An Exchange with the Enemy: Jacob Padilla, Bright Side of the Sun

Seeing how we haven’t had a guest lately, and Wolves-Suns is always exciting – for me – because of personal reasons — Timberpups welcomes Jacob Padilla of Bright Side of the Sun. Padilla is an editor at BSoS, and because both sites are reciprocation stations, you can find me in an email exchange over there answering a few questions. I can’t entirely suggest you will like what you see, though.

I’m calling this the first edition of, “Exchange with the Enemy.” It may also be the last time we call a preview that, it’s up for debate. I asked Padilla six questions hoping to get a little closer to the Phoenix Suns, they’re in town tonight to play the Timberwolves — let’s begin.

I hate the term tanking, but like everyone else, the ‘method’ is an unavoidable topic and the term was tied to the Suns entering the season. Is it safe to say Jeff Hornacek feels as strongly as I do about this subject? How much of the success is thanks to Hornacek? He’s a clear front-runner for Coach of the Year, but what’s something he does for the Suns personnel, in terms of X’s and O’s, that makes this team a threat to make the playoffs? How does he have this team winning when nobody expected them to?

 Magic. I’ve taken to using the #HornacekWIzardry hashtag on Twitter to describe how the Suns are winning. Jeff hornacek really has done a phenomenal job getting guys to play to their strengths. I’m not really exaggerating when I say that nearly every single player on the roster is having a career year, and Hornacek deserves a lot of the credit for that. He has designed a system that puts everyone on the team in position to succeed. He encourages them to run on every play as transition is really where they do the most damage, and he has conditioned guys to take good shots.

The Suns are shooting mostly 3-pointers and shots around the basket, which is what you want your team to do in today’s NBA. Channing Frye, Marcus Morris and Gerald Green are bombing away from deep, P.J. Tucker is killing teams from the corners and making the hustle plays along with Miles Plumlee, and Goran Dragic is doing his Dragon thing on and off the ball.  I haven’t even mentioned Markieff Morris, who is legitimately in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. Hornacek isn’t doing anything super complicated from what I can tell. He’s just encouraging his guys to do what they do best.

As for the tanking, it’s not all Jeff Hornacek. It looks like the Suns went into firesale mode and got rid of all their veterans, but I don’t think the return on those moves has been all luck. Ryan McDonough saw something in Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee and he has been proven right with their play this season. We don’t call him McMiracle (among several other nicknames) for no reason. The team’s may be a complete surprise to almost everyone, but I don’t think it caught McDonough off guard at all.

2.) I don’t have the source handy, but if I’m not mistaken, the Suns haven’t ruled out exchanging some of their coveted assets (draft picks) to obtain a player via trade. If they make a move it’s got to be for a big-time player that can help sustain this early season success. In your opinion what is the best move the Suns can make in order to compete in the West this season?

Ryan McDonough has said the Suns are open to make moves to get better right now if the right one presents itself. They have as many as four first round draft picks at their disposal and the likelihood of them using all four of them is low. Whether that means they package them together to move up in the draft (now that their own pick isn’t going to be in the top 5 any more) or use them to land an established player is the question. They also have a few guys playing the best ball of their careers (the Morris twins, Gerald Green) in case McDonough wants to sell high.

Stealing Kevin Love from you guys would be nice, but I doubt that happens and I doubt the Timberwolves would accept anything short of the farm to get it done, and are the Suns really any better off if they get Love but can’t keep the team that has done so well intact around him?

The Suns have a really solid core and all they are missing is a star.  It was originally thought the team would be horrible this year and get that guy from the draft, but with plans changing Ryan McDonough is going to have to get a lot more creative. Who that star is I have no idea and how the Suns are going to acquire him I have no idea.

He may not be a star, but a much more realistic option is Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike the Suns, the ‘6ers are blatantly and unabashedly tanking, and Thad is probably No. 1 on the list of who to get rid of. He is a very solid player on a hefty but not horrible contract who plays with plenty of energy and puts up numbers. He’d be a tremendous fit in this up-tempo and spacing-oriented system. I’ve been discussing a potential deal for him including the Morris twins and perhaps one of the draft picks, and the Suns have Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract to dangle in any potential deal as well.

At the end of the day, whatever happens I am confident that Ryan McDonough is going to get the job done. Every deal he has made so far has more or less come out of nowhere, so keep your eyes open because you never know when McMiracle is going to strike.

 

3.) How are the Suns going to defend Kevin Love?

 Umm… Yeah… I have no idea. Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye are the starting bigs, and they are more or less interchangeable as Hornacek often has Frye defend post-up 5s despite starting at the four. Frye’s weakness defensively is slow feet, so I don’t know how well he’ll be able to chase Love on the perimeter. Plumlee will guard him some I’m sure, but although Plumlee is a great energy rebounder his fundamentals aren’t great and he often fails to box out. That could spell disaster against Love. I think we’ll see both guys guarding Love at different points during the night, and Markieff Morris will get his chance as well. However, I don’t expect any of them to have a great deal of success.

Heck, maybe the Suns should give P.J. Tucker a chance. During one of the Suns’ games against the Sacramento Kings Jeff Hornacek went with Tucker at the five down the stretch, and he did well enough to allow the Suns to almost come back and win. More on him later.

 

4.) Eric Bledsoe is injured tonight, when do you expect him back? What’s the deal with his future? Won’t he be able to leave at the end of the season and sign a max contract somewhere? Will the Suns pay what is necessary to keep him? What does this mean for Goran Dragic, who can never seem to settle and playing in his second stint with Phoenix? Yes, this is more than just one question — charge the answers to the TimberpupsFinance department.

 Keep firing away. I charge by the question mark.

Eric Bledsoe sprained his knee last week against the Clippers, and it swelled up and prevented him from suiting up against the Grizzlies last Thursday. On Saturday, the Suns announced that he would sit out and be re-evaluated in a week. We’ll find out how the knee is in a few days. This isn’t Bledsoe’s first injury either, as he missed six games earlier in the season with a shin injury. In fact Bledsoe has missed eight games already and Goran Dragic has missed three, which makes the team’s record all the more impressive as it hasn’t had its two best players healthy and playing together for the entire year.

Bledsoe’s rookie deal is coming to an end after this season. and he and the Suns weren’t able to come to an agreement on an extension as both sides decided to let the season play out before committing to each other. However, he will be a restricted free agent and Ryan McDonough has already made it known that the Suns intend to match any offers. Bledsoe is going to be part of the Suns’ core moving forward. If the Suns have to sign him to a max deal, so be it. After all, it is only the second contract max, he’s still young and improving and the impact he has had on the Suns – and Goran Dragic – has been obvious.

However, I don’t think that means that Dragic is on his way out. Goran has been the Suns’ best player this season and the addition of Bledsoe has allowed him to step his game up in a big way. He plays better with a second ball-handler out there to take some pressure off of him, and although there have been some growing pains and the numbers haven’t necessarily been outstanding, the Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt (affectionately known as DragonBlade or the Slash Brothers on Bright Side of the Sun ) has been the driving force behind the team’s success. Dragic is just entering the prime of his career and is on an affordable contract. There is a scenario where the Suns move Dragic in a blockbuster deal, but there is no way they trade him just to trade him as Chad Ford seems to believe.

 

5.) Channing Frye is one of my favorites. How is his play now compared to before his was injured and have there been any setbacks since he returned? If he’s not shooting threes how is he contributing offensively? If at all.

 Channing Frye is one of my favorites as well. In fact, I’m somewhat of a Frye apologist or defender on the Bright Side as there are plenty of people that still don’t understand the value he brings to a team.

Frye missed all of last season with an enlarged heart, and that played a huge part in how awful they were. However, he is back and better than ever this season. He had to work through some rust early in the year (understandable) but he has been terrific since then and is playing as well as he ever has. It truly is a tremendous story. Frye is averaging 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in 27 minutes per game while shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range. That 3-point percentage is even more impressive when you factor in that he was just six of his first 27 while trying to work off that rust. Frye’s ability to stretch the floor opens up driving lanes for Dragic and Bledsoe, and when teams leave him open out there he makes them pay.

He’s more than just a shooter, however, which is how he has developed over the last few years. Frye has put in a lot of work and has turned himself into a respectable post defender, and is also able to take advantage of switches and mismatches in the post. Combine his on-court impact with his leadership and how much he helps the chemistry, and it is not an exaggeration to say frye is one of the most important players on the entire team.

 

6.) Making up for all the questions earlier, I’ll outright demand something of you — praise P.J. Tucker below.

 P.J. Tucker is one of my absolute favorites. He’s another great story on this Suns team. Tucker was a 2nd round pick that had an attitude problem and didn’t even last a full season in the NBA as a rookie. He spent the next several years playing overseas and maturing as a player and person and got his second chance when the Suns invited him to Las Vegas to play for their Summer League team.

Tucker impressed the Suns with his hustle and hard-nosed defense and earned himself a roster spot. But that wasn’t enough for Tucker, no sirree. He took that roster spot and turned it into a spot in the rotation, and then a spot in the starting line-up. He was one of the few bright spots in that nightmare of a season.

However, he still wasn’t content with that, He had the hustle, defense and rebounding thing down last year but his jump-shot looked more like a trebuchet than anything, and his accuracy was on par with medieval catapults. This year, undoubtedly with the help of shot doctor Jeff Hornacek, Tucker has turned himself into a deadly corner 3-point shooter (35-69 from the corners) which has allowed him to be even more effective.

If you’re interested in reading more about Tucker’s awesomeness, I wrote about it not too long ago for Bright Side of the Sun.  

7.) Who do you see winning tonight’s game, and why? Explain why ESPN did the right thing making this a nationally televised event. Can both the Suns and Wolves qualify for the postseason? Or is it one or the other because of the competition out West.

This was definitely a great decision by ESPN to pick up this game (Hopefully TNT follows suit). These are two high-powered offensive teams that like to get out and run and score a lot of points. Love is a monster and the fans deserve to see him do his thing. As for the Suns, during a SportsCenter promo for the game a couple days ago, one anchor said “the Suns, who are probably better than you think they are.” People still don’t realize the Suns are winning, and that they are fun to watch while they do it.

The Suns are coming off a tough loss to an undermanned Chicago Bulls last night. Fatigue may be a factor, but I think the Suns will be fired up to make up for dropping a game they shouldn’t have. I have a bad feeling Love and Martin are going to go off, but I’ll go ahead and say Dragic does as well and the Suns manage to pull out a close one. The Morris twins were both off last night, which means at least one of them is set to have a big game (that’s kind of how it has worked this year). Shots will fall for Phoenix unlike they did in Chicago, and that’s why the Suns will win.

 

Well, now you see what Padilla and throughout the hours of the night when we’re the only people awake. That could be something that has to do with the time change, however, because I think Minnesota is two-hours ahead right now. I don’t know, clearly we’re just both mad enough to talk about our teams this much. This has been an informative, and informal, email exchange with Padilla to give you guys some more insight on the Suns, the Wolves opponent tonight. If you would like to read what he asked about our Timberwolves, click this link at your own risk.

 

Until the tonight’s recap.

 

 

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