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Per Paul Coro of azcentral.com and the Arizona Republic, backup center Jermaine O'Neal will miss time to be with his daughter while she has heart surgery.

Asjia will undergo surgery to repair a leaky heart valve Wednesday in Boston. O'Neal already feels guilty that he will miss her pre-operation hospital routine while he has one last Suns practice Tuesday.

He told his teammates that he will miss three games but his return will be up to his daughter, just as she and his son, Jermaine Jr., will decide whether he returns for an 18th season next year. O'Neal said Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter asked him about playing two more seasons.

O'Neal has been playing his best basketball in years lately, all while knowing his daughter was scheduled to go under the knife soon. He's just been trying to get it all in before taking time off to be with her.

Without O'Neal, the Suns will have to play Marcin Gortat more minutes and slide Markieff Morris and Luis Scola into the pivot more often.

The Suns may also get a chance to play deadline day acquisition Hamed Haddadi, who has not played live NBA basketball in months. He was traded to Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade in January but never joined the team due to visa issues.

Now, he might get a chance to play against Toronto, the Suns next opponent.

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For the first time in a calendar week the Phoenix Suns (20-39) were undefeated. They did not lose a single game beating two playoff teams including the best team in the NBA to go 3-0 for the week. It did not start off too pretty with a callously visual win in overtime over Minnesota, but that is the style they are trying to imprint on the franchise.

Game Recaps

vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - W (84-83 OT)

@ San Antonio Spurs - W (105-101 OT)

vs. Atlanta Hawks - W (92-87)

The transition to becoming more of a defensive team has been tough at times, but having the flexibility of a deep roster has allowed interim head coach Lindsey Hunter more rope to play with. He is not handicapped with a star or two that are allotted minutes based on status. If someone is not playing well, he is headed to the bench. Of course it is nice to have a star and that is the goal going forward to find one, but for now this is about the development of future role players and the rotation.

With Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Wesley Johnson, and Jermaine O'Neal on the bench there are four players ready and able to come in when someone else is not getting the job done.

None of those players are stars, that much is obvious, but they help maximize effort on the court. If Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, or Marcin Gortat are not getting the job done there is someone teething at the mouth to get into the game and take those minutes. Nobody's minutes are guaranteed or promised to them. Other than Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker, nobody on this team has been consistent enough to earn that right. When you are 19 games under .500, no single player has earned 40 minutes a night.

This past week when Michael Beasley and Gortat were not performing, in came Johnson, the Morris Twins, and O'Neal. They played great and should continue to push the starters to play better, or weed out those who do not belong here.

Key Stat

0.909

One of the most impressive factors this week was that the Suns defense allowed 0.91 points per possession meaning they were in the trenches, fighting and clawing on the defensive end to limit these teams as much as possible. Forcing turnovers, finishing off possessions with rebounds, and playing the entire shot clock defensively has been paying dividends for the Suns over the past week.

The Highs

Every team the Suns beat this week was better (based on winning percentage) than them. Every team the Suns beat this week were held to at least four points below their season averages in scoring. Three wins and zero losses is enough of a high for a fleeting team, there is no need for a specific moment.

The Lows

What does three wins in a week where the team easily could have lost all three games mean? Well, it means that they go from potentially 17-42 and the third best odds in the lottery to 20-39, tied for sixth. There is nothing wrong with winning games, that is the job of a professional sports team, but in this case it hurts the teams odds in the lottery. It is still a lottery so any position 1-14 can win, but the odds are the odds. More on that as the season progresses.

Injury Report

One of the lower moments of the week was when Goran Dragic tried to initiate contact with Jeff Teague on a fast-break play and missed everything except the hardwood floor. He got up and went to the locker room where the x-rays were negative. This happened earlier in the season and cost Dragic a game, if it is a similar type of injury expect the same time off, but with four days off he may be ready to go on Wednesday as Sebastian Telfair comes to town.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • A+ for Goran Dragic: In the win over the Hawks Dragic took another big hit on his lower back after he lost control mid-air on a fast break. In three games against quality point guards he either out-played them or played number for number with them.
  • A+ for for Jermaine O'Neal: He is playing in a manner that is translucent to the defensive style that the Suns are looking to do going forward. This past week, he averaged 14.7 PPG and 10.3 RPG as he has become the teams go to big man.
  • D+ for Marcin Gortat: In three games, Gortat averaged 0.28 rebounds per minute. The starting center is averaging fewer rebounds per game over the past eight games than the back-up center on his own team.

Player of the Week:

Wesley Johnson - 12.3 PPG 5.7 RPG 1.0 APG 44.1 FG%

Aside from the big three he hit in San Antonio to force overtime, Johnson had a very good week on both ends of the floor. He didn't score big or have the statistical week that some others had, but he was great off of the bench. With the recent benching of Shannon Brown the bench has lacked a spark on the offensive end, and that is what Johnson has provided, while playing very solid defense against the opposing teams top scorers.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, March 6th vs. Toronto Raptors (23-35)

Friday, March 8th @ Sacramento Kings (20-39)

Saturday, March 9th vs. Houston Rockets (31-28)

The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is as much about the business of sports as it is the playing of sports. For every panel expounding the newest statistics or and spatial analyses, there are...

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1. Jermaine O'Neal:

Weekly Average: 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks in 27 minutes of play

Jermaine O'Neal gets the top spot this week after another incredible stretch of games, including a phenomenal game against San Antonio in which he racked up 22 points and 13 rebounds, most of which were in the crucial minutes of the 4th quarter and in OT that almost single-handedly gave Phoenix the victory. O'Neal was more productive per minute this week than any other player on the team, and the most efficient as well going 17/30 from the field, and 10/10 from the line.

2. Goran Dragic

Weekly Average: 14 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steals in 36 minutes of play

Dragic had another very good week statistically, and although he didn't quite average a double-double for points and assists as he had the prior couple, he was still right there. Dragic should be the best player on the team every week, and he would have been once again if not for an incredible showing from O'Neal.

3. Wesley Johnson

Weekly Average: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist in 27 minutes of play

Smilin' Wes has officially arrived! Johnson has emerged as the spot up three-point threat that the Suns have been missing all season. He has shown the scoring ability from deep and the defensive prowess that earned him the #4 pick in the draft just a few tears ago. Not only that, he has proven to be a very adept rebounder and has even scored some of his baskets by creating off the dribble; to the surprise of many who had witnessed him struggle with his ball-handling over the past few seasons. If Wes can keep this up, the Suns may want to offer him a brand new contract this off-season.

4. Luis Scola

Weekly Average: 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assist in 19 minutes of play

Scola seems to be adjusting to his new role on the team, which has been slightly reduced with the increased minutes for Markieff, as well as sharing some time with Beasley and Marcus as well. Still, Scola has been nothing if not consistent in what he brings to the team. Although his numbers were down slightly this week, he is one of the few players you can bank on night in and night out.

5. Marcus Morris

Weekly Average: 9 points, 3 rebounds in 17 minutes of play

Although Marcus barely knows the plays at this point, he has already stepped in and produced while registering significant minutes in the last two games. Marcus went 9/17 for the week including 5/8 from three and 4/6 from the line. Marcus outplayed Keef in terms of production and efficiency in his first full week as a Sun. Let's hope the brothers push each other to improve even more.

6. Markieff Morris

Weekly Average: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 27 minutes of play

Markieff has stepped up his game since the arrival of his twin, and is playing more productively as well. Keef went 14/30 from the field overall this week, which is much more efficient than he's been playing in the past. His three-point attempts are also down. he only registered five shots from beyond the arc this week and he made two of them, so hopefully this is a sign that he is becoming more aware of what his bread and butter should be. One area I would really like to see him improve upon though is his rebounding.

7. Marcin Gortat

Weekly Average: 8 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block in 26 minutes of play

Gortat simply hasn't been himself lately. Despite posting respectable numbers from the week, his averages were inflated by one good game scoring wise (14 points against the T-Wolves), and one good game rebounding wise (15 rbs vs. the Spurs). But overall, he has been very inconsistent in both production and efficiency. Gortat went only 9/29 from the field for the week, and only 5/10 from the line as well. Marcin has been struggling despite getting plenty of minutes to find his rhythm, and at times just doesn't seem engaged in the game.

8. P.J. Tucker

Weekly Average: 4 points, 6 rebounds in 20 minutes of play

Tucker found his minutes reduced a bit this week with the emergence of Smilin' Wes at SG, and also the arrival of Marcus at SF. Still, Tucker finds a way to impact the game even without registering much on the stat sheet, which is why he has remained in the starting line-up to this point...although this could still certainly change in the future.

9. Kendall Marshall

Weekly Average: 3 points, 3 assists in 14 minutes of play

While Marshall certainly has a long way to go, he isn't doing things to hurt the team when he's out there and is proving to be more that capable of running an NBA offense. Not only that, for all of the concern over his lack of scoring, he did manage to shoot 4/10 from the field which certainly isn't the worst percentage on the team, and he seems to be getting more comfortable in taking the open shot when it presents itself.

10. Michael Beasley

Weekly Average: 3 points, 1 rebounds, 1 assists in 13 minutes of play

Beasley barely sneaks in to the top 10 list this week just edging out Jared Dudley who was slightly less productive and less efficient from the field despite playing more minutes. Beasley didn't have a good week at all, going 5/14 from the field...but it was still better than Dudz who shot a terrible 6/19 while doing little else to help the team despite averaging over 20 minutes this week. I wouldn't count on Dudley playing this poorly again, but unfortunately, it seems that Beas has regressed back into his earlier self with his poor shot selection and turnovers. Fortunately, Lindsey Hunter has plenty of wings to help take his minutes if he continues to slide.

So there you have it. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!

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The big issue with the use of a analytics is to translate a mountain of data into something usable in a real-time environment by the coaching staff.

Sixers coach Doug Collins is among the still-large contingent of heavy skeptics, preferring to manage the game and the players his own way to get the best out of them. Though analytics scream from the hilltops that 3-pointers, layups and dunks are the most efficient scoring opportunities for an offense, coaches like Collins have to apply that to their current roster of players. Just how efficient can your offense be if your wings can't MAKE the 3-pointers, and your bigs can't beat the defense to the rim?

Another example: data analysis tells you that a player A has a really poor shooting percentage in a certain area of the court. Easy solution: tell player A to stop taking that shot.

Sounds easy, but it might not be so easy in real life. A coach has to play five guys at the same time, and get them to think about the best way for the whole team to score every time. A coach also has to teach his players to react to the defense, get the ball to the right person and allow that person to make a play.

Sure, the offense can be designed away from player A taking that terrible shot, but what if the defense knows their best chance to get a stop is to entice player A into taking that shot? What if player A is only taking it when the offensive possession is down to Plan C and there's only 5 seconds left on the clock?

Alternately, it matters not that you design an offensive play to generate an open three or a cutter to the basket if the players you have can't finish the play a majority of the time.

Having said all that, I have to admit I'm a stat geek. I love data. The more the better.

But what I love more than anything else is to put that data into usable context, and to communicate that data to laymen in a way that they can use and understand it. I've made an entire career and garnered many promotions over the years thanks to that unique skill. Bosses love it. Users love it. Geeks love it.

So I can understand when the ESPN Truehoop guys wrap up the MIT Sloan session with one collective outcome: the problem is no longer about gathering data. The problem now is about translating that data into a usable manner by coaches who have to apply it in real time.

It's about having someone on your staff who can understand the mountain of data created off of 360-degree cameras that record every second of every play. It's about turning that data into information, and turning that information into applicable solutions.

It's about developing a working relationship between the stat geeks and the coaches, to work through all the scenarios of option A, option B and option C of plays, both on offense and defense to get the best possible results from the current roster. It's about providing the coaches with something they can use every day to help them make the right decisions.

It's about providing the front office with the missing skillset that the current roster needs. Given the collective skillsets of the guys under contract for next season, which ones are unnecessarily duplicated and which ones are truly missing? And, if that skillset was inserted into the mix, what else is lost because of the player they replaced?

And, to what degree are we comfortable with this analysis? Building a roster isn't just about getting the most skilled players. It's also about finding a good mix of skills, that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

From the Suns point of view, if you insert a P.J. Tucker type (all defense, little offense, best at o-rebounding and putbacks) into the lineup in place of a Jared Dudley type (average defense, limited offense, best at open threes and midrange jumpers), you know on the surface what you gain.

Is one guy better than the other? Depends on the situation: who are the other 4 guys on the floor? Who's on the floor for the other team? What's the score? What were the other 9 guys doing while Tucker and Dudley were going their thing?

All these things, and more, come into play when making decisions. Data can help here. Data can analyze all the situations in which each player has played, whose been on the floor and such. It's not just +/-. It's everything that happened around them. If a team can convert that data into some simple conclusions, a coach can use it when making the decision.

The NBA world has solved the data and the information part. The bottleneck is still in the translation to the players, coaches and basketball front office folks.

Make it simple. Make it usable.

Links

Valley of the Suns talks about a new tool to assess players' health and endurance

ESPN's day two wrap

ESPN's day one wrap

Correction from the other day:

The Phoenix Suns have sent representatives to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference for years.

Former Assistant GM David Griffin attended in 2009 (and possibly 2008), while former GM Steve Kerr attended in 2010. Per another former staff member, the Suns sent at least one representative in 2012.

Now they are going "all in" with 6 representatives, covering both the business side and the basketball side.

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