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We need a big effort from you, Jason! (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
Oh man, what do the Phoenix Suns do now?
They can't rebound. They can't defend.
"We better rethink who we are, and we better start playing hard, and we better start competing," Gentry said according to the Arizona Republic.
Gentry got a little PO'd at the team on Saturday night, and for good reason. It was their third straight pitiful defensive performance after the scrappy win against the Nuggets a week ago. The Suns surrendered 55% shooting in the last 3 games, dropping them to the 29th ranked defense in the entire league.
"I didn't think we played with any kind of desperation," Gentry said. "We can't use the fact that Steve's out as an excuse. We've still got 12 guys on our team that have to play hard, and we didn't do that.
"It's a ton of things going on. When they just pass twice and lay it in the basket and we're supposed to be switching and we leave guys for wide-open 3s when they just made one, there's no excuse for that."
Let's go more in-depth on these problems.
The Obvious Problem: Rebounding (or lack thereof)
Before the season, I said that the Suns players just had to repeat their 09-10 Rebound Rates to get 41-42 rebounds per game. They are now only getting about 39, resulting in the worst total rebound differential in the league.
Three More Rebounds per game. Sounds overly simple, but it's true. That's all it takes to get even on the boards on a nightly basis. Three more for the Suns = three less for the opponent = even at 42 per game.
Another view of defensive rebounding, in terms of rebound rate. This takes into account things like pace and opportunity. Still horrendous.
(data compiled from 82games.com)
Yet, to get that percentage back to 69% is only 3 rebounds. Sure, grabbing 69% of their opponents' missed shots is still terrible as a defensive rebounding rate (last year that meant 29th in the league), but its proven passable for long playoff runs.
Who's underperforming? You might be surprised. When I started this, I expected to see Hedo, Frye and Lopez to be the ones underperforming. But really it's Dudley, Dragic, Warrick and Richardson who are the biggest offenders (compared to ther own prior seasons).
Those fancy numbers are confusing, but it basically adds up to 3 fewer rebounds per game than they should be pulling down, given rates from the prior season.
So, rebounding is NOT the end of the world for this team.
The Bigger, Scarier Problem: Perimeter Defense
Rebounding is not this team's biggest failing. We KNEW they couldn't rebound, coming into the season. In fact, there's another horrible reality smacking this team in the face. An unexpected one, too.
Suns' opponents are shooting 48.9% from the field. 48.9%!!!!!
Your likely first reaction to this - assuming you and I think alike - is that the shooting percentage is a natural byproduct of our front line giving up lots of interior scoring. And inside scoring nets a higher percentage of makes, resulting in higher field goal percentage by the opposition.
(data compiled from 82games.com)
The Field Goal % in this table represents the % of made field goals on jump shots. Generally, this is the lowest-percentage shot on the floor (as opposed to layups, dunks and tips). In the Suns' best seasons, their opponents did not make (or take) nearly as many jump shots.
Note: Coro's blog today mentions a stat that implies more than 50% of the opponents' points are from inside the paint. This seems to contradict my data above, from 82games.com. Likely, there's an overlap between 'in the paint' (Coro) and 'jumpshots' (82games.com. Probably the short jumper counts as both 'in the paint' and 'jumpshot').
Surprised, considering the Suns' lack of a front line? Me too.
Making this stat even scarier is the fact that the Suns are actually doing "well" defending the 3-pt line. Their opponents' shooting percentage on 3-pointers is only 35.1% (league average is 35.9%).
This means that the Suns' are getting KILLED on jumpshots inside the 3-point line. Again, I remind you that's the worst shot on the floor. It's only worth 2 points and the further you are from the basket, the harder it is to make the shot. You could commend the Suns for enticing their opponents into taking so many of these shots, but you have to also vilify them for making the shot so damn easy.
The Suns are not going to solve their rebound woes with this current rotation of players.
Yet they CAN solve this perimeter defense problem. They have the horses. They just need to give the effort and stop making stupid mistakes, resulting in wide open jumpers.
Today's opponent - the Houston Rockets
If any team is failing to live up to the hype even moreso than the Suns, it's got to be the Rockets. They've started the season 3-9. They are giving up 39.5% on 3-pointers (yay, for the Suns!). Yao and Brooks are hurting.
Yet they still boast Luis Scola and Kevin Martin, two guys who could crush the Suns with stats. And they're playing at home and are probably even more desperate for a win than the Suns. Their schedule has been tough (4th toughest, in terms of opponent winning percentage), and they've played 8 of their first 12 on the road.
The Suns will be without Nash for a third straight game. Dragic is filling in admirably, but he can't play 48 minutes effectively. When Dragic sits, the Suns rely on Dudley, Hill and Turkoglu to run the offense. That was abysmal on Saturday night. At one point early in the fourth quarter, the Suns had scored only 3 field goals in 17 possessions with Dragic on the bench. Ouch. That's NOT going to get it done.
The Suns need Jared Dudley to remember what made him a difference-maker last season. They need Jason Richardson to get out of his funk, and lead this team on the offensive end.
The Suns need Hill, Childress and Dudley to shut down the perimeter and make jump shots harder to hit.
Expect the scrappier team to win this one.
No excuses. Disappointed. Play hard. Compete and give effort. Those are things that the Phoenix Suns absolutely can't afford not to do and there's no faster way to lose a fan base than to play like that.
and Suns fans remember, it can always get worse:
Game 13 Preview: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets - The Dream Shake
I really don't have much to say. It took two days to get a (pre-written) game recap for crying out loud. Speaking of crying out loud, that's what I will be doing over the Thanksgiving Break if we can't win a darn game.
It's hard to keep writing about a team that doesn't win. Plus, the Texans suck. Did anybody here do anything to upset the sports gods? Because this is just straight unfair.
The Phoenix Suns roster went through a major overhaul during this past offseason. Many have questioned Robert Sarver's decision to overload on wings this summer rather than replacing the departed Amar'e Stoudemire with a more prototypical power forward. Phoenix's contingent of "14 small forwards" has become something of a running joke with NBA fans.
But Suns fans knew better. There was a plan, a method to the madness of the front office's decisions. They realized that incumbent starter Grant Hill was thirty-eight years old and figured he wouldn't be around too much longer. In fact, many believed that this would be Hill's final year before he rode off into the sunset. Knowing this, the Suns signed Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress, and extended Jared Dudleyto go along with Jason Richardson and Hill.
The belief was that Richardson and Childress would hold down the shooting guard position, Hill and Dudley would continue to play small forward, and Hedo Turkoglu would step in to replace Amar'e Stoudemire at power forward. The following year, when Hill retires, Turkoglu would slide back over to his natural small forward position and the Suns would find a new power forward, either from within or via free agency.
That is the plan as Suns fans saw it, myself included. We can deal with watching Hedo Turkoglu get repeatedly man-handled on the inside. He's only there for one year, right?
But watching the Suns thus far on this very young season, I had begun to wonder if that is how things would truly shake out. Grant Hill does not look like he's thirty-eight years old. He does not look like this is his last year. In fact, he has been one of the Suns' best players so far.
Then I came across this article on NBA Fanhouse, and in an interview Hill says he's "not even close" to retiring. He feels great and is still playing at a very high level. "The way I feel now, I want to go another couple of seasons," he says. "I'd like to be playing when I'm 40."
If you're anything like me, the fanboy (or girl) in you exclaims a jubilant "YES!" after reading an article like this. Grant Hill is a great player and a stand-up guy. He's the kind of veteran presence every team needs. What he brings to the table for this team is vital to its success.
But then after you calm down, you start to think. But what about the plan? If Grant sticks around, we'll still have too many small forwards. Sadly, this is true. So what do we do?
The first option is to trade him now. Send him to a contender so he can play for a championship. The Suns aren't championship contenders now, right? Shipping him out gives him a chance to get that elusive ring and also clears up the Suns' logjam on the wings. But can we really trade Grant Hill? Does he even want to be traded?
The second option is to just let him walk. His contract ends after this season. Letting him go rather than re-signing him gives him a chance to play where he wants to for as long as he wants to, and it again clears up the logjam. How would the fanbase and other players respond to letting Grant move on? What happens if he doesn't want to move on?
The 3rd option is to trade one of the other wings. Hedo Turkoglu is virtually untradeable. That leaves Jared Dudley and Josh Childress. Although Dudley hasn't played well so far, he is still JYD. And the organization just gave him a nice extension. How would the fanbase react to one of their favorite players, who is still young, being traded away? Josh Childress is a newcomer, but he's also young and brings major upside. Would it really be wise to part with one of these guys in order to keep two small forwards who are both over the age of thirty?
The fourth option is to maintain the status quo. Keep everyone and continue to roll with the unconventional lineup. We can hope the team adjusts with more time together and that some of the players step up their games.
So Bright Siders, let your voice be heard.