I guess it's technically a report card if you only got graded in your worst class.

As frequent readers of Bright Side of the Sun have come to know, the three point shooting adventures of Ish Smith were a bit of an obsession of mine in the late stages of the Suns season.

Those of you who have been around this site long enough may also be aware that both Suns history and awful shooting performances from members of the Phoenix Suns are two of my more significant basketball interests. Those two were first married together back in December of 2010 following the incredible 12 game reign of Sir Earl (of) Barron. I'd strongly suggest taking a quick flip through that slice of heaven, but if you have a life I can effectively boil it down to three points for you:

  • Earl Barron had the lowest field goal percentage of any Phoenix Suns player ever that attempted more than 27 shots in a season.
  • Earl Barron is one of only 3 Phoenix Suns players ever who took more than 50 shots in a season and shot less than 30% from the field.
  • Barron is one of 6 NBA players since 1960 to attempt 50 or more shots in a season and shoot 23.5% or lower.

Three and a half years later those bullets haven't changed.

So with those points in mind, when assignments for Suns player report cards were being doled out I was the natural fit for Ish. Now a lot of people are going to go into a deep analysis of the key contributions for the player they are covering.

This will not be that.

Anyway - I watched every single Ish Smith three pointer this season (the NBA Stats website is truly incredible) so you didn't have to. I've even got a full log of his attempts, including the game situation, play development, and exactly how he missed it (in what critics are calling the worst word document ever produced).

So here's a look at Ish Smith's three point shooting in the 2013-14 season in a nutshell:

  • 1 made three pointer in 23 attempts for a 3P% of 4.3.
  • He made his 4th attempt against Denver on November 8th and proceeded to miss his next and final 19 tries.
  • The 23 attempts were spread over 16 different games.
  • The most attempts he had in a game was 4 against the Kings on November 19th. He missed all 4 in a 3 point Suns loss. If I hadn't been out of the country and missed that game I might have cried myself to sleep that night.
  • The Suns were 11-5 in the 16 games Ish attempted threes and undefeated when he made one.
  • 9 of his 23 attempts were either late in the shot clock (less than 5 seconds) or an end of quarter situation.
  • 3 of the attempts were late the 4th quarter during close games -
    • Attempt #1 v. Utah (11/1/13) - Suns down 76-73 and 5 minutes left in the 4th Markieff Morris kicked out to Ish for a miss from the right side.
    • Attempt #4 @ Sacramento (11/19/13) - Suns up 2 and just 2:21 remaining, Goran Dragic drove to the basket and kicked to Ish in the corner for a miss.
    • Attempt #14 @ Chicago (1/7/14) - Suns down 9 and less than 6 minutes remaining, Gerald Green drove and passed to Ish who missed a three from the left side.

Place In Suns History

Now you're probably all like - "That seems really bad, writer guy with an obvious pseudonym, but give me some context." Well like I did for Earl Barron, let's compare to the history of the Suns franchise:

  • There have now been 315 different players who have suited up for the Suns since the franchise came into existence in 1968-69.
  • Those 315 players have participated in a total of 700 individual seasons. Like in the Barron article an "individual season" for my purposes is just the number of seasons a guy played on the Suns - even if it was just for part of a season. So a guy like Marcus Morris counts for 2 seasons since he was on the roster for part of 2012-13 and all of this year while Ish would count for 1 season.
  • 143 of those individual seasons occurred before the introduction of the three point line in the 1979-80 season so our individual season count has dropped to 557.

Of those 557 individual seasons - 232 times a Suns player has attempted 20 or more three pointers in a season. This includes Suns legends like Michael Beasley, Zarko Cabarkapa, Ronnie Price, Joe Crispin, Jalen Rose, the horrible rookie version of Goran Dragic, Josh Childress, and even Ed Nealy.

Which of those 232 players shot less than 10% from three on their 20+ attempts?

    Kevin Johnson (1988-89) - 2/22, 9.1%
    Johnny High (1980-81) - 2/24, 8.3%
    Ish Smith (2013-14) - 1/23, 4.3%

      Just those three.

      Meaning Ish Smith is the only Phoenix Suns player to ever shoot less than 8% from three point range on a minimum of 20 attempts. He's also the only Suns player to shoot less than 6.3% on a minimum of 10 attempts (Josh Childress in 2010-11 had previously set the bar when he went 1/16).

      Once you drop below 10 you find some comfort in that Cedric Ceballos missed each of his 9 attempts in the 1993-94 campaign.

      Basically Ish has the worst three point shooting Phoenix Suns season ever from someone who thought it was a good idea to shoot threes other than by accident or because it was required.

      Comparing to the Rest of the NBA:

      So how about league wide? That's certainly sure to give Ish some company, right?

      Well it does!

      In the 35 years since the NBA adopted the three point stripe, 20 different players have shot more than 20 three pointers in a season and shot less than 5%. That list includes Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Calvin Murphy, and Dennis Johnson - along with slam dunk champion Spud Webb and noted ironman/Casanova AC Green.

      But when you lower the bar a little further you see just how special Ish's three point shooting was this season. Of any player to attempt 23 or more three pointers in a season, a mere 9 brave souls have shot less than 4.4%. They are:

        Randy Smith (1980-81 Cleveland Cavaliers) - 1/28, 3.6%
        Calvin Murphy (1979-80 Houston Rockets) - 1/25, 4.0%
        Hedo Turkoglu (2012-13 Orlando Magic) - 1/24, 4.2%
        Sedale Threatt (1985-86 Philadelphia 76ers) - 1/24, 4.2%
        Dennis Johnson (1989-90 Boston Celtics) - 1/24, 4.2%
        Ish Smith (2013-14 Phoenix Suns) - 1/23, 4.3%
        Terrell Brandon (1991-92 Cleveland Cavaliers) - 1/23, 4.3%
        Calbert Cheaney (1993-94 Washington Bullets) - 1/23, 4.3%
        Jerome Kersey (1986-87 Portland Trail Blazers) 1/23, 4.3%

          To drastically oversimplifiy, Ish had one of the worst 3 point shooting seasons by any NBA guard in the last 20 plus seasons of NBA basketball. For that he will now take his place atop the Suns terrible shooting Mount Rushmore with Earl Barron.

          Bonus fun fact - if you go to Basketball Reference right now and run a filter for the above stats they will show that Smith attempted 24 three pointers on the season. If you're an avid reader of the Bright Side comments section (and why wouldn't you be) you'll note my quixotic campaign to get the third shot here changed from an incorrectly listed three pointer (as it currently is here) to the appropriate 5 foot runner that it was.

          See, I'm not totally mean, nobody probably ever would have noticed that shot being listed as a three pointer if some blogging weirdo hadn't pointed it out (h/t to Suns Digital Manager Greg Esposito who emailed the NBA to get it fixed. Here's a Twitter recap).

          *As a side note, Archie Goodwin threw his hat in the ring for Mount TerribleShooter as he's one of just 22 players in NBA history to attempt 36 three pointers in a season and hit less than 14%. Here are all his rowdy friends - which include Michael Jordan. So pretty much Archie = MJ.

          Fully realizing that was about 1,000 words about 1 bad aspect of Ish Smith, I figure I should throw in a few hundred words on good things. So here are some nice things about Ish:

          • He's super fast. In fact, Kevin Durant suggested he was one of the two fastest players in the NBA.

          Ish smith or John wall RT @WNP_1: @KDTrey5 who's the fastest NBA player?!

          — Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) January 23, 2014


            • He played in 70 games and managed to contribute 14.4 minutes per game - which was particularly important while Eric Bledsoe was out with his pair of injuries.
            • Outside of three point shooting, he averaged career highs in pretty much every relevant category.
            • He's actually a 21.7% three point shooter for his career so I guess he's not this bad.
            • He's clearly coachable since he attempted just 6 threes in the last 38 games after shooting 17 in the first 44.
            • Considering that there were almost no expectations for a guy who was seen as a throw-in to a dumping of Caron Butler - Ish performed quite well. In Dave's 900 plus word rundown of the Butler trade from last August, the only words committed to Smith were these:

            Ish Smith is a journeyman who won't crack a PG rotation already overloaded with Dragic, Bledsoe, Marshall and even Diante Garrett.

            The Suns also are unlikely to blink an eye if they need to release any or all of Malcolm Lee (884K), Kravtsov (1.5 mil) or Ish Smith (900K) to get down to 15 players by the regular season.

              • Seems like a swell guy and good locker room dude - to the extent where I felt sort of bad for a minute about putting this together. I say sort of because he made nearly a million dollars playing basketball last year and stands to make several million more over the next 5-10 years.

              What's next:

              • Ish has a non-guaranteed contract for 2014-15 at a value of $992,435. Some of the internet suggests it becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 15th but I'll just wait for Lon Babby to email Dave and tell him that I'm wrong. Otherwise, take it as fact.
              • I suppose it depends on about a billion other factors whether he returns to Phoenix or not (draft, trades, all the other rosterbaition techniques) but I'm sure the comments below will have him anywhere from a Sun for life to being shipped off to CSKA Moscow in an elaborate move that gets the Suns Kevin Love and Trajan Langdon. July 15th could be a completely different roster from now.
              Grade - Crocodile

              Jeff Hornacek’s success as a rookie coach had a lot to do with the roster provided to him by general manager Ryan McDonough. That relationship and shared vision between the two is first and...

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              PHOENIX — The NBA playoffs roll on without the Phoenix Suns. While the results could add to ideas of where the league might be or should be headed, we can take a lot of lessons from the Suns...

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              Jeff Hornacek is not the NBA's coach of the year this season, but that is OK.

              The NBA announced today that Gregg Popovich was voted as the 2013-14 Coach of the Year, the third time he has taken home the Red Auerbach Trophy in his career and the second time in the last three years.

              Popovich, who wins his second NBA Coach of the Year award in the past three seasons and third of his career, joins Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches to receive the honor three times. He totaled 380 points, including 59 first-place votes, from a panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Coaches were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

              The Spurs finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 62-20 and they also had the best point differential at +7.8. Under Popovich, the Spurs have been and continue to be a machine, pumping out 50-plus wins like nothing.

              The Spurs are still led by three Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but as has become Popovich's style he rested those players as much or more than he ever has, yet they won anyway regardless of who suited up.

              Popovich presided over a balanced roster which featured no player who averaged 20-plus points, nor 30-plus minutes, with Tony Parker's 16.7 ppg and 29.4 mpg leading both categories. He ended the 2013-14 campaign with 967 regular season wins, good for ninth on the all-time list.

              Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, and this award is well-deserved.

              However, Popovich wasn't the only one who did a great coaching job this season, as Suns fans well know. Jeff Hornacek finished second in voting with 339 points.

              Coy_voting_medium

              (Click to enlarge to see final voting totals)

              Popovich won on the strength of his 59 first-place votes, but Hornacek wasn't too far behind with 37 (compared to the 12 of third-place Tom Thibodeau) and he finished with the most total votes with 102 to Popovich's 98.

              Jeff Hornacek did a fantastic job turning the Suns around in his first season in the Valley of the Sun, and the national media has taken note. Hornacek's career is only beginning, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing his name in this discussion for years to come.

              Also, now we don't have to worry about him getting fired any time soon. The Coach of the Year curse has been avoided.

              On a related note: Joakim Noah was named Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, running away with the vote with 100 first-place votes and 555 points. Suns forward P.J. Tucker finished 12th with two votes and six points. Who voted for him? Al McCoy (first place) and Tim Kempton (third place).

              Channing Frye's return to the starting line-up was almost as surprising as the Phoenix Suns' return to NBA relevancy. What grade did the Comeback Kid earn for the comeback Suns?

              One has to wonder what the future holds for Channing Frye.  According to The Arizona Republic, the 30-year-old power forward reportedly would like to work out a contract extension that would likely end his career in Phoenix.  This is more amazing news than your average contract extension story considering his career nearly ended in Phoenix at the end of the 2011-12 NBA season.

              Frye's recovery from his heart disease is practically a metaphor for the Phoenix Suns organization this season.  After a disheartening 2012-13 campaign that saw the second worst results in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns were left for dead going into 2013-14.  And like Frye's sudden and unexpected announcement that he would be at training camp, Phoenix suddenly and unexpectedly announced that they would be competing in every game until the end of the season.  Coincidentally (or not), Channing became the first player since 2009-2010 to start all 82 games for the Phoenix Suns.

              But does the comparison end there?  Ultimately this incarnation of the Phoenix Suns wasn't good enough to make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.  Is Frye good enough to make it as a starter for the next incarnation of the surprising Suns?

              For the first half of the season, the answer was a resounding yes!  Until the All-Star break, Channing Frye was averaging near career highs across the board and having his best season since 2010-11.  In addition to those numbers, his presence outside the arc usually forced other teams to send one of their big men outside as well, clearing the lane for Goran Dragi? and Eric Bledsoe to get to the rim.  He was the perfect compliment to a line-up featuring two slashing All-Star quality guards.

              But in the second half of the season, Frye's offensive production dropped significantly.  His FG% fell from 44.9 to 39.8 and his 3PT% collapsed to 31.5 from 39.9.  His "hot" games were becoming fewer and farther between.  And it's probably no accident that he saw his minutes per game go down from 28.7 to 27.4, while Markieff Morris saw his go up from 25.0 to 29.1.  It became clear which player Jeff Hornacek saw as his finisher at the power forward spot.

              To be fair to Frye, he had spent the 12 months prior to the season doing no physical activity other than yoga, walking and golf.  He took his body from zero to NBA season in a month.  The likelihood of maintaining that early season production was always in doubt.  But as a player, you're only as good as what you produce on the court and that production suffered in the second half of the season.

              For what it's worth, I wouldn't mind seeing Channing Frye retire as a Phoenix Sun.  He's got an almost unparalleled Phoenix/Arizona pedigree and I think he embodies the spirit of the Suns' organization.  Being on the other side of 30, he'll have to accept a smaller contract to make it happen and I think it's doable.  Or maybe I'm just soft for a Phoenix guy and the inevitably cold business of the NBA will send him off to Milwaukee or Charlotte or some other NBA purgatory.  Regardless of his next contract, Channing still has a player option for one more year left on his current one.  The choice to remain a Phoenix Sun is his for the moment.

              Channing Frye had a surprisingly solid if inconsistent return to the Phoenix Suns this year.  He provided stability in a line-up that saw its two best players come and go over the course of the last 82 games.  He was a veteran leader on a young team that went from playing over its head to playing under the weight of growing expectations.  It was a good year for the Phoenix Suns and their walking metaphor.  Here's hoping they can continue to flourish together.

              Grade: B

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