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Previewing the Phoenix Suns: Q&A with Bright Side of the Sun

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Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun was kind enough to answers some questions about the Phoenix Suns before they host the Dallas Mavericks tonight.

Christian Petersen

Since Eric Bledsoe was sidelined to have surgery on his right knee, the Suns have experienced a decline. The team has won just three of its last eight games. Where has Bledsoe's loss impacted the team the most?

I guess the primary missing piece is the threat that Bledsoe poses on the court. He requires the attention of the defense, which provides more space to others. In his absence, the Suns have shot very poorly until last night's pasting of the Lakers. During his early-season injury (6 games), the Suns shot the ball fine while splitting the games he missed. This time, they shot poorly and lost a lot of close games on the road. He is a playmaker who can score at the rim, and without him the Suns have only one guy who can shoot AND pass really well.

Phoenix recently picked up a face familiar to Suns fans and many fans across the NBA. Leandro Barbosa was playing in Brazil before the Suns came calling. He played extremely well in a recent overtime loss to the New York Knicks. Is Barbosa the solution to what ails the Suns after losing Bledsoe or is his signing merely a stop-gap measure?

It's possible that Barbosa can fill the offensive role of Bledsoe. He can score at the rim and dish (but to a lesser extent). Where he can't fill in for Bledsoe is on defense. For that matter, neither can Ish Smith or Gerald Green. The Suns have been passable on defense, but not a threat to run as much without Bledsoe getting deflections and steals.

18.4 percent of Phoenix's points come on the fastbreak. The team is averaging 19 fastbreak points per game this season. Both are the best marks in the league. When the Suns aren't streaking down the floor, which isn't often, how does their offense operate in the halfcourt and how do they get players so many 3-point looks?

Without the fast break, the Suns sputter like few teams in the NBA. In fact, you could say they sputter more than just about everybody. The Suns are last in the league in assist rate, yet shoot 10th best in the league, meaning they have a lot of "oh I got the ball, now I'm gonna dribble a little to get a shot and bam I guess I made it". So, the Suns are a threat in that each player can put the ball on the floor, but they aren't talented enough to be consistent with it.

Miles Plumlee has been one of the great surprises of the season. In only his second year in the league, he is helping to anchor one of the most dynamic offenses in recent memory. He scores mostly inside and from the left block, but what else is he capable of doing? How good of a defender and rebounder is he?

Plumlee is a revelation. A real pleasant surprise to everyone. He defends by changing more shots than blocking them (and is top-10 in blocks) on drives to the hoop. He's not as effective in post-up defense. Rebounding-wise, he gets a lot of rebounds but gives up a lot because he doesn't block out well. His offense is very inconsistent. He'll make some shots that look like All-Star level moves, but then will brick the next one like a journeyman.

Can you tell the Morris brothers apart yet?

Haha no. In fact, one time earlier this year I interviewed one of them while thinking he was the other one. Imagine my surprise when he said "you know I'm Marcus, right?" after I asked a question about filling the pivot on occasion. We all got a good laugh, even Marcus. These guys have the same height (an inch apart), same gait, same face, same smile, same facial hair and hairline, and even the same tats all over their bodies. Marcus' face is slightly fuller/rounder, but only when you see Markieff right next to him. Without that, it's a real challenge. One of the coaches quipped that he made them wear numbers on their practice jerseys during preseason until he could tell the difference.

That, sir, is a damn fine anecdote. Thanks, Dave! For more on the Phoenix Suns, be sure to check out Bright Side of the Sun.