While the Suns talk, again, about improving their defensive effort and about increasing their athleticism, the real indicator of a fun season will be their ability to make open three-point shots.

Last season

Last season, the Phoenix Suns were a mess on offense. They attempted only the 23rd most three pointers in the league at 17.7 attempts per game. Much of that may have been because they were terrible at making those attempts, so why even try? Gentry and Hunter both regularly said they would have the players take whatever shot had the highest conversion percentage. The Suns were 28th in the league in 3P % at 33% (ahead of only Orlando and Minnesota). League average last season was 35.9% on 3-pointers.

Making matters worse, the Suns were the WORST TEAM IN THE NBA on defending 3-point shots. Seriously. The worst. After starting the season with a potentially record-setting pace of 41% given up through Christmas, the Suns settled in to allow 38.8% makes on the season. Unbelievable.

So, almost worst on offense and bottom-of-the-barrel on defense.

No where to go but up, right?

This season

Think 28th was bad? It could get worse.

Since the end of last season, the Suns have jettisoned their best 3-point shooter in Jared Dudley. In fact, Dudley is the franchise's third-best 3-point shooter in history, making 41.2% of his attempts throughout his Suns career. Only Steve Nash (43.5%) and Raja Bell (42.2%) were better as Suns (based on volume).

In addition to Dudley, the Suns also lost Sebastian Telfair (38% last season).

New Suns coach Jeff Hornacek made 39% of his 3-point attempts over 468 games as a Sun. Expect him to be frustrated by the number of missed opportunities this season as the ball clanks off the rim.

The Suns best three-point shooters for the 2013-14 season are new to the franchise, though both are below league average.

  • Gerald Green makes 35.1% for his career (but only 31.4% last season)
  • Caron Butler makes 33.9% for his career (but made 35.8% and 38.8% the last two seasons)
  • Eric Bledsoe has never been a 3-pt shooter (39% last season on 78 attempts, 20% and 27.6% first two seasons)
  • Archie Goodwin made 47% of his 3s in SL, but only 27% at Kentucky last season

None of the returning Suns* are better than league average.

  • Marcus Morris makes 35.2% for his career (with a 38.1% rate in Houston vs. 30.8% in Phoenix)
  • Goran Dragic makes 35% for his career (only 31.9% last year)
  • Markieff Morris converts 34.1% for his career (only 33.6% last year)
  • Shannon Brown is a career 33% shooter from deep (just 27% last year)

Aaaaanndd, there you have it. A veritable s#%t sandwich of 3-point shooters.

*Channing Frye is a career 39% 3-pt shooter who MAY return this season if cleared by doctors to play (heart condition). He would be the best shooter, by far, on the team if that happens.

Looking at that lineup leads you to believe the Suns might convert somewhere between 33-35% of their 3-pointers next season, which still leaves them at the bottom half of the league. If Hornacek wants to see the Suns score a lot of points this season, that conversion rate is going to have to rise.

Defensively, the Suns have to come up with SOMETHING to stop the opponent from making so many of their attempts. The were pretty good at running the other off the line last year (opponents only took the 23rd most attempts), but enough passes would open up a guy for an easy shot. Usually from the corner.

Conclusion

No matter what else changes this season for the Suns, we can only hope that the 3-point differential improves. There's almost no where to go but up.

Luckily, the Suns have a new head coach who's game was predicated on making shots. He's been credited with helping shooters improve for years in Utah, and has an excellent plan for improving the Suns shooters this coming season.

In fact, Hornacek has already been hard at work all summer with the kids. Hornacek's philosophy is to have the guys practice game-speed shooting. He says there's no value in "getting up" 500 shots in a gym if you're not practicing those shots coming off a screen, off a curl or attempting a catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble at game speed. He's got them running drills to make sure they are in rhythm.

Initial returns were at least promising. The Suns led the Vegas Summer League in scoring, and they made 40.3% of the 3-pt attempts. Marcus Morris sunk 47.8% of his attempts alone.

Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Archie Goodwin, by all accounts so far in his brief NBA career, seems humble. He’s been polite and at the same time assertive enough to point out he has flaws. The biggest issue is his age...

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Archie Goodwin, by all accounts so far in his brief NBA career, seems humble. He’s been polite and at the same time assertive enough to point out he has flaws. The biggest issue is his age...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Record: 12-11 (2-0)

Place In Standings: Third

Points Per Game: 81.2 (73.5)

Points Against: 82.6 (61.5)

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Andre 3000 calls himself "Three Stacks" by self appointment whereas Diana Taurasi doubled that off of pure talent, the grind of 291 career games, and over consistent greatness over 9,000 minutes of action. A lot of people call themselves the best as self adulation has become a favorite past time for the narcissistic world that is entertainment and athletics. Then again, some others are great because they are great.

An unassuming lay-up in the third quarter of a blowout win over the Tulsa Shock and Diana Taurasi makes history with 6,000 points.

Not just 6,000 points, but the fastest player in WNBA history to reach that goal and now just 1,288 points off of Tina Thompson, a mentor and idol for Taurasi, as the all-time leader in points scored. After the game Taurasi let out a sarcastic "YAY" for her individual accomplishment, but then revisited what really got her there, which were her teammates and her mentors.

"You don't get to 6,000 without great coaches, great teams, and great players around you," said Taurasi after the game. "You don't get there. You have to have great people around you every step of the way."

That was typical of Diana and also appropriate for her after this game in specific as she entered 14 points away from this accomplishment, but still paced herself in an effort for the team goal with 7 assists. She did not score her 14th point until midway through the third quarter as her team cruised to a win with balance on the offensive. Not the typical gunner performance that is seen when a player is on the precipice of a record.

I'm not happy until I get to 10,000. -Taurasi sarcastically on her end goal


Later this season the all-time leader in points comes to town as Taurasi is nipping at her heels, but their time together is a part of what fuels the greatness of Taurasi.

"Tina (Thompson) has been great," continued Taurasi. "I have known her since I was really young and the first thing with her was on the National Team in 2004 and we played a couple of years together in Russia. Tina and I have been through battles together, won Championships in Europe, Olympics, World Championships, and I have the utmost respect for Tina."

Now that Six Stacks is at this point, where does she go from here? Is there Seven Stacks in the near future? More...

"I'm not happy until I get to 10,000."

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Take The Positives With A Grain Of Salt...

Let's get the grains of salt out of the way, because they exist. Like bread crumbs in an old tale that symbolized hope in a tough, nearly impossible situation, but sometimes they are just bread crumbs. The two wins although they showed strides on the end as a team, but they did it against a middle of the pack offensive team that were without their leading scorer and rebounder for six quarters.

Nearly every team wins the "coach killer game" after a coach is fired or "relieved of their duties." It is a natural reaction for the new coach to prove they are different (and belong) and for the players to show they can adapt (and win) with the new regime.

Two strong wins against the Shock are building blocks on something that is not a finished product, but the positive here is that the brick and mortar was just sitting off to the side all this time and now the team is learning how to use it.

Those are the grains of, well, whatever you want to use as the metaphor here.

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...Now Run With It!

Having said that, overall the team defense has improved. One of the more notable differences between the team for the first 21 games has been the teams switching. Through the first half of the season the team was consistently unable to defend all five players throughout a possession leaving one player open after switching and defending for 18-22 seconds.

Now they are moving better, tracking the shooters and cutters better, and finishing possessions with not only contesting shots, but forcing turnovers and shot-clock violations.

They held the Shock to roughly 14 points off of their normal season average with great effort. That is the difference. Their is more effort on the defensive end and as Brittney Griner told me, "we are all capable of all playing good D," and that is true for every professional. Defense is about effort, choice, and scheme. If the player has made the choice to give effort and the scheme calls for capitalizing on that, then a team can be good defensively.

******************************

Upcoming Schedule:

Wednesday vs. Indiana Fever at 7 p.m. AZ Time

Saturday @ San Antonio Silver Stars at 5 p.m. AZ Time

It's the dog days of August, but Phoenix Suns players are still making news in their own way. Let's take a look around the globe for developments.

Eric Bledsoe

One giveaway to a player's high potential is props from peers. While Eric Bledsoe has some detractors and he's never shown great offensive efficiency, that hasn't stopped his fellow players from telling the world he's going to be a star.

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via instagram

Notice Bledsoe's already rocking Arizona by sporting a Diamondbacks jersey at a James party while he does his charity thing - Wheels For Kids.

Caron Butler gushed about Bledsoe at last month's introductory press conference, calling him a "an explosive, dynamic guard who has superstar written all over him."

"I think he's going to put the sports world on notice," Butler said. "He's a relentless worker. The second he arrived yesterday, he was in the gym. That's the attitude and approach he's had all off season and I think he's going to be great this year and years to come."

$100 million point guard Chris Paul has been touting his backup Bledsoe for years, including this comment at practice before the end of last season.

"Bled is one of the best guards in our league," Paul said after practice Sunday. "I've said it all season long. I'm enjoying playing with him right now because there's no way he can be here next year because we probably won't have enough money to pay him. He should be a starting point guard in this league next year."

Whether Bledsoe becomes a star or not, it's nice to hear NBA players think he is one already.

Archie Goodwin

Goodwin won something called the MVP of the Rookie Transition Program last week. Who knows what that is. Maybe it's their version of 'Miss Congeniality'. Regardless, for an 18-year old to be named an MVP of any kind of rookie program in which he's the youngest player is a big enough deal to make a deal out of it.

Here's Archie talking about it on twitter.

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I included in the pic his last two tweets, since they are relevant to recent discussion. Archie will live with Monsoon, he says, but he already has a nickname he likes better.

A1.

Yeah, that fits the latest nickname craze by combining numbers and initials, but it's not bad. He's much more the shizzle on the sizzle than a seasonal afternoon rain shower that doesn't exist during basketball season, that's for sure. No offense, Espo. But Archie this one.

Goran Dragic

Our own Goran is having fun with promo spots as his country gets set to host Eurobasket 2013. Following his twitter account is refreshing to say the least. He's posting a bunch of short vids and pics to keep us all in the loop.

On the basketball court, Goran Dragic got a bit of retribution from his fight a week ago, as Slovenia reached another prep tourney Final on a buzzer beater by Dragic for a 55-54 win over Turkey. Dragic scored 16 points in the win, including the buzzer beater, as Slovenia continued to roll in warmup games.

Our own BSotS reader, pece, recaps the game for us. Check out the link. Pece gives an awesome recount - I really hope he covers the entire Eurobasket tournament!

Dragic got into a fight and was ejected just a week earlier in another warmup game against this same Turkish squad. This time, Dragic restrained himself and led Slovenia to a tighter win while the opposite offender, Balbas, did not register in the box score. Turkey played a tougher game thanks to playing Emir Preldzic and Omer Asik, among others, who had not played a week before. Slovenia has now beaten Turkey four straight times.

Slovenia plays in today's Final for the 2013 Belgrade Trophy. Turkey will play in the third-place game.

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