For the first time all tournament, Gortat's teammates played well and made their jumpers. Without that, Poland had struggled with teams packing the paint to defend the bigs.
Slovenia, already moving forward to the next round, came out flat. Goran Dragic had only 9 points against 0 assists (after averaging 15 and 6.3 coming in).
Slovenia plays Italy in the next round on Thursday, while Gortat rests his foot until training camp for the Suns.
In part one there was some significance to the numbers 0-9 for the Phoenix Suns this season. Numbers do not win or end arguments, but add value to a point and with them on their own anyone can interrupt them how they deem fitting for the team.
This season there are a few numbers that may define the team before the opening tip against the Trail Blazers right before Halloween.
A lot of the numbers might induce fear and be a bit of a fright. What do the numbers say about the team in respect to their shooting ability? Or their team age? Where should the over/under be set for the team? What are the odds they break through and win the west or even the NBA Championship?
Let's paint by numbers:
24.7 Team Composite Age
The Suns are not the youngest team in the NBA, but in that bottom third as they try and inject youth into the roster while rebuilding. It is not about how many young players you have on the roster. It is easy to log-jam the depth chart with kids, it is more about their position on the roster. The Suns have, and most would agree with this statement, the core of their future all under 25 years old today. With the Morris Twins (24), Eric Bledsoe (23), Alex Len (20), and Archie Goodwin (19) the team has four players that are young, talented, and in some capacity are going to determine the future of the team going forward.
The Pelicans have found a wealth of young talent that they are building around in Anthony Davis (20), Al-Farouq Aminu (22), Tyreke Evans (23), Jrue Holiday (23), Eric Gordon (24), and Ryan Anderson (25) with a promising future. Same for the Cavaliers with Kyrie Irving (21), Dion Waiters (21), Tristan Thompson (22), and other supporting pieces like 2013 No. 1 Overall Pick Anthony Bennett (19), Sergey Karasev (19), and Tyler Zeller (23). They have promise with proven talent in Irving and Davis, which is the one element that the Suns have not quiet found.
Youth does not always equal winning and success. The average age of the 16 playoff teams in 2013 was 27.1 years old. There were young teams that found transcendent talent that would not be defined by age, but for the most part it is a process of gathering youth, shaping it, and then focusing it on winning the ultimate prize.
The Suns are in the gathering stage.
26.07 Composite Three-Point Shooting (33.19 Minus Non-Three-Point Shooters)
Either way, both of those percentages would be good for worst in the NBA based on last year's team three-point percentages. The Minnesota Timberwolves shot 30.5% from three as a team which would be otherworldly compared to shooting under 30% that the Suns could easily end up shooting.
Only four teams since the turn of the century have shot the ball under 30% from three for a season from the 2000-2001 Golden State Warriors (29.3%), to the 2001-2002 Philadelphia76ers (29.9%), the 2002-2003 Denver Nuggets (27.8%), and most recently, the 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats (29.5%). The Suns could join that morose and dejected group.
Those percentages are skewed to an extent with the big men on the roster with their lack of shooting acumen. Taking the forwards and centers out of the equation and focusing on the nine perimeter players that will take the bulk of the perimeter shots, and well, the numbers are a touch better.
As a collective unit the perimeter has a composite career three-point shooting percentage of 31.48% with Gerald Green, 35.1%, being the closest thing to a marksman.
No player on the roster is a known three-point shooter. Goran Dragic (35.0%) and Eric Bledsoe (30.8%) are elusive play-makers that excel in transition or attacking the rim. Neither are shooters, much like the passing and play-making specialist Kendall Marshall (31.4%). Those three will have the ball in their hands to make plays every night. They will be setting up the wings like Shannon Brown (33.2%), Gerald Green (35.1%), P.J. Tucker (31.4%), and Archie Goodwin (26.6%).
With this generation there are very few natural big men as most drift out to the perimeter and want to shoot the ball like the guards. The Suns have a few of those in Channing Frye (39.0%), Markieff Morris (34.1%), and Marcus Morris (35.2%) as big men capable of stepping out and hitting jump shots.
Those three shot the ball better than the perimeter group at 36.1% as a collective unit. The Suns will not be a team that relies on the long-ball in 2013-2014, but minimizing that weakness will be a key to being a competitive team.
26.6 Composite Wins (22.9 Minus Channing Frye)
You heard it here first. If the over/under for the Phoenix Suns is set at 26.5 then you better take the over because they are going to with 26 games and get credit for two thirds of another this season.
Then again, if Frye is not 100% or playing a full 82 games at the level of play he can play at then this team is much different.
Odds are that the Suns are going to struggle and that means a minimal amount of wins. Finishing in the neighborhood of 22-26 wins is likely good enough to be in a position to repeat as the worst team in the west (25 wins) again and close to the worst team in the NBA (20 wins) leading up to the most anticipated NBA Draft Lottery in 11 years.
Coming into last season the writing was on the wall for the Suns to be at the bottom of the standings. Their composite Win Shares coming into the season was 28.0 (add in Marshall at it was closer to 32.5) which was only off by three games. Imagine that. If the window is three wins off the Suns window should be between 19.9-29.6 wins this season.
Take that for what it is worth.
125/1 Odds To Win The Western Conference
Speaking of odds, this should not come as a shock, but they are not in the favor of the Suns this year. They have the lowest odds to win the west and, by quite a margin, they are expected to be the worst team in the conference.
That means that one thing is for certain and that is that the odds makers are confident the Suns are the worst team in the west by a long, wide gap. As certain as they are in where the Suns are positioned in the grand scheme of things, the complex and interchangeable moving pieces at the bottom with the Suns are completely up in the air. There are six teams that could be in that fold either showing the various levels of parity or that there are that many bad teams and no certainty on where they will finish.
300/1 Odds To Win The Championship
The odds remain low, but they are better considering the Suns are not at the bottom of this category. Rightfully so. This season the realistic nature of the Suns winning a Championship is on par with the Michael Sorrentino winning a humanitarian award.
"We can change all that," Channing Frye told BSOTS exclusively. "If we continue to grow, I see guys in there working hard, I don't want to put limits on us."
Internally the team seems to have a pulse on what this year is going to be like, but they are also a competitive unit that is not trying to lose games. Right now they may not have the talent core to chase championships, that is what re-building means, but the team as a whole are not going to roll over and let the rest of the league tickle their belly.
Today the odds and numbers are not in the Suns favor, but they are surviving today to be great, once again, tomorrow and beyond.
Record: 17-13 (7-2)
Place In Standings: Third (+2.5 on Seattle)
Points Per Game: 80.8 (78.2)
Points Against: 81.1 (72.7)
The Phoenix Mercury have quietly gelled together and built themselves up as a legitimate team. For most of the season they were a cast of individuals trying to figure things out, but until the past 6-8 games they did not get it.
Now the Mercury are in the playoffs after knocking off the San Antonio Silver Stars and they have four more games to continue the momentum. After missing the playoffs last year due to a combination of injuries and poor circumstances they are back in the mix. This season's struggles have been well documented, but there is something to how the team has weathered the storm and continued to move forward.
It is more common for a team (or an individual) to fold up the tent and go home when things get tough. This season things have been tough.
After being home for the past 18 days playing a few victorious home games they hit the road for four of the final five games. It is another challenge and one where the team can take with a nonchalant attitude if they wanted to, but again, it is another challenge for a team that has taken them on head first all season. For a team dubbed as a "Super Team" or an "All-Star Team" at the start of the season the Mercury are starting to come around full circle to that initial adulation.
All season the Mercury have been looking for the right combination of Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. Or Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner. It has been a struggle from the beginning all the way till recently, with a few changes, and the team has been able to find a system that works for them, although it is not as simple as a dynamic duo.
Over the past three games the Mercury have found a rhythm with a quartet.
Taurasi is no doubt the star. She is the fifth leading scorer of all time and on a per game level is the second best scorer of all-time. Over the past three games she has scored 17.3 points per game and paced the offense with being the go-to scorer and the teams main (only) facilitator. Along with that production Bonner (13.3 PPG), Griner (13 PPG), and Dupree (18.3 PPG) have been what the team was missing early in the season.
No body is worried about stepping on toes or hurting feelings. Taurasi stirs the drink, but it is a much more complex cocktail than a few months ago. The different flavors and combination's have made this a more diverse and complex team. They are not a one trick pony with a bevy of talented, but timid stars.
They are becoming a team at the right time building momentum, finding themselves, and gearing up for the real season.
Minnesota Lynx: 24-7 Clinched (three games remaining)
Los Angeles Sparks: 22-10 Clinched (two games remaining)
Phoenix Mercury: 17-13 Clinched (four games remaining)
Seattle Storm: 15-16 Clinched (three games remaining)
The Mercury still have some work to do for the third seed to be all theirs, but right now they are playing well, in a rhythm, and have won eight of their last eleven games. Since bringing Russ Pennell on board the team is playing a better brand of defense and are still trying to find themselves on the offensive end.
If the playoffs started today then the Mercury would head to Los Angeles to start things off. There is one more match-up against the Sparks, but thus far this season they are the only playoff team they have a winning record against.
In three games against the Sparks the Mercury are 2-1 with 18 made threes and two of their more impressive performances this season. The margin of victory was a dead heat as the Mercury won two games by a combined 22 points and lost one game by 22 points. This is surprisingly the most ideal match-up for the Mercury in the playoffs despite how great the Sparks can be. The season ends where the playoffs will begin in a preview, a tune-up, and an opportunity for the Mercury to strike some fear into their playoff counterparts.
Tuesday @ New York Liberty at 4 p.m. AZ Time
Wednesday @ Chicago Sky at 5 p.m. AZ Time
Friday vs. San Antonio Silver Stars at 7 p.m. AZ Time
For one Phoenix Sun, this past week has been a nightmare. But for two others, the experience has been thrilling so far as just might turn into a party at the end.
*all pictures courtesy of fibaeurope.com
After missing nearly four months of play time while recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, Marcin Gortat has seen his lowest national team production in a long time. After leading Poland in last year's qualifying round with 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, Gortat's production has dipped to 8.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in 4 contests, all losses.
Gortat foretold of the pressure early last week, before Poland rolled over.
"Obviously there is a lot of pressure not only on the team, but on my shoulders," Gortat dead-pans.
"I am 100% sure that if we fail, I am going to get all the beatings back home, nobody else, I am going to hear all the complaining.
"I know that, I've realised it a long time ago and I am ready to take the responsibility."
We don't know if it's the foot, or if it's so much time off or what. Eurobasket is full of tough competition, but Jan Vesely was one of those big men who dominated Gortat this past week. That's something rare to happen in the past.
Snapshot of Gortat's profile on eurobasket2013.com (sans today's putrid 2 point, 6 rebound effort):
As you can see, he's been a rebounding machine in recent years and a quality offensive threat. Not so this tournament.
Poland played a couple of games very close, but nonetheless are 0-4 with only one game to play in "pool play". The top 3 of 6 teams in each pool advance to the next round, so Poland is basically out of it already. Such a disappointment may have already reared its head today, as Poland got jackstomped by Spain 89-53.
Best case for the Suns: Gortat gets 3 weeks to heal further, work out and prepare for the long NBA season before training camp starts.
Best case for Gortat is that the extra rest works, and he can find his game again.
Ukraine is 3-0 entering today's game against a very good French team loaded with NBA talent.
A quick glance at Kravtsov's week looks quite similar to prior years.
This scouting report shows how important Kravtsov is to Ukraine. Not quite as important as Dragic and Gortat to their teams, but important nonetheless.
Slava Kravtsov is team Ukraine's only active NBA player who, after being benched by the Detroit Pistons for most of 2012/13 season, is hungry for game action and is expected to have a breakthrough campaign under coach Fratello and use the momentum in the NBA. Kravtsov is Ukraine's most athletic big man, who can run the floor and finish in transition. He is also an intimidating force on defence, as his help side shot-blocking ability will provide Fratello's team with several igniting defensive stops-per-game. EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia is, as for the majority of the players, going to be Kravtsov's third straight summer coached by the Czar.
It looks like Ukraine will move on to the next round of games in Slovenia, and it will be interesting to see how Kravtsov's production continues. He's been alternately very good (4 blocks in one game, 15 and 8 in another) and very pedestrian (6 and 1).
Clearly, the Phoenix Sun having the most fun this week has to Goran Dragic. Not only is he having statistically his best international tournament ever, but he's been able to meet - and even exceed - expectations of his country to boot. No one is under more local pressure than Goran Dragic, whose country of only 2 million people are hosting the tournament.
Dragic has hit game-winners, had game-changing runs and led his team in just about every statistical category in 3 games to date.
Take a look at his numbers, specifically the assists, compared to the rest of the field THIS year, and compared to his stats in prior tournaments.
With former Euroleague MVP and Slovenian legend Jaka Lakovic fading into the sunset, Dragic has finally taken over the reins of the Slovenian squad full time while Lakovic plays backup minutes and/or the shooting position on the wing while Dragic handles the ball.
Slovenia is already 3-0, with a win over Group-mate and mighty Spain, so they appear to be a lock for Round 2 no matter what happens in their last 2 "pool" games against Croatia (2-1) and Poland (0-4).
A win over Croatia today would clinch a spot in Round 2.
In what might be Marcin Gortat's swan song for Eurobasket 2013, Poland faces Slovenia in the final game of pool play tomorrow. The likeliest outcome has Gortat taking the next three weeks off, while Dragic fights onward for a medal.