Page 71

Atlanta Hawks Gameday HQ

To make matters worse for opponents, McDonough went out and signed free agent Thomas at a bargain $7 million annually to add to this mix, later signing Bledsoe to a five-year, $70 million deal, leaving the team enough cap room next year to extend Dragic to a similar blockbuster deal if this experiment works again. For what it’s worth, Thomas also ranked amongst leaders in taking it to the hoop, scoring 5.5 points per game off drives (13th in league) and 9.9 team points per game off drives (10th). SportsVU never had cameras in every NBA arena before last season, but we doubt if they did, that few teams in NBA history would have three players rate amongst the top 15 in this category. Not to mention, they have another transporter in free agent acquisition and Dragic brother Zoran Dragic, who is driver like his brother and a fast-breaker like superathletic wing Gerald Green. Just make sure to DVR every Suns game you can, because this team that ranked eighth in offensive efficiency in 2013-14 (107.1 points per 100 possessions) and seventh in true shooting percentage (.564) knows how to create threepoint shots for Green (6.2 three-point attempts at 40.0 percent), Marcus Morris (3.2 attempts at 38.1 percent), P.J. Tucker (2.4 attempts at 38.7 percent), not to mention Dragic (3.9 attempts at 40.8 percent) and Bledsoe (3.3 attempts at 35.7 percent) themselves. The Suns most surely will miss stretch center Channing Frye, whose 5.3 three-point attempts at 37.0 percent is unheard of for a center. But do not be surprised if Marcus’ brother Markieff put in the summer work to bring his three-point shot up to par, worthy of the contracts the brothers signed for a combined $52 million over four years. The Morris brothers. The Dragic brothers. And the brothers bonded through free agency, Bledsoe and Thomas. All in all, it appears we are going to have a fun family affair in ’15. OUTLOOK As bright as Phoenix’s future is, it will be tough for the Suns to crack into the Western Conference’s upper echelon, where teams like the Spurs and Thunder, Warriors and Clippers reside. Consequently, there is not much expectation of the Suns winning any more games than they did last year when Frye was on the team (and Thomas was not). If anything, this is a squad geared for the future, playing $20 million or so under the cap in Summer 2015 when it attempts to resign Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, not to mention a potential windfall of salary cap room in Summer 2016 when the NBA’s new TV deal goes into effect, freeing up anywhere from another $13 million to $20 million of spending room to a team that will have locked all of its current players up. Follow? The present is indeed bright. But look ahead to 2016 and you’re going to need Blues Brothers shades to follow this team. SPOTLIGHT: Isaiah Thomas How does Thomas fit into this mix? Many posed a similar question a year ago when Dragic and Bledsoe were asked to share point guard duties while also coexisting in the starting backcourt. And they turned out to be a most dynamic duo, posting a devastating +191 plus-minus score in 884 minutes together. Expect Thomas to fit in with either with equal aplomb. True, the ball seems to stick to his hands a lot—he ranked eighth in the NBA with 74.3 frontcourt touches per game—but he had to do that in Sacramento. They did not have the guard help, nor the three-point shooting attack that Phoenix boasts. None of his top five outlets shot more than 35 percent last season (not McLemore, 32 percent; Marcus Thornton, 31 percent; Rudy Gay, 31 percent; Travis Outlaw, 35 percent; Derrick Williams, 29 percent). If anything, Thomas’ game is more similar to Dragic and Bledsoe, evidenced in the drives per game, where his pointguard attack skills should fit seamlessly into the mix here. The 5-9 Thomas averaged 20.3 points on .577 true shooting percentage with 6.3 assists in 34.7 minutes per game, which are eerily similar to both the 6-3 Dragic (20.3 points and 5.9 assists in 35.1 minutes per game with .601 true shooting percentage) and 6-1 Bledsoe (17.7 points and 5.5 assists in 32.9 minutes per game). Indeed, despite the differences in stature, expect Thomas to finish the season similar in status. With their variety of small ball lineups, expect the Suns to push the tempo against the opposition. Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images


Atlanta Hawks Gameday HQ
To see the actual publication please follow the link above