All-Star Break Grades for Each Phoenix Suns Player
The Phoenix Suns have now whimpered into All-Star weekend with a dismal 17-36 record, and all hope looks lost for this season.
But let's focus on individual players for a second. After all, it is All-Star weekend, right? This weekend is all about individual performances, and since the Suns can't cheer for any of the team's players in the All-Star game, we can at least take a look at each player and evaluate their performance this season.
These grades are based on expectations of that player as well as their actual performance this season. Also, players who have logged under 200 minutes this season have not been given enough playing time to formally be graded.
With that settled, let's take a look at the Suns roster heading into the All-Star break.
Wesley Johnson, Diante Garrett, Luke Zeller
These three have all played under 200 minutes this season, so none of them will be formerly graded.
Jonhson is averaging 2.1 points per game and shooting 31 percent from the field this season, while Zeller has scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 58 minutes. Garrett has scored just seven points and dished seven assists in 31 total minutes of playing time this season.
While nothing can be known for sure, it's a safe bet that none of these three will be back with Phoenix next season.
A lot of Suns fans were ready to call Kendall Marshall a bust, but now that the rookie point guard is finally getting some playing time under Lindsey Hunter, he is starting to show glimpses of why he was drafted with the 13th overall pick.
In his last eight games, Marshall has taken over the role as the team's backup point guard. In those games he is getting about 20 minutes of playing time a game, and he averages four points and 2.6 assists.
Although Marshall hasn't been fantastic, it's clearly too early to call him a bust. He is a phenomenal passer for a rookie, and he starting to develop a long-range shot too. Despite the fact that a lot of people criticized Marshall for not having a mid-range game, he is 8-for-21 this season from behind the arc.
Marshall should continue to develop over the next few seasons, and hopefully the Suns will be able to reflect back on the 2012 NBA draft and be proud of their selection. Marshall will likely never be the team's starting point guard, especially not with Dragic around, but with a little luck he could be one of the better reserves in the league and have a fine NBA career.
Nobody expected much of Jermaine O'Neal when he was signed to a one-year deal by the Suns. While he hasn't been spectacular, he's definitely been a bargain deal and a great signing overall.
When O'Neal came to Phoenix, he looked washed up. He had spent the past two seasons of his career with Boston, playing just 49 games in two seasons and averaging about five points a game.
O'Neal isn't back to playing at an All-Star level, but he's making a bit of a comeback in Phoenix. He has played 37 games this season, and he's averaging 6.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in just 16.6 minutes while shooting 50 percent from the field. He sat out a few games because of an irregular heartbeat, but otherwise he has been able to stay healthy.
What the Suns plan to do with O'Neal in the future is unknown, but the veteran 34-year-old certainly could be traded to a contender at the deadline. He's been a nice player, but he has struggled a bit recently and isn't a great fit for a team that is trying to start a youth movement.
Still, give credit to O'Neal for shaking off a couple of bad seasons and making the most of his bench role. He is working hard, and there have been plenty of games this season where he looks much better than starting center Marcin Gortat.
In some ways, you have to feel bad for Sebastian Telfair. He had so much potential coming out of high school, and everyone thought he could really be a star.
Now, fast forward nine years later. Telfair is playing with his sixth NBA team, and now he just lost his backup point guard spot in Phoenix to Kendall Marshall.
Telfair seems like a hard worker, and not once has he complained over the past two seasons about competing with Marshall or Ronnie Price for minutes, but he just isn't a very good player. This season, he is averaging six points and 2.5 assists in 17 minutes a game. He's also shooting just 38 percent from the field.
Telfair might be a nice addition to a team that needs help at point guard, and a trade before the deadline seems likely. Telfair no longer really has a place in Phoenix, so it doesn't make much sense to hold onto him. Still, if he is traded, I wish him the best.
Last season, Markieff Morris had a great rookie campaign, especially considering that he was criticized for being taken over his brother Marcus.
However, Markieff has yet to take the next step and improve his game since last season. He occasionally has a great performance off the bench, but he is wildly inconsistent. Overall, you can probably argue that Morris has actually regressed.
Right now Morris is getting about 20 minutes of playing time a game, which is about the same as his rookie season. In that time he averages 7.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks a game. Those aren't bad stats, but they certainly aren't great, and what is more concerning is the fact that Morris shoots just 40 percent from the field and 27 percent from behind the arc.
Morris still has the potential to become a starter in the NBA, but he has to widen his skill set. He can no longer just try to rely on his three-point shot, which clearly is not working for him this season. If Morris wants a successful career, he needs to focus on developing a post game and some finishing moves and working on his defense.
If he can do that, Morris could probably be a decent starter in the NBA who can average 15 points and seven rebounds a game. Maybe he could even surprise and become an All-Star. But with the way he's playing right now, it's difficult to be extremely excited or optimistic about the future.
Before this season, I'm not sure any Suns fans knew who P.J Tucker was. Somehow, a guy who last played for the Raptors in 2007 found a roster spot in Phoenix, and nobody really knew what to expect of him.
Now, it's safe to say that the acquisition of Tucker has been one of the smartest moves by the front office in recent memory. Tucker has gone from being a bench warmer to a solid rotation player, and now he has even started 22 games for the Suns this season.
Tucker's stats aren't eye-popping, and you most likely won't be impressed. He averages 5.5 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, which is solid for just 22.5 minutes per outing but isn't even close to being fantastic. What really makes Tucker such a hidden gem is his outstanding defense, as he has quickly become known as this team's greatest lockdown perimeter defender.
The Suns could not have possibly asked for more from Tucker when they signed him, and hopefully he has found a more permanent home in Phoenix. The team should definitely re-sign Tucker to a long-term deal, as he has been one of the few bright spots for Phoenix this season.
Michael Beasley finally appears to be shaking off that awful first half of a season.
Or is he?
The thing is, it's always impossible to tell with Beasley. He is so terribly inconsistent that one minute you're cheering over a 25-point performance and then the next game you're ripping all of your hair out just watching him play.
Beasley is averaging 10.8 points and 4.1 rebounds a game this season, which are not the numbers you would expect from someone making $6 million each year. He is also shooting just 40 percent from the field, and he is attempting way too many jump shots and three-pointers when he should be using his athleticism to get to the basket.
To be fair, Beasley is doing better under Lindsey Hunter, and he is averaging 15.6 points and 5.7 rebounds over his past 10 games.
But in those 10 games, Beasley has four 20-point performances while also having three games in which he failed so score more than six points. So again, it's impossible to predict what he will do on any given night.
Overall, signing Beasley still looks like a disaster. He is an inefficient scorer, a terrible defender, a bad passer, and there are simply no great aspects of his game to point to this season.
Hopefully he can get his act together and blossom into the star player we all know he can be, but until he starts showing some consistency he will still be stuck with a bad grade.
Shannon Brown still remains the greatest high-flying dunker on the Suns.
What else does he bring to the table? Well, I suppose you could say he is the team's other Michael Beasley. That is, he takes terrible shots that don't go in and plays bad defense.
Brown hasn't been as awful, and he does have a cheaper contract which slightly justifies his poor play, but something about his game has to change. Someone needs to teach him that you can't get yourself out of a slump by taking countless amounts of bad shots.
Brown is shooting just 27 percent from behind the arc this season, a career low, and there's more to that than just coincidence. He isn't getting open, and lots of his shots are contested.
Since Lindsey Hunter took over Brown has been an absolute disaster. He's averaging just 6.7 points while shooting 40 percent from the field in February, and he averaged 9.8 points per game in January. Brown hasn't found much success since December, and he's starting to receive fewer minutes as a result of this slump as well.
The Suns clearly need a go-to scorer. However, that doesn't mean guys like Brown and Beasley should try to step into that role by taking 15 shots and only making five a game. The Suns need efficient shooter, not just shooters. If Brown doesn't learn that soon, he won't be around for too much longer.
Right now, the Suns could really use some more players like Jared Dudley.
The truth is, Jared Dudley is not a great player. He can't consistently score 20 points a night, and he will never be an All-Star. But Jared Dudley can shoot, and more importantly, knows when is an appropriate time to shoot.
He is an above-average defender. He can pass or rebound. He's also the longest-tenured member of the Suns, and he's a great team leader in the locker room.
This season, Dudley is averaging 11.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game. He is shooting 48 percent from the field and 39 percent from downtown, making him the team's only consistent three-point marksman.
For just $4.25 million a year, the Suns really couldn't be asking any more out of Dudley. There is a reason he is generating a lot of interest on the trade market. He may not be athletic but he has all of the intangibles, and players like him try to keep team morale high in a season like this.
Luis Scola may not be having a fantastic season, but with such a cheap contract he can't be considered a disappointment.
Scola is averaging 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds a game this season, but he's only playing 27.4 minutes a game and was benched for 11 games earlier this year. Based on his per 36 minute stats, Scola appears to be just as productive as he was last year.
Although Scola does appear to be fairly inconsistent, he generally performs very well when he is given a lot of minutes. Scola averages 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in games where he plays more than 30 minutes this year, and as shown by his 33-point performance against Minnesota in December, he can occasionally step up and be the team's go-to scorer.
Unfortunately, Scola may not see 30 minutes of playing time in many games for the rest of the season. He is playing just 24 minutes a game in February, most likely because head coach Lindsey Hunter is giving more minutes to Beasley and the other young players. As a result, Scola's production has taken a hit.
Generally, Scola hasn't given Phoenix Suns fans much to complain about. However, his drop in field goal percentage is slightly worrisome. This is the fourth straight season that Scola has seen a drop in his field goal percentage, and he is now shooting 46 percent from the field, down from 53 percent a few years ago.
But again, Scola has definitely played to expectations this season. He's no superstar, but his solid and consistent contribution on offense has been pleasant to watch this year.
I'm not sure you can call Marcin Gortat a disappointment, but it's starting to look like Gortat may want to bolt from Phoenix if he gets the opportunity.
Last season, Steve Nash's passing ability almost turned Gortat into an All-Star. This year, it has become apparent that he is far from being an All-Star caliber player, and his production has taken a huge hit.
To be fair, Gortat is not always involved in the offense enough. His usage rate went from 20.8 percent last season to 17.1 percent this year, and he is only taking 9.3 shots a game this season, down from 11.7 last year. Dragic does not always get the ball to Gortat in the post, and Gortat is no longer really a main scoring option on this team.
However, Gortat has to be blamed for his own decline as well. He is averaging 11.3 points and 8.7 rebounds a game this season, down from 15.4 points and 10.0 rebounds last season, and he just looks fed up with the team's losing season. Right now, it looks as if Gortat does not want to sign an extension in Phoenix.
The trade deadline is just a few days away, so perhaps the Suns will make a trade then. Certainly some team could use an above-average starting center.
But for now, Gortat is stuck here, whether he likes it or not. To his credit, at least he hasn't made a scene or done something to affect team chemistry. Losing teams can often have dysfunctional locker rooms and players blaming other players, but at least the Suns haven't had many issues off the court this year.
Goran Dragic is clearly not a superstar. He won't score 20 points in a game very often, nor will he lead a team to the playoffs.
But in what has been a truly pitiful season for Phoenix, Dragic has been the MVP of the team and is the core of the Suns.
Right now, Dragic averages 14.0 points, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals a game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the arc. He won't have many tremendous games, but he is one of the best all-around point guards in the NBA and can step into any role, whether that role is as a facilitator, clutch scorer or just a general team leader.
While it remains to be seen if Dragic can play at a consistent level for a full season, he has been the best player to watch on the Suns this season. He's not an All-Star, but he's an extremely hard worker who give his all every game and contributes on both ends of the floor.
For that, I can confidently say that Dragic is the only player on the Suns who should definitely be on the team for years to come and is not available on the trade market.