Phoenix Suns Rising: Perimeter Defense Needs An Upgrade

What? We need to play better defense? (AP Photo/Matt York)

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What? We need to play better defense? (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Today, we bring you part 2 of a new series analyzing the stats from Phoenix Suns 2009-2010 season.

The last post highlighted the difference between being a good rebounding team vs. a good defensive team.

You can still be a good defensive team without getting all the rebounds. Milwaukee (3rd overall in defensive efficiency) and Boston (5th) grabbed fewer available total rebounds than the Suns (in terms of rebound-rate), yet finished higher in overall defensive efficiency.

In that last post, we talked about initial defense (preventing made baskets, via missed shot, free throws or turnovers) and second-chance defense (grabbing the defensive rebound on missed shots).

Last year, the Suns survived a horrible second-chance defense with a pedestrian initial-defense (15th overall) and great offense.

This upcoming season, the second-chance defense looks to be even worse. The Suns will need to offset that with better initial defense.

First area to improve: improving the perimeter defense at SG and SF, specifically the isolation play on the wing.

Let's look at the details, and discuss how they can be better next season.

First, the numbers.

I included the defensive statistics (via Synergy Sports) of the Suns' 3 main wing defenders who will return this upcoming season, and compare them to one of the best in game.

Richardson Dudley Hill
% Total PPP Rank % Total PPP Rank % Total PPP Rank
Overall 100% 898 0.95 318 100% 753 0.92 259 100% 787 0.92 259
Isolation 22%   1.04 309 28%   0.84 152 25%   0.83 138
P&R Ballhandler 19%   0.95 198 13%   1.06 220 17%   0.87 149
Spot-Up 37%   0.98 191 32%   0.95 115 33%   1.05 269
Off Screen 8%   0.69 18 10%   0.97 134 8%   0.97 134

As you can see, all 3 guys on the Suns are pedestrian at defense compared to Ron Artest

Artest
% Total PPP Rank
Overall 100% 1000 0.8 25
Isolation 19%   0.66 19
P&R Ballhandler 20%   0.76 53
Spot-Up 29%   0.86 134
Off Screen 18%   0.88 73
 

Duh, right? We knew that. But bear with me.

First, this helps us put "Grant is our stopper" into context. Relative to who else we had defending shooting guards and small forwards, Grant and Dudley really are the best we've got but they're not very good overall.

The difference in points per play (PPP) between Artest and the average Suns player is nearly .15. Looks small, but project this over the course of the game. If you add all of their defensive chances together and divide by 82, you get about 29 chances per game for the three of them. Multiply that by .15, and it comes out to almost 4 points per game.

The Suns wings are giving up about 4 more points per game than the best wing defenders in the NBA. Still, that doesn't sound like a lot, does it?

But 4 points IS a lot.

Last season, the Suns scored 110.2 while giving up 105.3. Wouldn't you rather have a margin of 6-8 points per game than 5?

Let's look at the numbers again. One of the numbers that really stands out is Jason Richardson's effectiveness at defending the isolation play and spot-up shooters vs. Grant and Duds. J-Rich is one of the worst in the league at this.

The addition of Childress (click on the fanshot detailing Chill's skills) should give the Suns another good wing defender, giving them a chance to hide JRich a little more than last season. J-Rich was our worst perimeter defender, yet spent the most doing it of all the guys. Childress is quick, 6'8", with a 6'11" wing span who can defend wings of all sizes. 

Of course, it's difficult to hide J-Rich when we're already hiding Nash, which is likely why J-Rich got a lot of defensive assignments during his time on the court last season.

One solution to this is playing Childress/Dudley more often with Nash, and J-Rich more often with Dragic. This gives a little more offense to the second unit, and a little more defense to the first unit. Despite the starting lineup, don't be surprised to see these pairings more than last season.

But even if JRich and Nash still play a lot together, the Suns' second unit with Childress will be better than last season defensively. And when the Suns are getting rocked by a wing player, there's another go-to defender in Childress for the rotation.


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