One of the most problematic aspects of the Phoenix Suns so far this season has been the inability of the bench to hold onto leads, much less create or expand them, when Steve Nash and the starters are rested. At the crux of this issue has been the point guard play, specifically, with back up point-guards Sebastian Telfair and Ronnie Price struggling to lead the offense and execute plays.
The inability of the Suns' second unit to establish a rhythm and maintain the flow that the starters set in motion has already cost the Suns several games, and even led to our own Alex Laugan to coin the "2nd Quarter Rule" based on this very problem, in which he proposed that the Suns chances of winning or losing a game could actually be predicted with 90% accuracy by whether or not they won the second quarter when the bench plays most of the minutes.
This issue has led many fans to cringe when Nash leaves the floor, and call for Alvin Gentry to put Nash back in as soon as either Telfair or Price make a mistake. But what if the problem was that the second unit hasn't been given enough time on the floor or trust to work through the problems? Well according to an article from Paul Coro of the AZ Republic, Sebastian Telfair apparently believes just that.
Read on after the jump for more...
In the article, Sebastian Telfair explains why he thinks the Suns' struggled in the first half of the season.
"I think there should've been more put on us in the first half of the season. We should've been used more. We're going to win or lose a lot of games with the second unit."
At face value, this seems to make sense. After all, the bench unit this season is comprised of mostly new players to the Suns who did not have much of a training camp to work together or establish any kind of continuity before being thrown to the sharks. Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price, Shannon Brown, Michael Redd, and Markieff Morris are all new to this system, with only Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, and Josh Childress having experience working together.
But how can head coach Alvin Gentry justify giving more minutes to a unit who is struggling so mightily, when the team is fighting to win each and every game for a chance just to qualify for the last spot in the playoffs? It's a catch-22. Plus, does Telfair's assertion really explain all of the troubles the second unit is having? Doubtful.
Sebastian then went on to explain some of what he thinks are the causes of the second unit's struggles thus far.
"When we struggle offensively is when we get scored on defensively. When we come down and run set plays every time, that doesn't work for the second unit as well as the starters. The key for us is coming out with energy on defense and getting out in transition. That's how the ball is going to get moved. Half-court hasn't worked the first half of the season, and I don't think it's going to work in the second half. Defense is the key."
This observation also seems to have some merit as it appears that the strength of the second unit is its athleticism, speed, and youth compared to the starters; and since they have not had the time to gel as a unit, they are more effective on the break and in transition than they are in a traditional half-court set.
So what should be done? Well, for the time being the Suns appear to be on a roll starting the second half of the season with two impressive wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and the L.A. Clippers, despite the continued poor performance of the bench.
Going by the old saying if it ain't broke, don't fix it, it probably wouldn't be the best time for Gentry to force the issue with the second unit in an attempt to overcome their problems. But if the Suns' really do plan on competing for a playoff spot this season, it's an issue that simply cannot be ignored much longer. With the trade deadline fast approaching, the Suns will have to make a decision of whether or not to make a move in an attempt to improve their roster, or stick it out until the off-season with what they already have.
One thing's for sure, what was once a strength for the Suns over the past couple of seasons is now one of their biggest weaknesses, and something will have to change regarding the lack of productivity from the second unit if the Suns are serious about saving the season.