Memorial Day weekend concludes tonight with the opening of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami as the Celtics face the Heat. Chris Bosh is still out indefinitely, while the Celtics have lost rising young guard Avery Bradley for the rest of the postseason due to a shoulder injury.
The Spurs beat the Thunder in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, 101-98, behind Manu Ginobili's 26 points. It wasn't even a very impressive performance by the Spurs, they trailed much of the way, but then took care of business in the fourth like a well-oiled machine. San Antonio hasn't lost a game since April 11th, and keep in mind that includes a couple at the end of the regular season where they sat players since they had nothing to play for.
Summer has begun, classes are over and I have nothing but time on my hands (until I get a summer job anyway). So, armed with MySynergySports.com, I've decided to assign myself the task of going through the Suns' roster and breaking down the usage and success rate of each position group.
I've already broken down the numbers for the power forwards on offense. Now it is time to see how Channing Frye and Markieff Morris fared on the other end of the court: defense.
Once again, Hakim Warrick is not worth writing about considering he didn't register enough plays to even qualify for a ranking on most play types. But his overall PPP was 0.98 and his ranking was 423, mostly do to being abused in the post and not defending spot-up shooters very well at all.
Make the jump to see the breakdowns of the guys who mattered.
First, allow me to explain in more detail the numbers I looked at. Here's a key for the terms Synergy uses:
Synergy Stat Definitions
• PPP – Points Per Play. A "Play" is always ended with a shot attempt, turnover or getting to the free throw line. PPP is the player’s total points, excluding technical free throws, divided by their total plays.
• Rank – This is where a player or team’s PPP ranks amongst their league peers. A player must have at least 25 plays for a given category in order to qualify for a league ranking.
• %SF - Percent Shooting Foul. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team drew a shooting foul.
• %TO – Percent Turnover. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team turns the ball over.
• %Score – Percent Score. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team scores at least 1 point, including any resulting free throws.
So these numbers track the raw results. They don't factor in everything, which is where the interpretation begins and where watching the games live helps.
The offensive categories are Isolation, Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler, Post-Up, Pick-and-Roll Roll Man, Spot-Up, Off Screen, Hand-Off, Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition, All Other Plays and Overall. On defense, the categories are the same minus the Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition and All Other Plays categories as there aren't really any individual defenders assigned on these plays.
With that out of the way, let's dive into the numbers.
Channing Frye’s most commonly defended play is the one he struggles with the most, unfortunately: spot-up shooting. He defended spot-up shooters on 36.8% of his plays, and gave up an ugly 1.04 PPP (ranked 285). The PPP is given a bump by the 28-72 3-point shooting against him, but he struggled even more inside the arc, where opponents shot nearly 50%. Overall, opposing spot-up shooters scored 44.8% of the time against Frye’s defense. Offensively Frye is an asset as a spot-up shooter, but he’s also a liability defending the same play at the other end.
Frye also defended post players quite often (29.7%) and fared much better. He gave up 0.78 PPP, was ranked 99th and held opponents to 37% shooting. He fouled as often as he forced a turnover, but didn’t do either at a high rate. Post players scored against Frye 39.5% of the time. This is an area Frye has certainly improved in over the years, and he’s become a formidable post defender.
He’s done very well in 79 isolation situations this year with a PPP of 0.63, good for a rank of 44. He held opponents to 28.2% shooting and a %Score of 31.6%. He did even better on his 61 plays defending the roll man in the pick-and-roll with a 0.79 PPP and a rank of 26. He was scored against only 39.3% of the time in the pick-and-roll.
His overall PPP was 0.87 and his ranking was 197, although he was only scored against at a 39.6% clip. The numbers are skewed by his poor numbers against spot-up shooters, especially the 3-pointers he gave up.
Morris also defended spot-up shooters more than anything else (45.7%), and he gave up a more respectable 0.91 PPP, which earned him a rank of 147. Shooters converted at a 38.6% rate, including 32.3% from 3-point range. Overall, shooters scored 38.7% of the time against Morris.
Unfortunately, Morris didn't do so well in the post. He defended post players on 79 plays, and was abused with a PPP of 1.13 (ranked 271). Opponents shot 61.4% and he also committed six shooting fouls. He did force 12 turnovers, but his %Score was still 55.7%, which is not good at all.
Morris wasn't very good in his 38 isolation plays either, fouling another five times and giving up a %Score of 39.5%, the highest of the Suns' four bigs. He did a little better on 33 plays against the roll man of the pick-and-roll, with a %Score of 51.3%, but he struggled to get out on shooters in the pick-and-pop as his opponents hit six of their nine 3-point attempts against his defense.
Overall, Morris put up a pretty bad PPP of 0.99, which has him ranked 429th. Yikes. Opponents scored against him 45.3% of his defensive possessions. Oddly enough, his overall %SF was 6.8%, which doesn't seem that bad. Fouling was a big problem for him as a rookie, but it seems like a lot of these fouls may be more of the loose ball or on-the-floor variety rather than shooting fouls.
Channing Frye's defensive numbers are pretty interesting. For all those that still say he is a terrible defender, that simply isn't the case. Outside of defending spot-up situations, Frye was pretty good. A lot of people advocate letting Robin Lopez move on via free agency and sliding Frye back to the center position behind Gortat. Considering he did well defending post-ups, isolations and pick-and-rolls, but struggled to defend shooters, that strategy seems to have some support in the numbers. The question is, how would these numbers translate to Frye guarding centers as opposed to power forwards? That I don't know. The last time Frye was used primarily as a center (2009-10), he really was a bad defender and didn't do so well. But he's come a long way since then, and considering he might be playing against back-ups more than starting centers he might do just fine.
Markieff Morris, however, struggled in more than just one area. He was lost often enough defensively and was taken advantage of by the more experienced players he was asked to defend. It's pretty difficult for most rookies to come into the league and play good defense in their first year, and the jump was made even more difficult due to the lack of offseason and in-season practice time. Morris is a tough player with a strong base, so there's certainly no reason as to why he can't be a good defender. We'll just have to wait and see what he will do next year after a full offseason and a year of experience under his belt before we make any judgments.
With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft with the (likely) #13th pick.
With only 6 players under contract and nobody who qualifies as untouchable, the Suns may be in a position where they choose to draft the best player on the board regardless of position. The subject of the following review may just be that player if he is available when the Suns are on the clock.
NBA draft coverage continues with a look at Terrence Jones from the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats.
Jones is a 6'9" 245 lb. power forward with an NBA ready body and a skill set that compares favorably to many premiere NBA big men. While his offensive game lacks polish, it appears he is capable of being an above average, if not exceptional, defender at the NBA level.
Jones has great mobility for his size and may be able to split time between the 3 and the 4 depending on matchups. He is capable of running the floor to get easy transition baskets and has good ball handling skills for a big.
Judging from what has been described so far, this doesn't sound like a player that is usually available at the back end of the lottery. Test your vertical to find out why it's possible he might be and whether he is a good fit for the Suns.
Jones has great mobility for a player his size. I think he has the ability to run the court similar to a player like Josh Smith (who many here have seemed enamored with recently), but he already has 20 pounds on Smith (245-250lbs. from different sources) at the age of 20. While some look at his lack of ideal power forward height as a possible weakness, his versatility with his mobility and physique may allow him to defend multiple positions and shift between the 3 and the 4 to exploit matchups.
At 6'9" (with shoes), Jones is only average height (to slightly smallish) for a power forward, but blessed with a 7'2" wingspan and above average jumping ability, he is still a legitimate shot blocking threat. Jones blocked nearly two shots a game in both of his seasons at Kentucky and shot blocking (like rebounding) tends to transfer fairly well to the next level.
Jones's wingspan and leaping ability also translate into him being a very effective finisher at the rim. He can play above the rim in traffic for put backs and rebounds. He has the ability to throw down highlight reel, crowd inciting dunks (does anybody else still remember what an alley-oop is?). He would be a panacea for one of the Suns biggest weaknesses - their paucity of athleticism. In addition, this enables Jones to forecast as an above average rebounder at the NBA level. While his rebounding numbers dipped slightly in his sophomore season, that may have been in part to the Anthony Davis effect.
Jones already has the pedigree of receiving the tutelage of John Calipari for two seasons at Kentucky and being part of a winning tradition with a final four appearance and national championship. On a side note, the Suns may have the perfect person to continue mentoring Jones, as it occurs to me they may have an athletic, versatile, mobile, 6'8" forward who plays pretty good defense and might be able to pass along a couple pearls of wisdom.
Even if Jones never blossoms into a veritable star, I could easily see a 15 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.5 bpg type of player that could couple with a good defensive center to form a truly imposing tandem in the middle for an NBA team.
Why Jones is still available at #13
Jones has decent height (the 6'9" is with shoes), but not great by NBA standards. There has been some speculation that he may be somewhat of a tweener at the next level. His style of play supports this as he at times plays like a stretch four on offense, settling for outside shots which he doesn't make with a high level of proficiency. In addition to the work Jones needs to put in on his midrange and outside shooting, he is still a poor free throw shooter.
Jones freshman campaign at Kentucky started with a feverish pace and tapered off as the season progressed. The Wildcats still advanced to the final four, and Jones returned to school despite being projected as a potential lottery pick. Jones sophomore season may not have helped his cause. Although advanced statistics show he was more efficient in many aspects, many felt he didn't show enough improvement or a natural progression.
The Kentucky Wildcat team he played for may have contributed to these deficiencies. With that much talent on the floor, it may have been easier for Jones to defer to his teammates or take a more passive role. The Wildcats could have 6 players taken in the first round of this year's NBA draft. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Terrence Jones are slated to be lottery picks. Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, and Darius Miller are likely mid to late first round picks.
Then, there's the elephant in the room. Despite Jones's numerous physical tools, there is concern about his mental makeup. Jones struggles to remain engaged and has suspect mental toughness. His play tends to be inconsistent from game to game, and even from half to half. It has been intimated that he "checks out" of games.
Going off of a couple different outlets, there is at least a possibility that Jones will still be available at the Suns current draft position. While Draft Express has Terrence Jones ranked 9th in their top 100 prospects, Chad Ford of ESPN has him at 14. As we all know, these mock drafts can vary widely.
This may be a power forward heavy draft. Besides Anthony Davis (projected to go #1 overall) and Thomas Robinson (projected top 5), there are 4 other power forwards that may be selected as lottery picks. Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, John Henson, and Terrence Jones are all intriguing options and it is even possible they all might be gone by the 13th pick. Based on the supply, however, one or more of these players may be on the board.
There are two teams ahead of the Suns with multiple lottery picks (Portland and New Orleans). Portland already has Aldridge firmly entrenched as a starter, so it may not make sense for them to draft a back up using a lottery pick. New Orleans very likely will draft one power forward, but almost certainly not two.
The reasons that Jones might drop to the Suns are also some of the reasons the Suns might not take him. Jones will be a risk/reward pick to a certain extent. While his athleticism, defense, rebounding, and shot blocking make it hard to believe he will be a complete bust, his weaknesses make many wary that he won't reach his full potential.
Markieff Morris probably also factors into the Suns decision making process. Although they are not identical players, they still occupy the same basic position on the court. If Lillard or Marshall is available, do the Suns draft a different position based on need? What if Jones is higher than the point guards on the Suns big board, do the Suns draft the best player available?
Here's a quick rundown in review:
NBA size - check
NBA athleticism - check
Mobility/Runs the Floor - check
Shot Blocking - check
Rebounding - check
Finishing at the Rim - check
Outside Shooting - needs improvement
Post Game - needs improvement
Free Throw Shooting - needs improvement
Intangibles - the crux of the dilemma
Jones has most of the tools that can't be taught. Shooting can generally be worked on and improved. The real question seems to be whether he has the mental fabric to be an elite (or at least above average starter) player at the NBA level? If it weren't for that issue, Jones would probably be a top 5 pick instead of a player that might even slip to the Suns at 13. If he is still on the board when the Suns pick I would think he will draw serious consideration. What are your thoughts?
My unadultered, somewhat misguided, and certainly geographically tainted hatred for the San Antonio Spurs had dissipated over the last few years.
Certainly, the Phoenix Suns' clean sweep of the aging Spurs in the 2010 playoffs played a part in my transformation. Even when the Spurs beat the Suns easily over the past two seasons, it wasn't the same. The Suns have been noncompetitive as a team, rather than simply against the mighty Spurs. Even Spurs PG Tony Parker knew the jig was up. He said openly last spring that the Spurs were done winning championships.
Even this season, as the Spurs were inexplicably winning games like crazy again, my ire didn't get rankled. I watched the struggling Suns come close a few times, which in my mind meant that the Spurs were just squeaking by and likely would be exposed by younger, more-talented teams in the playoffs.
My hatred shifted to the pompous Lakers and Kobe Bryant's life long attempt to wash the 2006 playoffs from his mind by blasting the Suns in every game since. But you can never forget 2006, Kobe. It's always going to be there. And so my hatred for the Spurs faded, even partially replaced with a modicum of respect.
Then last night happened.
Game 1 of the Spurs/Thunder series brought me back to 2007 all over again. The Thunder are younger, fresher and more eye-catching than the Spurs. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are unstoppable in their own ways and no less unguardable than the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion triumvirate.
Yet the Spurs found a way to frustrate every one of the Thunder stars in Game 1, and ultimately won the game convincingly despite being down for most of it.
Popovich's fourth quarter speech in the huddle even sounded reminiscent of a Game 1 2007 speech, in both cases when the game was in the balance. Last night it was "get nasty". Five years ago, it was "every rebound...every loose ball..." Both delivered with calm and certainty that his team would respond. And each time, they did.
As I watched the fourth quarter unfold, I couldn't help feeling a sense of deja vu. Spurs players taking charges. Thunder losing their cool, just a little bit. The star PG on the floor in pain. Ginobili gyrating to baskets, and fist-pumping his way to the free throw line for the and-1. And the Spurs take the lead, and don't give it up.
Game 1 of this hotly anticipated series between the Spurs and Thunder is in the books. And as usual, the Spurs have the upper hand. I sat there seeing the future unfold before my eyes. The Thunder will regain their footing in this series, but just long enough for the Spurs to rip the rug back out from under them. And the next time, it will be for good.
I hate the Spurs. Again.
The only question is who will play the Robert Horry role for the Spurs in game 4. All the other Spurs culprits are still in place.