This time of year allows all of us to reflect on all the things we have to be thankful for. As my wife reminds me, I need to be thankful for what I get, not for what I would like to get. No, I am not talking about that you deviants; I am talking about the Suns.
So in the spirit of the holidays, here are the top ten things I am thankful for about the Suns.
10. ROSTER TURNOVER
With all of the changes made to this roster, I can most definitely state that this season has been far more interesting than last year. Watching the same old, and I mean old, personnel clinging on to the glory of the good old days, was unwatchable. Good or bad, this team is interesting to watch. I can’t wait for it to be fun.
9. LAKERS STRUGGLES
I am usually not one to wish ill upon my rivals [oh who am I kidding, I can’t wait for Dook to go down in flames], I have to admit watching the “Super” team falling flat on their sacks is making me giddy. Don’t know how long that will last, but fun nevertheless. Oh, and apparently I was two days early on my prediction of when Kobe would start bashing his teammates.
8. MY DAUGHTER
As we were watching part of the game, my five year old daughter asked who the guy with the funny hair was [Beasley]. I asked why and I swear on my mother’s grave, she said “he doesn’t try very hard”. You can always count on little kids to tell it like it is. And mom, if you read this, ignore the part about the grave. Love you.
7. DARYL MOREY
Sure, you can make the case that he screwed us out of drafting Jeremy Lamb and other various undermining moves, but let me ask you something. Who would you rather have, Lin, Lamb and Patterson, or Dragic and Scola? Frankly, Dragic and anyone gets my vote. Lin will always be a poor man’s Dragic, Patterson will always be a tweener bench player and I have no idea what Lamb will be if anything. Thanks to Daryl Morey, for pushing Goran to sign here.
6. DOMINANT PLAY
Keep in mind, this is about being thankful for what we are given, not a time to gripe about what we are not. In several quarters this season, the Suns have put together dominant defensive performances to climb out of double digit deficits. If you had only watched those stretches, and not known we were behind, you would be talking championship. So I am thankful that we have been given glimpses of brilliant play.
5. KENDALL MARSHALL
I love a guy who has two L’s at the end of each of his names. I am thankful that the Suns drafted Marshall, who has clearly lifted the Suns through his lighting of a fire under Sebastian Telfair. Telfair clearly got the message that he better bring defensive intensity and run this club and stop thinking about his own play. While his numbers haven’t been any better, his impact has clearly been felt in a positive way. Plus, Marshall is getting schooled in how to be a professional, what he needs to bring to the table, and being given time to get there. I still believe that Marshall will matter to this franchise, and I just hope that isn’t the Tar Heel in me.
4. ALVIN GENTRY
I love the fact that Gentry is willing to play the guys that bring it. You can criticize a number of things about Gentry’s coaching, but the fact he is willing to sit guys without fear of retribution is something to behold. And he seems to be doing so without too much grief from the players, despite a losing record. Thanks Coach, more please.
3. PJ TUCKER
I think had the Suns passed up on Tucker and signed Diogu, we probably would be sitting here with a 2-11 record. Seriously! I cannot even imagine Diogu impacting the game, while I think Tucker has single-handedly won us several games. Maybe not through any particular play, but he certainly has shown that hustle, determination and having no fear produces results. Most of this team has picked up on that and the results have been spurts of inspired play.
2. GORAN DRAGIC
Equal to Tucker’s impact, Dragic has been everything we could have ever dreamed for thus far. An all-defense point guard, Dragic disrupts the opponent almost as much as Tucker, is in constant motion and never quits on that end, despite also being our go-to guy offensively. At the other end, if not for teammates failing to make shots, he may be second in the league in assists. Everyone keeps saying he is no “you know who”, but I don’t care anymore, because Dragic is getting it done and the other guy is nowhere to be found. Thanks Goran. You make this season worth watching.
Finally, I am thankful that I don’t live in DC, Sacramento, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, Orlando, Indiana or Minnesota. I am sitting here in my shorts and t-shirt, enjoying my backyard, and we are only one game below 500. Phoenix is pretty nice.
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Thirteen games into the young season, the Phoenix Suns are allowing opponents to make more than 43% of their three-point attempts, the worst rate in the entire Association this season by far.
The league's most generous three-point shooting defenses the prior three seasons were Denver (38.3% allowed), Cleveland (41.1%), and Philadelphia (39.3%).
The Suns, by contrast, have allowed 35.2%, 36.7% and 35.5% three-point percentage to opponent the last three seasons. League average has been between 34.9-35.5% during those seasons. Despite finishing in the bottom quartile in defensive efficiency and points allowed each year, three-point defense has not been the primary culprit.
This season, though, it sure seems to be. If you look at the team's "four factors" on defense, sticking out like a sore thumb is their opponents effective shooting percentage which takes the extra point on threes into account.
2012-13 Season (13 games)
While the other defensive marks are middling (a big bonus in Suns-land!), the effective shooting percentage (eFG%) of their opponents is really, really bad.
As always, the Suns are also poor in the area of defensive rebounding, but 22nd is not that bad relatively speaking. The front line of Gortat/Scola/Morris/O'Neal have been at least respectable on the glass.
Maybe the Suns have just faced a really proficient number of offenses so far? Uh no. The Suns opponents this season have been Golden State (currently 27th in 3pt shooting), Detroit (16th), Orlando (8th), Miami twice (FIRST), Charlotte (LAST), Cleveland (11th), Utah (18th), Denver (26th), Chicago (22nd), Lakers (20th), Portland (5th) and New Orleans (17th).
Only five of the Suns first 13 opponents have shot better than average on three-pointers this season, but the Suns have been the elixir for many of them so far this season. Klay Thompson made 4 of 7 in the opener. Aaron Afflalo, J.J. Redick and E'Twan Moore combined for 9 of 10 in game three. Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Ray Allen made 8 of 10 in game four. Byron Mullens went 6 for 10 in game five. Daniel Gibson and Dion Waiters made 8 of 12 in game 7. Andre Iguodala went 3 for 3 in game 9. Ron Artest was 5 for 10 in game 10. Ryan Anderson went 8 for 13 on Friday night.
Ouch. How can the Suns be so bad on three-point defense?
"I have no idea," Gentry said before Wednesday's game against Portland. "Usually, the best three-point shooting in the league is from the right corner but for some reason they are coming from the left corner against us. It's something that we really emphasize and we're baffled as to why teams are shooting so well against us."
While opponents are not taking an abnormal number of three-pointers per game (league average) against the Suns, you have to believe that their shooting percentage is contributing to these double-digit deficits. And despite the thrill of comebacks, the Suns have lost 7 of 11 times they've been down by at least 10.
This upcoming 6-game trip will shed some light on whether the Suns' three-point defense is really that bad, or if the first 13 games were an aberration that will naturally correct itself.
The Suns face Detroit and Cleveland for a second time, while seeing Philadelphia (6th), Toronto (14th), New York (2nd) and Memphis (12th) for the first time.
Today's opponent is especially interesting. While they are a good three-point shooting team, they run a terrible offense (27th overall in offensive efficiency). The Suns just might be the elixir they need.
Every team on this trip is at or above the league average on three-point shooting. Keep an eye on their conversion percentage. If the Suns come out of this road trip still at the bottom of the league, then further adjustments need to be made on their defensive scheme.
Welcome to the first installment of what will be a new weekly top 10 ranking of the Phoenix Suns' individual players here at Bright Side of the Sun!
We'll be taking a look at how well or poorly each player performed over the past week and ranking their importance to the team accordingly. A significant portion of the weekly rankings will of course be based on stats. However, because most of us realize there are some aspects of the game that simply do not show up on the box score...no matter how many advanced stats and logarithms are used, there will be some weight placed on the eye-test as well.
This should give each week's piece just the right amount of subjectivity to hopefully create a nice discussion, so feel free to disagree and share your opinions as well in the comment section below!
Without further adieu...Here's a look at how the players did, and where I believe they rank based on this week's performance alone.:
Weekly Average: 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in 30 minutes of play; +8
Morris had an excellent week on both ends of the court for the Suns. Gentry's plan to inject youth, athleticism, and defense into the line-up is paying off in spades thus far. Keef had by far his most impressive week of his short NBA career. The offensive numbers only tell part of the story...his defense has also been very good and his tendency to foul has been greatly reduced. The only question is will he continue his impressive play?
Weekly Average: 13 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 30.5 minutes of play; +24
Who would have guessed that a relatively unknown free-agent who had previously been playing overseas would have such a huge impact on the Suns thus far this season? This was a tough call...PJ Tucker easily could have been ranked #1 overall for his defense, energy, and hustle if not for Keef's breakout week on both ends of the floor. His offensive game also took a huge leap forward, but it's his suffocating defense and inspired play that has really been the difference for the Suns.
Weekly Average: 17.5 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals in 32 minutes of play; +/- 0
Dragic had a very good week statistically. However, Goran did struggle somewhat defensively against Greivis Vasquez last night as he went 10-13 from the field for 25 points and also tallied 14 assists. Damian Lillard also scored 24 points on 7-13 shooting against Dragic in the Portland game, and again, a great deal of that is just really impressive play from the leading candidate for rookie of the year. But still, Dragic gave up more points than he scored this week...that can't be overlooked.
Weekly Average: 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 Blocks in 24 minutes of play; +21.5
O'Neal is the latest player that seems to be benefiting from the Suns' training staff and their secret fountain of youth and wellness. Jermaine actually considered retiring at one point this off-season before eventually signing with Phoenix. And if this week is any indication, the rejuvenated former six-time all-star still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
Weekly Average: 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 0 Blocks in 27 minutes of play; -13
Gorat had two very different games this week. His first against Portland and Myers Leonard was fantastic. He scored 22 points to go with 7 rebounds and played very good defense against the impressive but inexperienced Leoonard, taking him to school on both ends of the floor. Last night against Robin Lopez and the Hornets was a different situation entirely. Gortat couldn't find his rhythm and struggled from the floor going 2-7 offensively for only 6 points while failing to win the battle against his former backup.
Weekly Average: 4 points, 4.5 assists, and 1 steal in 17 minutes of play; +14
Looking at those offensive numbers one may question why Bassy is ranked ahead of some of the other players on the team. Well, it's his defense and energy that have made all the difference. Telfair was everything the Suns could hope for out of a back-up PG this week. He played within himself and helped force bad shots and turnovers by the opposition while setting up his teammates.
Weekly Average: 10 points, 1.5 assists, and 1 steal in 26.5 minutes of play; -8
Brown has definitely given the Suns an offensive spark in the starting unit. However, while his defense hasn't been too bad, he still definitely has room for improvement. And while his shot selection is getting better, he still has a tendency to over-dribble at times rather than moving the ball. Overall a solid week for Shannon though.
Weekly Average: 7 points, 2.5 rebounds in 18.5 minutes of play; +10.5
Scola took his demotion to the second unit like the professional that he is and continued to play hard this week. Although he is certainly limited defensively, Scola is still one of the craftiest players in the league offensively, and has a nice mid-range game that helps open up the defense. He appeared to have a rough time adjusting to coming off the bench against the Blazers, but played well overall in his reduced minutes against the Hornets last night.
Weekly Average: 6.5 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes of play; +16
Going back to the bench could have been just what the doctor ordered to break Dudley out of his funk. He's been playing more like the Dudley of old these past two games and has helped give our second unit the three point shooting threat they so desperately need.
Weekly Average: 3.5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, in 18 minutes of play; -14
There's just no excuse for the way Beasley has been playing. The guy who was brought in to possibly the go-to guy on offense has failed to produce whatsoever, and has been a defensive sieve to boot. Despite his potential, Gentry will have no choice but to sit him on the bench very soon if he continues to perform like this.
So there you have it. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments below!