E-Mail Debate: How Many Awards Will Suns Win?
Thanks to the recent American pastime of work e-mail chains, the Suns.com staff is a constant threat to debate something to death while on the job.
There’s been a lot to discuss, too, whether it’s the stretch run, the latest win, the team’s stash of draft picks or a recent development on the court.
The dot com crew’s latest hot topic concerned postseason awards, and how many the Suns could possibly win after a feel-good season like this year.
Matt: The NBA boasts 10 regular season awards, ranging from Most Valuable Player to Most Improved to Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year (initiated last season). That’s not including All-NBA or All-Defensive teams. It’s not ridiculous to think the Suns could snag at least four awards (Coach, Most Improved, Sixth Man, Executive) and a couple of those team spots, right?
Brad: First of all, can we acknowledge the greatest travesty in all of this – the league no longer recognizes a Comeback Player of the Year recipient. Channing Frye would take home that award this season hands down.
Of those you mentioned, Matt, we’re definitely in the running for each though. People acknowledge Jeff Hornacek as a Coach of the Year candidate, but many do so without remembering that a number of Suns wins this season came without the services of Eric Bledsoe. Even with a healthy Bledsoe playing through the entire 2013-14 season, the “experts” still didn’t have us winning more than 20 games.
We’ve more than doubled that number and there’s no question that has a ton to do with the work of Coach Hornacek.
Greg: The Comeback Player of the Year thing is a true disservice this year. It’s time to start a movement to get Commissioner Adam Silver to rectify this injustice. As a matter of fact, it’s time to start a petition to get the award back and named after Frye. If Americans can start one for getting Justin Bieber deported back to Canada and get enough signatures to force the President to address it, we certainly can get enough signatures to get the Commish to acknowledge it.
As for the other awards, it seems more than logical that it Coach of the Year goes to Hornacek. No one has done more with a team that the media thought less of than him.
One no one has mentioned yet is Gerald Green as Most Improved. He went from a bit player on the end of the Pacers’ bench struggling to keep his career alive to being the igniter for the Suns offense both off the bench and when forced into a starters role. No telling where this team would be without him.
Brad: They would probably be a lot closer to the 17-win total that many had us slated for.
Ben: In my mind, Markieff Morris has the Sixth Man of the Year Award locked up. He’s obviously been huge off the bench for the Suns both offensively and defensively. Keef has reached or surpassed his career-high entering the season (23 points) 12 times this season and tallied 10+ points in 31 of his last 33 games off the bench, the most in a stretch that long by a Sun since Leandro Barbosa in 2006-07 (35 of 37).
But more importantly, the play of Keef and his brother Marcus have translated into wins -- the Suns are 19-8 this season when both Marcus and Markieff Morris each score 10+ points in the same game and 13-4 when either scores 20+.
Matt: The truly scary thing about Most Improved is Phoenix has at least five candidates to win it. Check the before (last season) and after (this season) picture from these guys:
Before: 14.7 ppg, 44.3 FG%, 31.9 3FG%
After: 20.3 ppg, 51.0 FG%, 41.9 3FG%
Before: 8.5 ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.0 rpg, 44.5 FG%
After: 17.4 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 47.0 FG%
Before: 0.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.2 bpg, 23.8 FG%
After: 8.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 50.5 FG%
Before: 8.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 40.7 FG%
After: 13.8 ppg, 5.9rpg, 48.6 FG%
Before: 7.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.3 spg, 36.6 FG%, 31.4 3FG%
After: 15.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.9 spg, 44.0 FG%, 39.0 3FG%
By the way, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE STATS are career-highs except for Green’s three-point shooting (exceeded only by a pair of 30-game seasons). Detractors would say it’s because they’ve never had opportunities like this before. Isn’t it even more impressive, though, when opportunities are cashed in?
Greg: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s keep the stats out of this. No one told me this was an analytics conference.
Based on the eye test, can the NBA just name the entire Suns organization – minus the digital department, of course – as the Most Improved? That’s just how impressive this season has been. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, this has been a massive success from every angle.
Brad: Can we stop for a second to discuss the guy responsible for bringing guys like Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green to Phoenix in the first place? All due respect to Luis Scola, but Ryan McDonough not only acquired a first-round pick for the veteran, but also Green and Plumlee. That means the trade still has yet to pay off as well as it ultimately will.
The Suns also came out of nowhere to swoop in on the services of Eric Bledsoe, a player many already had tabbed as a future guard for the Orlando Magic.
Shawn: The unsung hero of this argument/season has to be one Ryan McDonough, who has to be lock as an Executive of the Year finalist. When you look back at the off-season and the way McDonough came in and “cleaned house” all while stockpiling numerous draft picks for the future.
And while he’d be the first to admit he didn’t expect the immediate success that this team has had, he has expedited the rebuilding process all while gaining assets to set this team up for even further success down the road.
Matt: The best part about the Indy trade? McDonough grew up in Boston, raised by a Boston sportswriter. I mean, it’s safe to assume Larry Bird is more than just a name to him, right? AND HE FLEECED BIRD IN THAT TRADE. Stuff like that should matter.
Greg: Has there ever been a guy to school Bird so bad one-on-one ever before in NBA history? I think not. Forget Bird Vs. Magic, it’s now Bird Vs. McD… OK, so maybe that went slightly overboard. But McDonough definitely could reenact the scene from Good Will Hunting and ask Bird how he likes them apples (typed in a Boston accent).
Shawn: Or a perhaps the league should create an “Most Severely Underrated” award?
Matt: I’ll backtrack to Ben’s point and lump Markieff Morris along with McDonough under the “unsung” label. Barbosa was the runaway winner in ’07, so any legit comparison to him is a strong argument to take Sixth Man.
But he’s not on the highlight reels like Green. He’s not in the headlines as much as Dragic or Bledsoe. And he didn’t come from nowhere quite like Plumlee. Hornacek, however, has been able to count on him unwaveringly, especially over the last two months.
Ben: Markieff has definitely expanded his game more in the past year than the other candidates. Green and Plumlee were similar players this year to last year, but are just receiving more opportunities this year.Markieff looks like a totally different player out there than he did in the past. The three players, however, have all been better this year in large part because of Hornacek. He’s showing the ability not only to give players opportunity, but to help develop their games.
Greg: I feel like if Markieff wins 6th Man of the Year we need a 7th Man of the Year award for Marcus. Not only do they like to do everything together and we don’t want to ruin that chemistry, but he also has had a major impact on the team and his brother.
Markieff has been a beast scoring in double-digits off the bench in 20 of the last 21 games but at least part of that is due to the connection the two have on the court.
Shawn: And since we’re backtracking I’ll throw my hat into the Most Improved debate. As much as I love Gerald Green’s resurgence from NBA journey-man to the scary scoring threat he has become, I still have to give the nod to Goran Dragic.
Keep in mind this was a guy who came into the season in the shadow of the Eric Bledsoe signing. While we all knew the type of talent Goran possessed, no one saw this kind of season coming from the Dragon. His career season has raised his into the star ranks of the NBA.
Greg: Great call on Goran, Shawn. Just remember, this is a guy John Hollinger once called “the worst player in the league.” Now he’s a second tier MVP candidate. I’d say that is a bit improved.
Brad: Hollinger said that?! Can somebody provide evidence of this please?
Matt: Which begs the question: hasn’t Dragic pushed his way onto an All-NBA team? Even considering his competition (Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard), Third-Team is the least he can expect at this point, right?
Greg: Since this is going long, I think we need a musical interlude courtesy of Eddie Johnson rapping. Best part, he tweeted it out so I didn’t even have to search for it to make fun of him.
Ben: That video of EJ is terrifyingly amazing.
The bottom line is this: the 2013-14 Suns are amazing whether or not they make the postseason and regardless of any awards they win or don’t win. There’s just something about them that draws fans in. Maybe it’s the underdog in all of us that can’t help rooting for the Suns after so many people completely wrote them off before the season even started.
Whatever “it” is, the Suns have it.