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Looking closely at the statistics related to the Suns defense this season vs. last season, the obvious things match the eyeball test. The Suns are generally okay (19th or better) at most aspects of defense except that opponents are making a ton of their jumpers. Where they fail as a team is on defending the spot-up and defending the Roll Man on the pick and roll.

But when you unravel the data even further, something new jumps out. Last year's best defender has become one of this year's worst.

Many of you think that Grant Hill was the Suns' best defender last year but the statistics say otherwise. In terms of pure success rate, Marcin Gortat allowed the fewest points per possession of any Phoenix Sun in 2011-12: 0.766 points per possession. Incredible, considering he defended in the highest conversion area on the floor.

Yet as Suns C Marcin Gortat makes headlines complaining about touches and his general role in the team's offense this season, he has inexplicably (and I'm sure to Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, inexcusably) allowed his defense to slip to awful levels.

Last year Gortat's defense ranked, per MySynergySports, in the 83rd percentile amongst NBA players in terms of "points per possession" allowed. He was rated as "excellent" overall and smartly was the Suns' most frequent defender. Of all plays executed against the Suns, Gortat was the defender of record on 768 of them (12%) - the highest rate on the team. It was mainly thanks to Gortat that the Suns finished 19th last season in points per possession allowed.

Flash forward to this season.

Still the Suns' most frequent defender of record, MySynergySports Gortat ranks Gortat as a "poor" defender overall. He is only in the 13th percentile amongst all NBA defenders, allowing more than a point per possession (1.023). Blech. As with last year, as Gortat goes so goes the defense.

Let's take a tabular look at the numbers. On the left are Gortat and Morris, year over year. On the right are their new wing men compared to a year ago (Frye vs. Scola, Lopez vs. O'Neal).

Synergy-big-men_medium

As you can see, Scola has actually been decent on defense. His results are comparable to Channing Frye, both being passable defenders next to Gortat. Same with swapping Lopez for O'Neal (O'Neal has not has enough defensive plays to rank in a couple of the categories yet).

Yet Markieff Morris's step backward is positively dwarfed by Gortat's giant leap into a chasm.

How do you go from excellent to poor in one season?

Has the defensive scheme changed so much that Gortat can put the blame there? I can't see how that's likely, but it's certainly possible I guess.

Now maybe you can see why Alvin Gentry brushed off Gortat's complaints about his role in the Suns' offense. He clearly stated over and over again that he wants Gortat to focus on his strengths first. Gortat needs to play strong defense before he can complain about expanding his role in other areas. He is the anchor in the Suns defense and needs to play like it.

And, you can see why Gentry benches Gortat in favor of O'Neal's excellent defense when the Suns need to get some stops to get back into a game or close out a game.

The good news is that Gortat clearly has the tools to do just that. He has been a quality defender for years. If he can revert to his normal form on defense, he will be in the game at crunch time and he will get his touches on offense.

It all has to start with defense. Just as Gentry said.


After a 40-point drubbing at the hands of a team that’s mediocre at best, it’s easy for fans to wistfully remember the good old days. It’s not as common for a head coach of a...

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For a really intelligent kid, the only description that applies to Kendall Marshall's self-awareness is the word "kid" at this point.

"They want me to keep up my conditioning, as well as getting game time," Marshall said to Paul Coro of azcentral.com, of what Suns General Manager Lance Blanks told him Wednesday night. "They think this will be good for me."

Let's remember the kid is only just 21 years old and has spent his entire basketball existence as the best playmaker on the court, all the way through leading North Carolina to a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

But success in high school and college does not guarantee success in the NBA. A point guard cannot just pass. He needs to run the offense, make the defense pay for their rotations by shooting when he's open and he needs to defend the other end of the court.

Concerns over those latter skills has resulted in Marshall playing the 13th man role. Before Wednesday night's 16 minutes of playing time, Marshall had only played 18 mop-up minutes in 14 games.

His 16 minutes last night started well when he made his first NBA shot - a smooth three-pointer from the angle right - but then eroded as time passed.

"After three minutes, I was gassed," Marshall said to azcentral.com's Paul Coro after the Pistons beatdown. "I hadn't played that long in a long time."

The Suns were outscored during Marshall's minutes 41-27. Those 41 Pistons points were largely scored by regular Pistons rotation players, who stayed on the court long after the Suns had gone to the end of the bench. Marshall scored 6 of the Suns' 27 points but had no assists. He had some nice passes but the Suns did not convert.

Now he gets his chance to play with the Bakersfield Jam. No word from the Suns how long his stint in Baskersfield will be, but it could (and should) be a long one that's only permeated by (a) a Telfair trade or (b) a swap with now-third-string PG Diante Garrett.

"Sebastian and Goran have been playing well so there won't be many minutes as of right now," Marshall said to Coro. "So to stay in game shape and get some reps, they thought that would be the best thing for me to do."

Neither Garrett nor Luke Zeller are going to Bakersfield at this time.

Garrett will now dress out each game in Marshall's place and take Marshall spot minutes when the game is either in hand or out of hand, or someone gets hurt.


There is no other way to put it. The Suns played their worst game of the season tonight in Detroit. They were absolutely crushed by the Pistons, 117-77. Phoenix is now 0-4 on the year in the second...

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Worst game I have seen in a long, long time.

For a young team, the Phoenix Suns are a really bad back-to-back team. Entering the game, they had lost all three back-to-back opportunities on the season. Those were both Miami games, and the Utah game (in Utah) after the huge comeback against Cleveland the night before.

Apparently, no matter how "young" these Suns are, they don't play well on consecutive days. Once again, they "built" a 14-point deficit in the first half and grew that to a 26-point deficit in the third before Gentry threw in the towel. Would the Suns make another comeback - #5 out of 14 opportunities on the season? Hell no.

After making 60% of their shots in the first quarter (9 for 15), the Suns shot less than 30% for the rest of the game. U.G.L.Y. They scored only 36 points in the second and third quarters combined. F-A-I-L-fail-fail-fail.

For those of you who called last night's 13-point win over Cleveland a terrible game, or one of the worst of the season, I implore you to enjoy life's little pleasures while they last. Why spend time complaining about a 13-point win? That's like getting a fiver from your grandma and bitching under your breath about the impact of cost of living increases.

At least this time, your complaints are justified. Have at it. Good on ya.

THIS was the worst Suns game of the season. Not one player came to play. Not one. Check me on that. Did anyone play to their potential tonight? Anyone on the Suns I mean?

Well at least we got to see some real action for Kendall Marshall and Wesley Johnson. Both players hit their first shots (Marshall's a 3), while the veterans like Dudley, Scola, Tucker and O'Neal continued to bumble and make mistakes.

Marshall stayed within the offense and made some nice passes but is not yet aggressive. Anyone thinking he can lead an NBA offense right now should look at the 4th quarter score: 36-17 Pistons.

Wesley Johnson really likes to shoot. He's not a passer, or anything else really. Just a shooter. He started well, but then got worse and worse. There is a reason he's on the deep bench.

The Pistons had a fun night, playing many of their best players because they were just playing so well until they'd built the lead to 29. Nice night for them, for sure.

But any game where Charlie Villanueva goes off and starts preening with a 30-point lead is not a game I EVER want to see again.

This sucks.

For any of you who want to read my first half notes, read on...

The Suns kept it close for a while in the first half, but when Jermaine O'Neal got hurt early in the second quarter the Suns defense deflated. A four-point Pistons lead quickly climbed to 14 while the Pistons hit shot after shot. They were the aggressor all night, and good things happen for the aggressor. They even passed the ball into tighter defense a few times and still the shots fell for them.

Once again, Gortat was passive. Sad, considering he had 16 points and 16 rebounds against this same front line just three weeks ago. He finished the first half with only 6 points, 3 rebounds, 0 blocks and 3 official turnovers in 16 minutes.

The game started with both good and bad. The Suns made 6 of their first 7 shots and shot 60% overall in the first quarter (including 4 for 6 on threes), but they turned it over NINE times and gave up 24 points on good shooting by the Pistons. The Pistons made both of their 3-point attempts in the first (and made 5 of 6 in the first half).

Several of those turnovers could be attributed to Marcin Gortat either losing the ball or missing the pass down low to him. Beasley and Dragic also got two fouls apiece within the first six minutes on the Pistons aggressive drives to the hoop. The first quarter ended 24-24 tie.

The bench, usually a huge plus for the Suns, gave up a 13-4 run from late in the first to early in the second - a bad sign for the Suns' chances in this game. The Pistons were just beating the Suns with aggression, and making big shots after big shots despite the Suns bench unit showing their usual level of effort.

The Pistons, who have one of the worst offenses in the league, went up by 14 points quicker than the Suns could stem the tide. But finally they did, if only a little, ending the half with an 11-point deficit.

The Suns shots selection in the second quarter rivaled their turnovers in the first. Which was worse? (Toss up) After Jermaine O'Neal left the game with a strained quad, the Suns took only just shots when Gortat returned. Could the team have been remembering the Polish Hammer's first-quarter turnovers? Maybe.

At the half, Markieff Morris led the Suns with 10 of their 44 points (8 in the first quarter) and the Suns had outrebounded the Pistons 23-19, including 11 offensive rebounds. But the Suns missed a lot of shots (including eight straight three-point attempts) and the Pistons made theirs (5 for 6).

The second half did not start well. The Suns started the half with four missed layups and two turnovers before they scored a bucket. The Pistons lead was 18 by that time and they weren't even trying very hard.

Then the Suns lost their cool (funny because they weren't working very hard, so what's to lose? Why not just play harder, huh?) and drew a couple of technical fouls. The Pistons began living at the free throw line and the Suns caved further.

Gentry finally decided that an 18-point deficit justified bringing back in the bench guys. Duh. What took so long, you know?

In the last four games, the Suns bench players had outscored the opponents' bench players 171-72. But not tonight. No, not tonight.

The bench was as bad as the starters, letting the lead grow to 24 before Gentry called in the deep-deep bench. Kendall Marshall got some run against NBA starters.


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