The Suns had another good week, going 2-1 overall, with an impressive win on the road against the Clippers to help balance out the disappointing loss to the Grizzlies at home. Which players were the biggest keys to the Suns' success?
Weekly Stat Averages:
Points: 24.6 FG%: .548 Assists: 7.0 Steals: 3.0 Rebounds: 1.6
Although his best game of the week (and highest scoring of his career) resulted in a loss, it certainly wasn't Dragic's fault that the Suns' were upset by the lowly Grizzlies at home. With the other Slash Brother, Eric Bledsoe, sidelined with a sprained right knee for the past two games, it was up to the Dragon alone to carry the offense, and he has delivered.
Although he had a relatively quiet night against the Bucks, scoring only 15 points, he was incredible in the prior two games this week...scoring 26 against the Clippers and 33 against the Grizzlies...but that's only one aspect of his game. A look at his impressive stat line tells you all you need to know about his week.
Weekly Stat Averages:
Points: 16.0 FG%: .447 3PT%: .546 Blocks: 1.3 Rebounds: 5.3
Channing Frye had an excellent week for the Suns. Although we've come to expect this kind of play from Channing, his unique ability to provide the spacing the Suns need through his lights' out shooting should not be taken for granted.
Frye is helping the team in various ways, such as with rebounding and interior defense, though his three point shooting is obviously his specialty. He may not get the credit he deserves, but one thing's for sure, he is a very important part of this teams' success.
Weekly Stat Averages:
Points: 18.0 FG%: .538 3PT%: .404 Steals: 3.67 Rebounds: 2.0
Gerald Green is turning into one of the biggest surprises on the roster for the Suns this season. While Plumlee's success may be the most surprising based on playing only 55 minutes last season, Gerald Green is quickly becoming one of the biggest success stories of the Suns' season thus far.
Green played two outstanding games this week, scoring 21 against the Clippers off the bench and then 24 points against the Bucks as a starter. He also had a very forgettable game against the Grizzlies, in which he scored only 9 points and went only 1 of 7 from beyond the arc, but even with that, his combined stats this week remain very impressive.
Although Goran Dragic technically had a better overall week stat wise, I decided to go with Gerald Green who seemed to find his way as an impact player on the court when the Suns needed him the most this week. Gerald Green played his best game of the season in my opinion against the Milwaukee Bucks, in a game that easily could have turned into a disaster for the Suns if not for his momentum changing plays and his hustle on defense to jump the passing lanes...creating turnovers and dunks. Not to mention, he shot 4-7 from beyond the arc, providing some huge shots to help secure the lead.
Green has already proven to be one of the best three point shooters on this team, but his ability to read the opposing offense and take advantage of bad passes in Bledsoe's absence was one of the biggest keys to the Suns beating the Bucks. Green averaged almost four steals per game this week, which shows he is trying to do more for the Suns than just shoot. He may never be a great defender, but he is finding ways to positively affect the game on the defensive end, and I think that's a huge step in the right direction.
The Suns will need someone else besides Dragic to step up over at least the next week in Bledsoe's absence, and if Green can continue to play this way consistently, he may prove to be that guy.
More often than not, there's one player in every team's rotation that indicates wins vs losses because of their inconsistency. In the Phoenix Suns case, that player has so far been backup power forward Markieff Morris.
The Phoenix Suns are surprising the NBA with rolling a playoff caliber team out on the court every night. No longer is the rhetoric about tanking, but rather about playoff positioning and adding to the win totals.
What still confounds the NBA pundits is just HOW the Suns are doing this. They traded most of their best veterans players away, drafted the longest-term prospects possible and fielded a team of end-of-bench warmers on opening night.
With the success of newcomers Miles Plumlee (55 NBA minutes before this season), Eric Bledsoe (20 minutes a night his first 3 NBA seasons), Channing Frye (technically new, after missing a year with a heart ailment) and Gerald Green (out of league for years until 2011), the Suns are setting a new standard for turning one person's trash into their own treasure.
But it's the improvement of a pair of returning twins that has really turned the Suns fortunes for the better. In the third NBA season, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris are producing career years as role players off the bench with career-high numbers off the bench.
Markieff Morris, in just 25.2 minutes per game as the first big off the bench, is posting career highs in points (12.2), rebounds (6.1), steals (1.0), assists (1.7), field goal shooting (.486), free throw shooting (.771) and free throws per game (3.5).
Marcus Morris, in just 22.8 minutes per game, is posting career highs in points (10.3), rebounds (4.5), steals (1.0), assists (0.9), field goal shooting (.434), three-point shooting (.397), free throw shooting (.746) and free throws per game (2.0).
And while their consistency from game to game is still an issue, they have each improved in that area a great deal. The Suns this season are already 20-12 after finishing last season at a dismal 25-57.
Suns fans know this with the eye-ball test. You can tell early on whether the Morris brothers are engaged in the game or not. When they are engaged, their moves are faster, their defense tighter, their shot selection better. When they are checked out, the shots become constested fallaways and effort from play to play is an adventure.
But the twins are not entirely identical when comparing their performance in wins and losses. Marcus may not be entirely consistent, but his inconsistency has not led to wins vs. losses. Just last week, Marcus went 0-fer against the Clippers and Grizzlies, but the Suns went 1-1.
But when Keef is on his game, the Suns win. When he's not, they are more likely to lose.
Look at the difference in productivity for the entire 8-man rotation in win vs. losses. Each column shows the plus/minus difference in wins vs. losses for each player, with the first column being the average of all 8 major rotation players.
*Miles Plumlee's 'Assists per 36' is actually 'BLOCKS per 36'. Everyone else is 'Assists per 36'.
Each column shows the difference in a win vs. a loss, on a per-game or per-36 minute basis. Each of these players gets 20-35 minutes per game, so a per-36 comparison is a way to level the field.
Of course, every player plays a little better in a win. It's quite unlikely that a major rotation player is better in a loss, especially on a per-minute or per-possession basis.
The two players who stand out the most in wins vs. losses are 24-year olds Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris. When they shoot well, the Suns win. When they don't, the Suns are more likely to lose.
On a team whose scoring margin for the season is 3.2 points per game, when a player swings 5+ points/per 36 minutes between wins and losses, you can surmise that he is the key to winning.
In raw numbers, Markieff Morris plays 4.5 more minutes per game in wins vs. losses, with a raw scoring differential of nearly 6 whole points, which is a clear indication that the coaching staff can see the difference in Markieff from game to game as well.
With Bledsoe being out for at least the next week, the remaining rotation player who can be seen as the barometer between wins and losses is Markieff Morris.
The good thing, for a team embarking on a 5-game road trip without Bledsoe, is that Morris has been better on the road than he's been at home this season. In roughly the same minutes, Keef does everything slightly better on the road - scoring, shooting, rebounding and passing.
Like it or not, Keef Morris leads the Suns to wins and losses.
Let's hope that he has a very good road trip for a team that needs the wins.
Here is a recap of the fan sitting behind me who was more entertaining (or annoying) than the game itself... Kidding, this is about the game.
It took more effort than probably anticipated, but the Phoenix Suns improve to 20-12 with a victory against the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks at home. The final score was a 16-point win (116-100), but the game was much closer late in the game than it should have been.
Now the Suns hit the road for five games in seven nights, all against teams at or below .500 this season.
Performance of the night goes to Gerald Green with 24 points and five steals in the win. He jumped passing lanes for highlight dunks and knocked down a few clutch threes as well. Good overall performance. He was complimented by Channing Frye's 22 points and 14 points off the bench for Markieff Morris.
Early on in this game the Suns got exactly what they needed with Eric Bledsoe out with a sprained right knee. The offense was spread out between the entire team and they got points from six different players while Goran Dragic scored zero. This is coming off his career-high 33 the other night. Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker did the heavy lifting with 8 points a piece helping the Suns hump out to an early lead, but the Bucks kept in the game with scrappy persistence and Caron Butler's 8 points off the bench.
Suns lead, 28-26
This is where the Suns blew the game open for themselves with 12 points from Gerald Green and a 32 point quarter overall from the team. Green got hot nailing a pair of threes and with one major windmill dunk in transition. The team only shot 47.8% from the field, but forced 8 turnovers and got out in transition scoring 16 points off of those turnovers.
Suns lead, 60-49
The Bucks rallied in the third with 11 points from Brandon Knight and 8 strong points from O.J. Mayo who decided this was a good opportunity for a pissing contest with a 19 year old rookie. Midway through the quarter after Mayo fouled rookie Archie Goodwin he decided to get into a verbal exchange with him and then spent the rest of the quarter showing the rookie "that he is a rookie." It was silly and embarrassing for the 26 year old veteran.
If anything it worked because the Suns lead was cut to as little as seven points in the third quarter and the team was disjointed.
Suns lead, 87-78
For as bad as the third quarter was the Suns found their footing shooting down the Bucks comeback attempt short and mounting them on the wall here at U.S. Airways Center. After middling with them some the offense and defense came together to (well at least the offense) to fuel the victory. Green and Ish Smith had some fun highlights with breakaway dunks off of terrible passes. The Bucks did a terrible job telegraphing passes late leading to Suns transition dunks and putting the game away.
Suns win, 116-100