threats, which means no other double teams. Statistically speaking, he is #1 in PER among NBA shooting guards, #3 among point guards and #14 overall (if you like that PER kind of thing). Early in the season, Dragic was playing just as well but with Bledsoe getting defensive attention. But Bledsoe's been out all of 2014 and Dragic has been even better - 22 points and 6.5 assists per night in 19 games. Still, we're all okay with him getting snubbed too, since he's only been playing at this level for this season and the ASG is usually about last year.
2. The Suns are the only team to defeat the Indiana Pacers twice this season. The Heat have a lot of interest in how to accomplish this task, what are some of the key ingredients the Suns had to beat Indiana?
The Suns really pulled Roy Hibbert out of the lane, forcing him to switch out on a deep-shooting big man for much of each game. This tired Hibbert out and frustrated him. He spent a lot of time diving into the paint helping on drives to the basket, but was a little late by the third quarter and stuck in between the basket and his man, leaving someone open way too often. Otherwise, the Suns kept the pace up and found some mismatches (usually whoever West or Scola were guarding) who could make a three when rotations broke down. Frye, Morris, Morris, Green and Tucker are all threats to drop a three from deep.
3. Rumors have it that the Suns will look to be active at the trade deadline. What do you expect they are looking to do?
Yeah, according to "rumors" the Suns want anyone on a big contract regardless of whether they would fit into the Suns' scheme. The Suns have great trade assets (Okafor's $14.5 million expiring contract being 80% covered this season by insurance; plus 6 #1s in next two years; plus young talent), but there's no slam dunk trade out there.
Frankly, the Suns should only do one of the following:
1) trade whatever it takes for Kevin Love (something like a 1% chance of happening)
2) trade Okafor and nothing else for an equally expiring contract who can help this season, such as Pau Gasol
3) trade Okafor and picks/youth for a good player who can be a perfect #3 compliment to Bledsoe/Dragic for years, such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng (though expiring)
4) wait till summer, let Okafor and others expire, sign a big free agent to a max deal without giving anything up, such as...wait for it... someone like LeBron James* or Chris Bosh.
You can bet that options 1 and 4 are the preference for the Suns front office, but are collectively about a 1% of happening. Collectively. We're not dumb, but we can dream.
*There's a theory that even Suns fans can't say with a straight face that goes like this: The HEAT fail to win a ring this season, LeBron opts out and decides to join a young, talented team that made the playoffs without him and only need a superstar SF to go all the way to the Finals. Joining Phoenix would allow LeBron to play alongside Dragic and his buddy Bledsoe and enjoy the spacing provided by the Suns' 3-point shooting bigs.
Short of that, picking up someone like Gasol (expiring) for nothing (Okafor) would be good as long as the Suns don't give up a pick in the process. I am less enamored with already committing to next season with a trade made right now, unless the player is really young or so unique they can't be replicated in free agency or the draft.
4. The Suns are last in the NBA in assists per game, yet rank in the top five in points per game. How do you explain their success?
Frankly, it's simply because their best scorers are their distributors. The Suns don't have a good passer at small forward or shooting guard. All their scoring assists come from the PGs, who take the ball to the hole themselves as much as anything else (Dragic, Bledsoe, Barbosa). It's interesting, because the team is not selfish yet the assist numbers make it appear that way. The difference between the #1 assist team and the Suns is about 5 assists a game. I know the coach isn't too worried about it. He knows his only good passers are his PGs, who are also his best finishers (not including Ish Smith there).
5. Miami is probably the favorite, yet we won't be surprised to see the Suns win. What does Phoenix need to do to give the Heat trouble?
No idea, really. If the HEAT are engaged, the Suns are toast. If the HEAT play like they did against Utah, the Suns have a really good chance to win. That's really what it's all about. The Suns like to think they have someone to stay with LeBron in P.J. Tucker, but that's simply wrong. No one stays with LeBron defensively unless he invites them. The same with Wade. If Wade wants to dominate, and physically feels capable, then he will. I don't see the Suns winning this game if the HEAT show up engaged and ready to play. But then again, I said the same about the Pacers game.