Since the current iteration of the Phoenix Suns is on vacation during these playoffs, we at Bright Side thought it would be fun to relive the Suns' exciting 1993 playoff run with recaps of each game, starting with Game 5 of the Western Semis. Revisit yesteryear while we wait for the Suns to rise again.
After a thrilling come-from-behind first round series win over the Los Angeles Lakers ("and everyone's gonna say what a great series it was"), the Phoenix Suns faced an equally big opponent in the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs had just beaten defending Western Champ Portland Trailblazers in round one, and saw the smaller Suns as their next step on a Finals run of their own.
David Robinson was a beast surrounded by role players that made them greater - and more frustrating - than the sum of their parts (where have I heard this one before). Avery Johnson. Sean Elliot. J.R. Reid. Antoine Carr. Dale Ellis. All good players, but all role players around a Hall of Fame center.
The smaller Suns had led the league in scoring, by a wide margin, and boasted a passable defense (9th in efficiency vs. 18th in points allowed) to win a club record 62 games before the playoffs started.
(again, where have I heard all this before?)
Charles Barkley was the Suns Hall of Famer in 1993, putting up 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game, along with a block for a good measure. Charles had truly an historic season, one that has not been topped in the valley - either in terms of raw stats or raw impact - since. You could argue that Steve Nash made the same, if not bigger, impact (and certainly a more long-lasting one) but Nash never guided the Suns to the Finals and never in the way that Charles did.
The Suns supporting cast was a who's who for Suns fans: PG Kevin Johnson (MIP, 3-time All-Star, 5-time All-NBA). SG/SF Dan Majerle (3-time All-Star, 2-time All-Defensive). F Tom Chambers (4-time All-Star, 2-time All-NBA). Danny Ainge (1-time All-Star). Ced Ceballos (1-time All-Star). Mark West. Oliver Miller. Richard Dumas. Tim Kempton. 4th-quarter Frank Johnson.
Man, that was an exciting team. The Suns painted the town orange that year. Chambers, Kempton and West still work for the Suns to this day. Ceballos was their in-game entertainer for years. Majerle was a TV guy, then coach. Barkley still lives in the valley. In many ways, the 1993 team is still part of the franchise fabric.
Boxscore - courtesy of basketball-reference.com
The Suns returned home for Game 5 after letting the series get tied up 2-2. "It's never very hard to play on the road," shooting guard Danny Ainge quipped. "It's just hard to win on the road."
Feasting on home cooking and a rocking home crowd, the Suns muddled through three tight quarters before Charles Barkley lit up the night with 19 fourth-quarter points, including 16 in a 6-minute stretch. Barkley put the Suns on his back and carried them home when they needed it the most.
Barkley finished the game with 36 points (on 16 shots and 15 free throws) and 12 rebounds. He got great support from Kevin Johnson (15 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds) and Dan Majerle (17 points, 4 rebounds). As a team, the Suns shot 59.7% for the game, a huge improvement over shooting less than 42% in each of the losses in San Antonio.
The crowd was electric. The Suns attendance ranked 5th in the league that year, with every single game sold out and playoff tickets really hard to come by. My dad went to every game and will never forget that series.
Up next: another showdown in the Alamo for Game 6. Could Barkley and the Suns step up on the road?
Our own contributor, Kris Habbas, is also a scout who runs NBADraftInsider.com, one of the best NBA draft and scouting websites in the country.
Tonight, Kris posted the raw measurements of all the top prospects for the draft (except Alex Len). Each year, there's a few guys who measure bigger than people thought they'd be, and a few who drop because of their alligator arms or lack of overall height.
For a shooting guard, it's tough to measure under 6'5" but it does help to have really long arms. Dwyane Wade is only 6'5" but his reach is almost 7'0" which always helped him overcome that deficiency.
The Phoenix Suns, who draft somewhere between #1 overall and #7 overall, must have come away with some new information to add to their databanks that just might shuffle their draft board. They have needed a top-end wing player for a long time, so let's look at how the top wings measured.
Victor Oladipo measured only 6'4.25" in shoes (which, after all, how they play the game). His reach is over 6'9" though, so that should help him at the next level. But still, 6'4" is short for a starting SG in the NBA.
Otto Porter, on the other hand, measured bigger than many expected. He's 6'8.5" in shoes (comparing favorably to Nic Batum) with a reach of over 7'1"! Consider that's a longer reach than many center prospects.
One guy who some are calling this year's Dion Waiters or Damian Lillard, for possibly getting drafted early in the lottery despite being an undersized combo guard, is C.J. McCollum. McCollum is a combo guard who can shoot and handle the ball and pass it.
McCollum, who missed most of last season due to injury, measured at 6'3.25" in shoes with a 6'6" wingspan. His size pushes him to the combo guard, sometime point guard, sometime shooter role in the NBA. If he can run a team, he could be a star (Lillard). But if he can't, he would be more like Leandro Barbosa or Dion Waiters.
Either way, given the dearth of star power in this draft, it's possible that McCollum could shoot all the way into the Suns drafting range.
Check out the measurements on Kris' website right now. Kris will be providing his own (real-er) analysis soon.
Athletic testing comes tomorrow, which can help but it also doesn't say a whole lot either. I remember when D.J. Strawberry was the "best athlete at the combine" years ago. Meant nothing.
But all this is just a little more information to add to the databanks. There's a whole lot of analysis that goes on, and video watching, and interviews, and private workouts, and all that jazz.
At the least, we can hope is that this year the Suns don't (a) fall in love with a single player to the detriment of their scouting and (b) don't overdraft someone that could have been drafted later.
Judging Brown based on this season vs. last season
Brown regressed nearly across the board, but most of the regression was fairly minimal. In fact, if Shannon had been able to convert on three point shots at the same rate as last season, there would have been a nearly imperceptible difference. More on that next paragraph. Should a slight decline be expected on a team that experienced a huge drop off? Absolutely. Is it reasonable to expect a 27 year old player to make huge strides on a bad team? I think not.
When I was perusing Brown's stats I did notice something that I could construe as positive. Shannon's three point shooting took a declivitous dive from last year to this year, but his attempts also went down from 4.8 per 36 minutes to 3.6 per 36. The entire team struggled from long range, so I don't put Shannon's decline completely on his shoulders... it was a team failing. Jared Dudley (.391) and Sebastian Telfair (.381), who was traded, were the only players on the team that shot above the league average. Maybe this suggests that Brown actually steered clear of an area where he wasn't as productive? Couple this with an increase in assists and free throw attempts and it suggests that Shannon may have been making smart basketball decisions (Gasp!).
Judging Brown compared to the Suns other shooting guards
This is kind of interesting. With Dudley and Tucker fitting better as SF, but capable of playing the two, the Suns went into the season with the misfit duo of Johnson and Brown expected to cover many of the shooting guard duties. Brown and Wes combined for 2,355 minutes (out of a team 3,961 shooting guard minutes) and 43 starts, which means they comprised a little more than half of the team's output at that position (Dudley covering the majority of the remaining half).
The dynamic duo led to the Suns being one of the worst teams in the NBA at the shooting guard position. Dudley is obviously the cream of this crop, as he was 65th in the league in eFG% and 19th among small forwards and shooting guards combined... and only six of the 18 above him played more minutes. Where does Brown rank? 331st. Which means that if the 330 ahead of him were equally divided between the 30 teams in the league Brown would be the 12th most efficient shooter on some team's roster. Ouch.
Ironically, Wesley Johnson (who turns 26 this summer) was given a larger portion of the shooting guard minutes in the second half of the season, but he was just as bad as Brown. The players rank Dudley first, Tucker second and Brown and Johnson tied for worst.
Judging Brown compared to league shooting guards
Ranking in terms of 98 shooting guards in the league. All statistics taken from Basketball-Reference.com.
65th in eFG%.
68th in WS/48.
31st in points per 36.
39th in rebounds per 36.
54th in assists per 36.
21st in steals per 36.
Brown is a borderline backup shooting guard. Many of his categories lend credence to his ability to fill such a role, but his inefficiency as a scorer, combined with the fact that he takes lots of shots, push him to the brink. If you want one of the worst backup shooting guards in the league then Shannon is your man.
Overall Grade: D
Shannon Brown is not a good basketball player. The Suns would be much better off giving his minutes to a young player with even a hint of potential (not Wesley Johnson) or a free agent upgrade. Then again, if the Suns plan on participating in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes... then Brown would be a perfect complement to a bottom of the barrel roster. My guess is, speaking of barrels of a different type, that the "Cannon" has fired his last shot as a Phoenix Sun.