Jeff Hornacek, Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker discuss why the Suns haven't been getting the job done on the defensive end over their last five games.

The last five games haven't been what the Phoenix Suns strive for on the defensive end.

On the season Phoenix is tied for 14th in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) at 103.5, one full point behind the 12th rated team and .6 in front of the 16th.

In this recent stretch the Suns are allowing 113 points per 100 possessions. The worst defensive rating over the whole season in the NBA is the Jazz at 107.2.

This chart breaks down how opponents are shooting in particular areas against the Suns compared to the numbers they've allowed through the entire 59 games.


Phoenix's defense has regressed across the five games in every shooting area outlined.  There isn't any significant difference in attempts, but the little over eight-percent improvement in the restricted area is a huge concern considering the volume of shots taken.

When discussing the struggles from a big picture perspective, head coach Jeff Hornacek was quick to point out attention to detail.

"There are all little things," said Coach Hornacek after practice on Monday.  "It doesn't happen time and time again, but it's a little thing here, a little thing there.  Our emphasis with these guys is every play matters.  Every little rotation whether you don't think it's a big deal to be three feet over to the side on the weak side, it is a big deal."

Suns forward Channing Frye also harped on how they've been getting away from their team defensive concepts.

"I think we have to focus in and take an individual challenge for each play knowing what our job is and go do it," said Frye.  "I think sometimes we get so much pride in stopping our man that we have to do multiple things.  I think the trust needs to come back.  We need to trust each other that we're going to have each others back and we're gonna do what we've been asked to do by the coaches."

When specifically examining why the interior defense has dropped the play of Miles Plumlee on the defensive end has been a big reason.

Hornacek cut his minutes from 26 minutes per game to 19.1 in the last five to go with more successful smaller looks using Markieff Morris at the five.

With Plumlee on the court this season Phoenix has allowed 35.4% of opponents shots to come in the restricted area with a 59.4% rate of success.

During the recent slump when Plumlee is seeing action the Suns allow 44.2% of opponents attempts to come in the restricted area with a 70.8% rate of success.

"I tried to tell Miles today it's not always to block the shot," explained Hornacek.  "If you're just in the right position, there a little earlier you don't even have to block the shot. You will be in the way and they will throw it out someone else.   I think he's gotten into a part of the season where he's just trying to time it to block shots, you can't time it to block shots."

Another issues that's been popping up is the lack of transition defense.   Phoenix is giving up 4.2 more fastbreak points per game despite turning the ball over at slightly lower rate (.3).  Allowing easy buckets early in the shot clock off live ball turnovers is one thing, but the problem concerning the Suns is off of made and missed baskets.

"We're not talking to each other sometimes," said Frye regarding the poor transition D.  "It comes down to my man is over there, but the ball is over here and then they run to their man.   It happens a lot and we've been addressing it.  It's something we're going to continue to work on.  It just comes down to communicating; we love talking to each other except when that happens.  When we communicate things work out."

Suns forward P.J. Tucker expanded on the problems with the transition defense.

"It's that communication," explained Tucker echoing Frye's comments.  "When Goran drives Gerald has to remember he has to get back and can't offensive rebound.   When we go on the break and Miles is last he should stay back and not go all the way in because they'll take the ball out and throw it to get a layup.  It's just really simple little things that we gotta clean up."

Eric Bledsoe's return should help stem some of the issues.  Having him re-join the starting lineup and pushing Green back to a bench role will give the starting a unit another plus defender that has the ability to cut off dribble penetration.

While the competition over this five game stretch hasn't been a walkover, two top 10 ORtg teams, two tied for 11th and one ranked 23rd, the upcoming schedule doesn't leave much time to get the problems straightened out.   The Suns next four games feature two against the Clippers, one verses the Thunder and the fourth is opposite the Warriors (not as good offensively as you would think).

With the Grizzlies only 1.5 games behind the Suns and Mavericks in the Western Conference playoff race Phoenix's first playoff appearance since 2009-2010 is far from a formality.  If the Suns aren't able to push the defense back to the borderline top 10 group they were earlier in the season they could finish the regular season on the outside looking in.

All stats in this story are credited to

Recapping the week that was, reviewing the news & notes, taking a look at Suns history, updating the 2014 NBA Draft Watch, and previewing the week ahead... Welcome to the Center of the Sun.

This week Sreeker Jashti, formerly known as Richard Parker, got to write the headline "Love Conquers All" and it seemed like the beginning of the end of the Miracle Phoenix Suns (34-24) season. Then, Goran Dragic caused a scene at U.S. Airways Center that created a chant that the WWE would appreciate.

Game Recaps

vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - L (110-101) Full Recap

@ Utah Jazz - L (109-86) Full Recap

vs. New Orleans Pelicans - W (116-104) Full Recap

vs. Atlanta Hawks - W/L (129-120) Full Recap

Dragic went from loveable reserve. not unlike the resent ascension of Daniel Bryan in the WWE, but instead of chants of "YES! YES! YES!" Dragic is earning local chants of "MVP! MVP!! MVP!!!"

The 40 points were great for Dragic individually and fueled a Suns win to end a two game losing streak. That is something that gets lost in the narrative of the season, Dragic as an MVP Candidate, and the Suns as a team overall. When a good team falls down on their luck typically they turn to their star, if they have one, and ride them to get back on track. When the Suns do that with Dragic it is a "nice moment and a career-high" for the former dynamic reserve getting to start here because Steve Nash left.


Although Dragic may not be LeBron James or Kevin Durant, he is one of the best guards in the game today having a career year. Not a career night every now and then. A career year.

Without Dragic playing at this level the Suns could easily be a lottery team. They would be the team everyone predicted and expected in the pre-season. Instead he has risen his game to an All-NBA Level which has also helped elevate Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green, Eric Bledsoe, and Channing Frye this year. He is impacting the game in every way and can take his game to the next level when need be.

That is a star player ladies and gentlemen.

Key Stat


Two losses to begin the week: 93.5 points per game.

Two wins to end the week: 122.5 points per game.

Nuff said... Cue the MVP Chants, please.

Quote of the Week

"It was great. I never imagined they would cheer that for me. I heard that when I was here with Steve and they were cheering that for Steve. It is a great feeling especially with those last four free throws when the whole crowd stood up and cheered. It is something special in my career that I will remember my whole life. Great memories." -- Dragic on the MVP Chants

2014 NBA Draft Update

Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, none of which are in the lottery. A slight change of pace from pre-season projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:

Minnesota Timberwolves (28-29) -- No. 13 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) Kentucky Freshman Wing, James Young --

Washington Wizards (31-28) -- No. 18 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Arizona Freshman Wing, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson -- Adding a young athletic wing to the roster that can defend and has shown flashes of being a good scorer around the rim. RHJ has a lot of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, minus the broken jump-shot.

Phoenix Suns (35-24) -- No. 21 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Swiss Forward, Clint Capela -- Along theme of athleticism, the Swiss forward is built like Kevin Durant and has shown flashes of being a quality inside-out player on both ends of the floor.

Indiana Pacers (46-13) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections)  Michigan Sophomore Forward, Glenn Robinson III -- With two projects added in the draft already this is an opportunity to add a role player that can step in and play pretty much right away. GR3 has the potential to shoot the ball, rebound, and play both forward spots at the next level.

Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.

News & Notes

  • Records: 79 first half points (NBA 2014 Season Record), 29 assists (Suns Season High), 129 points (Suns Season High), and 15 made three-pointers (Suns Season High, Tied)
  • Goran Dragic sets another career-high with 40 points
  • No update on Eric Bledsoe

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Tuesday, March 4th vs. Los Angeles Clippers (41-20)

Thursday, March 6th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-15)

Sunday, March 9th @ Golden State Warriors (36-24)

Well, the Suns did the best they could against four teams under .500 with their star missing one game, but this week it is time to run the gauntlet.

Having said that the Suns are 3-2 on the season collectively against their future playoff foes.

Early in the season the Thunder gave the Suns their first loss of the season behind 54 points from the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That duo will not be on the court together this time, but that is not something get excited for considering the way that Durant has been playing this season. Dragic is in the conversation as an MVP Candidate, but that conversation begins with Durant and goes on for a few hours before you get to The Dragon.

Having a night off before hosting both the Clippers and Thunder should allow the Suns to rest up and get ready. This week is going to be a challenge. If the Suns struggle and drop all three games or even go 1-2 they could watch the Memphis Grizzlies, four games against fringe .500 teams, pass them in the standings.

I see a 2-1 week from the Suns splitting the home games, somehow, and then knocking off the Warriors on the road.


PHOENIX — It’s true. The Suns’ defense has allowed 111.6 points over the last five games, three of which were losses. Pace has something to do with it, but then again, allowing four...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

At 35-24, good for 7th in the West, the Phoenix Suns continue to astound the experts with their play. When Eric Bledsoe returns, the Suns 7th ranked offense and 15th ranked defense will become even more effective.

With the Phoenix Suns setting season highs in scoring (129) and assisting (29) on Sunday night against the struggling Hawks, now is a perfect time to celebrate just how great, and unexpected, this season has become.

The 35-24 Suns are sitting in 7th place in the West with 23 games to go - a spot almost NO ONE thought they would be at this point of the season. They are missing their second-best player and playmaker, yet are still cranking out the points and winning games.

The question is: How?

"Like I've been saying all season man," Gerald Green said on Sunday night. "It's easy playing with guys like Goran [Dragic] and Ish [Smith] who are able to create and breakdown the defense. I have the easiest job in the world, knocking down shots so I have to give my credit to them."

The pick and roll

The coaching staff has devised an offense that relies on spacing three guys on the three-point line and isolating the point guard against a single defender. A "big" comes out to pick off the defender to initiate the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. The Suns don't lead the league the in pick-and-roll plays, but they are pretty close to the top.

If it's Channing Frye throwing the pick, it's a devastating pick-and-pop. Per, SportVu data shows that the Goran Dragic/Channing Frye pick-and-roll is the deadliest in the game this season, producing 1.3 points per attempt. Either Channing Frye gets open for a three, or Goran Dragic is open for a drive to the hoop or a kick-out shooter is wide open.

On Friday night, the helpers didn't leave the three-point shooters, so Dragic put together a career high game of 40 points to go with 5 assists and the Suns scored 109 points. On Sunday, the defenders reacted to force the pass and the Suns simply made 15 threes and set a season high in scoring.

Overall, the Suns pick and roll plays with any combination of players is best in the league as well, producing 1.093 points on all 2,162 possessions this season. Damn.


If it's Miles Plumlee or another traditional big throwing the pick, then the defense has to play for the hard roll to the hoop. Plumlee isn't much of a threat except on a hard drive, but defenses STILL have to defend it. And once they commit, the court opens up.

The Suns have the best spacing the league, and Goran Dragic is a relentless attacker. He's very different than Steve Nash was, and his results pretty good because he's more of a scorer than Nash ever was. Now that he's making more than 50% of his shots and more than 40% of his threes to keep defenses from guarding the drive, he's even more devastating.

Substitute Eric Bledsoe, Ish Smith or Leandro Barbosa for Dragic and the plays don't change a whole lot. All penetrate to set up the offense. All but Smith is a threat to bomb from long range.

Substitute Marcus Morris or Markieff Morris for Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee, and little changes. Same dangers for the defense, just different jersey numbers.

And all the while, you've got Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker spotting up in the corners for threes. They make nearly 40% of those shots each, so their defenders can't help on the inevitable drives by the point guards.

All this adds up to a potent offense: 7th in offensive efficiency, 8th in True Shooting Percentage (TS% takes into account three pointers AND free throws).

Two-headed monster

The Suns are especially effective when they play two point guards at the same time, with each being the other's outlet on corner threes (in place of Gerald Green).

The second initiator allows the Suns to reset their offense as many times as necessary on a possession to get an effective pick-and-roll going, no matter what side of the floor.

Ish Smith as the secondary ball handler has some limitations in that he cannot make three-pointers, but he is aggressive enough to force the defense to react on drives anyway.

When Eric Bledsoe returns and gets re-acclimated to the offense, the Suns will be even more dangerous. Bledsoe played 5-on-5 on Saturday and will continue to play more and more until he's ready to play without sucking wind in the opening minutes. Hornacek will rely on the training staff for the go-ahead to activate Bledsoe.

Career years across the board


*all data in this article courtesy of and

*Channing Frye's TS% is listed from the 2011-12 season, since he missed all of last year. He was slightly more effective that season on fewer minutes per game.

Eight of nine players in the Suns regular rotation are enjoying career highs in True Shooting Percentage, which takes into account three pointers and free throws.

While Miles Plumlee's rise is partially due to increased opportunities, most of the guys are just shooting it better than ever no matter what their minutes distribution. That's because they are taking smarter shots, and the shots they take are expected and within the flow of the offense.


*Channing Frye's PER is listed from the 2011-12 season, since he missed all of last year. He was slightly more effective that season on fewer minutes per game.

PER is a measurement developed by John Hollinger for ESPN that measures overall offensive effectiveness. You can see that not only is every player's PER higher than a year ago, it's the highest of their careers for most.

Playing the most minutes of their careers


Every single player is getting more minutes this year than last - again, the eye-popper is Miles Plumlee - and all but one is setting career high in minutes per game.

Miles Plumlee - the biggest outlier

Despite people really being down on Plumlee, he is a good player for what he brings to a defense which is still ranked 15th overall in the league despite the recent downturn across the board. The Suns are competitive on the defensive end, something not credited often to Suns teams in the past.

"I think one of the most impressive things is how hard they play," Atlanta coach Jeff Budenholzer, a long time Spurs assistant, said of the Suns. "I think it's a real credit to how hard they play and to obviously Jeff Hornacek and the staff. They really get after it. Defensively, they do a lot of things to disrupt you. They're physical. I think it has been great for the whole league to watch how they play on both ends of the court."

The defense only works as long as there's a rim protector. Plumlee is 19th in the NBA among all forwards and centers in total rebound rate and block rate (17.5% and 3.9%, respectively) and pulls down 8.3 rebounds in 26 minutes per game.

And, he's still the Suns best defensive player (defensive rating 102). Plumlee is 30th among forwards and centers in defensive win shares for the season (2.3) while only being 56th in total minutes played. He's also still 22nd in the league in FG% allowed at the rim (50.2%), where the league average is about 59%.

His offensive struggles are well-documented, especially lately, but he is a necessary rim protector and rebounder.

In fact, Miles Plumlee's 17.5% rebound rate is even more important considering that the Suns' next highest rebound rate is Markieff Morris at 12.5%. Alex Len's rebound rate is 15.0% but he only plays a few minutes a game.

The Suns' newest off the street acquisition, Shavlik Randolph, impressed Suns coach Jeff Hornacek in his first practice for having a "knack" for rebounding. Randolph's career rebound rate is 16.0%. Sure, that's on a small sample size (only once played more than 16 games in a season), but it's still good.

Randolph won't take Plumlee's minutes as long as Plumlee is engaged and ready to play. Plumlee gives the Suns the rim protection they need to be effective.

Can this continue into the playoffs?

Of course it can. Hornacek doesn't buy the argument that the Suns players might be tired. And you can see why, because only half of the players have already played more total minutes than last season. Plumlee and Frye are the outliers, having played more than 3,100 more minutes than a season ago already.

But everyone else is on pace to exceed their career-high minutes, so it's something to watch. The return of Eric Bledsoe will be a nice boost to the rotation, and Randolph will take Alex Len's minutes on many nights to provide a veteran presence.

The Suns can sustain their play for the rest of the season, and can potentially step up their individual efforts with slightly fewer minutes as Bledsoe rounds into form.

Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how Shavlik Randolph is your new favorite Sun. It's all fair game here. Get crazy, y'all.

Page 1139 of 2360


Web Links

Sponsored Ads