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New look Suns to rise again?

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New look Suns to rise again?

With the face of the franchise in point guard Steve Nash gone, the Phoenix Suns take on a whole new look in the 2012-13 campaign. Not only is Nash gone but the team said goodbye to forward Grant Hill, center Robin Lopez, forward Hakim Warrick and forward Josh Childress. One of the most active teams this off-season, the Suns welcome guard Goran Dragic, forward Michael Beasley, swingman Wesley Johnson and center Luis Scola to the roster.

After missing the playoffs last season with a 33-33 record, the retooled Suns -- on paper -- have a good shot to get back to the post-season this year.

The big move of the summer for Phoenix was shipping the 38-year old Nash to the Lakers for two future first-round picks. The Suns wasted little time in signing Nash's replacement with his old backup in free-agent Goran Dragic. The Suns were familiar with Dragic and they invested a lot of money in him, inking the Yugoslavian to a four-year, 30-million deal.

The Suns actually had Dragic on the team two seasons ago before they traded him away to the Rockets, and last year the 26-yearold had his best season as a pro, averaging 11 points and 5assistsforHouston. Dragic is obviously penciled in as the opening game starter at point guard. Dragichas big shoes to fill in Phoenix but he is talented enough to be a more than an adequate replacement for theperennial all-star Nash.

Phoenix also used its first-round draft pick to take point guard Kendall Marshall out of North Carolina. Marshall likely will serve as Dragic's backup, and what Marshall lacks inathleticismhe makes up for in his smart decision-making and ability to run an offense. In hissophomoreseason at UNC, Marshall averaged 10 assists to go along with 8 points.

The Suns brought back shooting guard Shannon Brown, signing him to a two-year contract. Brown started 19 games lastseasonfor Phoenix, averaging 11 points. The 6'-4" Brown is a strong, athletic scorer who can also play solid defense. Brown will battle Wesley Johnson for the starting two-guard position.

Johnson was Minnesota's 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft but so far has not lived up to the selection. Last year, Johnson averaged only 6 points for the Timberwolves who traded him to the Suns this off-season.

Johnson's teammate in Minnesota, Michael Beasley, joins Phoenix viathefree-agent route, signing a three-year, 18-million deal. Beasley has had his off-court issues but when he is focused he is a legitimate scorer. Beasley's average last season dipped to 11 points from 19 points the year before with the Timberwolves. If the 6'-10" power forward can find his game, this could be a great steal for the Suns.

The Suns have the always solid Martin Gortat back at center and he will get up front with the addition of power forward Luis Scola. Before being amnestied by Houston, Scola averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds for the Rockets. Phoenix also signed veteran Jermaine O'Neal to a one-year deal to back up Gortat.

This is a completely different looking Phoenix team but it will still play its up-tempo brand of basketball even without Nash. Alvin Gentry loves to push the ball and that will be no different with Dragic now running the show. Win or lose, the Suns should atleastbe entertaining to watch this season.

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!