Most people familiar with the Suns would use the words cohesion and camaraderie to describe the team rather than the scathing adjectives in the title... but then why is the team dead last in the NBA in assist to turnover ratio?

The Suns' struggles to rebound the ball and end defensive possessions have already been detailed recently.  Phoenix "boasts" the league's 28th ranked defensive rebounding % (72.1%) and is fourth worst in offensive rebounds allowed per game (12.4).  This deficiency has led to a weakening of a still respectable 14th ranked defense (DRtg - 104.8).

There are other areas that plague this team as well.

The Suns lack a playmaker outside of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.  Though not prolific distributors, Jared Dudley and Luis Scola at least helped the ball move in halfcourt sets last season. There has been a heinous amount of ball-stopping on the team this year. Besides Dragic and Bledsoe nobody on this team averages more assists (1.8) than Shannon Brown did last season.  Yes, the Cannon would be third on this team in assists. The lack of facilitating outside of the two combo guards can be punctuated by the unsettling statistic that Gerald Green, whose career average is less than one assist per game, is fourth on the team in assist %.

The Suns are the only team in the NBA with only two players averaging over 1.8 assists per game.

Phoenix is 29th in the league in assists per game (19.0) and last in the league in assists per field goal made at .497. Less than half of the Suns' field goals are assisted.  The only team under .500 out of the last three seasons was Oklahoma City in 2011-12 (.494).

Turnovers are a familiar malediction as Phoenix finished 29th in the league with 15.6 turnovers per game last season, but they have actually given the ball away more this season. Phoenix is 25th in the league in turnovers per game (16.0) and 22nd in turnovers per possession (16.1%).  This surge in turnovers has occurred despite the attrition of deplorable discernment and decision making by the likes of Brown and Michael Beasley.

Combine those two sets of statistics and it should be little surprise that the team is 29th (1.19) in assist to turnover ratio.  This is by far the team's worst ratio in the past 10 years.

A_to_to_1

The Suns have returned to a more exciting brand of basketball, with a comfortable lead in fast break points per game (19.4 compared to second place OKC at 17.3), much like the 7SOL days where the Suns finished in the top four in fastbreak points for five consecutive seasons.

The Suns are also back to bombing from three, currently second in the league with 9.6 makes per game.  The Suns were first in the league in makes from 2004-2006 with totals of 9.5, 10.0 and 9.2.

These characteristics make the Suns a threat in any game, no matter the deficit, as they can pull off a huge run at any given moment.  Just look at last night's 18-0 run against the Memphis Grizzlies.

But there is a way this team is going about scoring (and playing) that is a departure from the past decade - mostly orchestrated by disseminating virtuoso Steve Nash.  The Suns assist to turnover ratio is just terrible.  They are almost doing a better job of sharing the ball with the other team than they are with themselves.

Dragonblade_1

The Suns two point guard (combo guard) philosophy doesn't appear to be hurting in terms of creating for others from thebackcourt positions.  Besides Phoenix there are only three other teams with two players averaging at least five assists per game... Golden St. - Stephen Curry (9.6) and Andre Iguodala (5.0), Miami - LeBron James (6.6) and Mario Chalmers (5.2), and Portland - Damian Lillard (6.0) and Nicolas Batum (5.3).

However, both Bledsoe and Dragic are turning the ball over at a high rate.  They account for six of the Suns' 16 turnovers per night.  Still, their combined 1.95 to 1.0 assist to turnover ratio is not terrible.  Of the remaining players, though, only P.J. Tucker and Ish Smith (and Channing Frye by one assist) have more assists than turnovers.

Goran and EB have also missed time this season, taking away one of the team's point guards in ten of 31 games.  But that hasn't changed the bottom line much.  In the three games without Goran the Suns are averaging 20 assists per game.  Without Bledsoe it's been 19.7.  Both are slightly higher than the season average.

What is different is that during the seven games that Bledsoe has missed Goran has averaged 22.2 points and 8.6 assists per game.  That's compared to 17.8 points and 5.0 assists in the 21 games they've played together.  Does Goran feel the need to carry more of the load in the absence of his backcourt mate?  This spike hasn't occurred when Eric has played without Dragic (albeit in a smaller sample size) as his numbers of 18.6 points and 6.3 assists in the three games are nearly identical to his season averages.

After last night's loss the Suns are 3-4 with Dragic and no Bledsoe, 2-1 with Bledsoe and no Dragic, and 14-7 when they both play.

Scoring_-_assists_1

Despite not setting each other up for easy baskets and gifting the ball to the other team the Suns have managed to put numbers up on the scoreboard.  The Suns are in a five way tie for 9th in the league in points per game.  The fast break points and three point field goals definitely help this number.  The Rockets are the only other team that is bottom third in assists per game on this list and they also rank out pretty well in made threes (6th) and fastbreak points (8th).

Conversely, Portland is first in the league in made three pointers and third in assists. Atlanta is fourth in made threes and first in assists.

Rebounding, turnovers, assists... The Suns are a smallish, young team with a turnover prone backcourt and a lack of a tertiary creator.  On the other hand, they also have strengths in quickness, athleticism, shooting and energy.  A flawed but fun team.

Maybe the return of a player like Alex Len or Emeka Okafor can help shore up the rebounding, but that seems unlikely after both player's extended hiatuses and Len's paucity of experience at this level.  The acquisition of a wing who can shoot the three and provide better ball movement in the half court seems a more likely possibility, but this type of move would still have to work both short and long term.

What the Suns really need is a rebounding playmaker, but those are a very rare breed.  Of players averaging at least nine rebounds per game only Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol average three or more assists per game.  The closest thing the Suns have to this is Markieff Morris who averages 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per 36...

Until the Suns land an All-NBA type of power forward talent they could always check out this link for sharing songs.  I love to be helpful.  Between Jack Johnson and Bert and Elmo I know they can work it out.  Also, maybe start off each practice with this enigmatic riddle:

If you have me you want to share me, if you share me you haven't got me. What am I?

A secret. A basketball.

PHOENIX — In a game of word association, here’s how it would’ve gone this summer. Grizzlies: Western Conference contenders. Suns: Wallowing for Wiggins. Sometimes it takes a while...

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Ever think you're alone on an island, the only one who lives, eats and breathes your favorite team? Well, that's what SB Nation and Vox Media is for!

We have given fans like us a platform on which to grow a community of like-minded individuals who care share their beliefs without fear of reproach (except from each other) or persecution (except from each other), where we can ban anybody who doesn't share those beliefs, and we can mold our most radical thoughts and dreams into a collective reality that justifies our otherwise unique opinions and focus.

Huh. Sounds like a cult--.

Nah, it's just being a fan!

Let's give a round of applause for the biggest Bright Side Commenters for 2013!

Screen_shot_2014-01-03_at_6

Check it. Think about these numbers for a bit. Over the course of 365 days, DragonBlade posts an average of 18 comments every single day. That shows dedication. Devotion. And a community that carries on deep, heated conversations every single day of the year!

Where would be without you, DragonBlade (formerly BringBackBarkley), and your 18 comments a day? Or Vikaask and your 15 every day. Or Bkj, or phxpurple, or rsavag, or Motherwell, or sun-arc, or Jacob, or XcasX?

You guys - all 5,997 of you - are the paddles that keep us moving along sh!t Suns creek!

Sorry folks, but Vox media and SB Nation only wrote the report to pull the top ten from each site, so I don't know who was #11, but I appreciate all 5,997 of you community members nonetheless.

Give yourselves some props for making this site run: YOU, the community of readers and commenters.

Without you, we're nothing.

Post script

Now that you've patted yourselves in the back, let me just throw out a bone or two to chew on.

Bone one

When you saw that top ten list, were you like "WTF! Where's my name?" If that's you, you're a competitive son of a gun. Here's your opportunity to set your own bar for participation in 2014. You know what it takes to be top 10. Go for it!

While 18 posts a day seems like a lot from our top commenter, there's a lot of SB Nation sites with commenters who hit 100 a day. 200 a day, even. Heck, the SF Giants site's top ten commenters ALL exceeded 20,000 comments in the past year.

So, when you think about New Year's resolutions, think about logging on to BSotS even more often than you already do. And, recruit your friends and co-workers so there's longer and deeper conversations to participate in.

Bone two

BSotS sits about 5th-10th across the 30 NBA teams in total unique visitors on any given day. That's great for a terrible team like the Suns used to be, and something I am proud of.

But for "the best story in the NBA" that should improve in 2014. I've already seen a number of new members in the past few weeks (Welcome!!), so I imagine our community will continue to grow and grow. You can help - get your friends on here. Your boss. Your coworkers. This is the best damn Suns talk in the world!

PHOENIX – The Suns want to run, but on Thursday they were fine with grinding with the Grizzlies. Mental toughness isn’t the issue. Through a flurry of technical fouls in the fourth quarter and...

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It was a dogfight, and the Suns lost the dogfight. Without their twin point guard, Goran Dragic led the Suns with 33 points (a career high) but the Suns were cold all night and decided to go down with the count.

The second unit killed the Suns in this game. They got killed in the second quarter, and then again in the fourth. And then the game got tight, Memphis played harder while the Suns... didn't. Oh the Suns got riled up all right, but they didn't play hard enough when the ball was live.

At least Goran Dragic got his career high with 33 points. Unfortunately, it was in a losing effort that felt like a lost opportunity.

The game ultimately turned when the Suns starters were fighting back but then Jarryd Bayless fouled Dragic hard, starting a 4-tech scuffle, and then fouled him on a three-point attempt that went uncalled. From that point, the Suns were not a threat.

Jarryd Bayless doesn't do much for the Grizzlies, unless he's playing the Suns: 17 points, 4 assists in 31 minutes. And "effective" defense on Dragic in the 4th.

To open the game, the Suns seemed unable to fight off the hurdles of a last-minute lineup change (Bledsoe couldn't go, with a bruised knee) and the ice-cold arena floor (literally, there was ice under the floor for one of those ice shows) - to the tune of a 38% shooting first half.

At halftime, the Memphis Grizzlies held a 12-point lead (53-41) on 53% shooting that made it look like they just had the Suns' number. In fact, over the last 2 quarters of the first game and the first two quarters of this one, the Grizzlies outscored the Suns 117-78. Ouch.

But then the Suns turned on the jets and ran out to a 18-0 lead in the third as they rediscovered their mojo - running, shooting and scrapping - retook the lead for the game.

The game started mostly at Memphis' preferred pace, with a sprinkle of Suns fast breaks to keep things interesting. But nearly every Memphis shot was put up in the paint between Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos.

Eric Bledsoe was a last-minute scratch, and the Suns came out looking a bit out of kilter, going down 8-5 early on. But then the Suns started getting some turnovers and forced their way into the lead at 13-10 behind Dragic's (the real one, not that gawdawful bobblehead) 6 points, 2 assists and a steal in the first 6 minutes. Without Bledsoe, Dragic could play 40+ minutes tonight unless it's a blowout.

Mike Conley, the Grizzlies biggest threat, twisted his ankle on a drive that was spectacularly blocked by Miles Plumlee, leaving in favor of Jarryd Bayless at the 6 minute mark. You'd think that would allow the Suns to pull away, but Memphis was playing tough and physical while the Suns started missing bunnies and open shots (and Gerald Green just plain missed a few. As in 'missed the rim, missed the backboard, missed everything but the floorboards out of bounds)'.

Luckily, the Suns got a burst from 3rd string point guard Ish Smith (side note: Kendall Marshall is the new starting PG for the Lakers - is that awesome or what?) and finished the quarter on a run to take a 26-22 lead.

But after giving the Grizzlies a season-high 54.8% shooting in the first game in December, the Grizzlies shot 52.4% in the first quarter of this one. Not a good start.

Even worse was the start in the second quarter, where the Grizzlies went on a 10-3 run to take a 32-29 lead with Zach Randolph playing the five, Conley back in at PG along with Jarryd Bayless and Memphis just moving a lot faster than the Morrii, Smith, Frye and Archie Goodwin.

Hornacek called a quick timeout to rally / wake up the troops. Didn't work. The Grizzlies run got up to 18-7 in the second before Coach of the Month decided his starters might be better against the Grizzlies starters.

Plumlee made one of his jump hooks (3-6 to that point, including a beautiful reverse lob jam), but the Suns just couldn't buy a bucket. In fact, nobody wanted to pay for one by taking a shot either. Finally, Goran Dragic and Miles Plumlee got aggressive and made some baskets before the game turned into a blowout. Speaking of starters, haven't seen Gerald Green at all in the second, while Ish Smith gets burn next to Dragic.

But the Suns were still just a half-step short on every loose ball, and the Grizzlies converted on extra opportunities.

By the end of the half, the Grizzlies had worked the Suns to the tune of a 12-point lead at 53-41. The best player of the half was Miles Plumlee with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, but when Miles Plumlee is your best player by a mile then you're having a bad night.

Contributing to the bad night: Suns made 38% of their 47 field goals (18% of threes) and just 33% of their free 9 throws. FREE THROWS.

Over the last four quarters (second half of game on December 3, plus this first half), the Grizzlies outscored the Suns 117-78. That's 39 points for those who need help.

Could the bad times last? Are the Grizzlies just a really bad matchup for the Suns?

After missing all three of his first half free throws, Goran Dragic was the first Suns player back on the court after halftime. Shooting free throws.

The second half started as bad as the first half ended, with Frye and Dragic missing open shots while Tony Allen made a driving layup to put the Grizzlies up 14.

But a minute later, Frye got it going with a pair of threes and helped the Suns go on a run. Despite a couple of Memphis timeouts, the Suns went on an 18-0 run to retake the lead before Memphis scored again. Gerald Green had a heat check (despite not making a bucket since the first quarter) and missed a 30-foot three to help stop the Suns run.

The 18-0 run included a number of steals and hustle plays, and a lot of Goran Dragic. The Dragon had 15 of the Suns 30 points in the first 9 minutes of the third quarter alone (including all 5 free throws, after missing all 3 in the first half).

The Grizzlies righted their ship a bit at the end of the third, and kept the Suns led to just 4 at 73-69.

The fourth opened the way the secnod Q opened, with some real bad Suns play. The Grizzlies retook the lead with a 11-2 run behind a lot of bad Suns shots. The parallel? It was Smith, the Morrii and Gerald Green getting worked by the Grizzlies. The only difference this time was Channing Frye for Archie Goodwin.

Deja vu. Timeout, Coach of the Month.

Nothing worked though, until Hornacek put Dragic back in and the Dragon breathed a couple of threes into the net to cut the Grizzlies lead to 3.

Then the game got ugly. Four technicals were called in the 4th while Memphis pulled away. Memphis played dirty, while little Jarryd Bayless got hot and burned the Suns up with 10 points in the first 8 minutes of the 4th.

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