Suns Not a Fast Break Team Because They Just Aren't

Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns aren't running quite as much as they thought they would this season but are still scoring at a high rate and seem satisfied with the tempo. (Photo by Max Simbron)

Steve Nash continues to insist that the Suns are not a fast break team. When asked today if that was by design he said this, "No. It just turned out that way. I think if you would have asked everyone at the start of training camp we would have said we were going to be a running team. We haven't really been a running team. It's just the way it is."

While the numbers support the Suns still being a top team as far as Pace, you only have to watch this team on a game to game basis to understand what Nash is talking about. There are far more half court sets and far fewer times when the Suns are busting out of the pack and charging up the court.

Earlier in the season Nash attributed some of that to an increased emphasis on rebounding and Coach Gentry has said that teams can either crash their offensive glass or get back in transition and stop the Suns from running but they can't do both. 

It seems that so far the Suns opponents are willing to be less aggressive on the boards in order to prevent the Suns from running the ball down their throat.

Obviously the mix of players has something to do with it as well. Amare Stoudemire in 2009 and Channing Frye are certainly not the same front court speed demons that Amare in 2005 and Shawn Marion were.

Nash suggested as much, "Maybe we don't quite have the same dynamics or the same type of athletes we had in the past but we're still scoring as many points. It probably suits our long term success to be a little bit better in the half court."

Steve also talked about the reputation of the past D'Antoni teams being a bit overblown and called "Seven Seconds or Less" a "marketing tool". He implied that even in glory years of the run and gun the practices with 7-second shot clocks was more of a myth.

Interestingly enough the numbers support this using Pace Factor and Offensive Rating from Basketball-reference.com

Season Pace Rank Offensive Rating Rank
2009/10 96.2 4th 114.7 2nd
2008/09 96.0 4th 113.6 2nd
2007/08 96.7 4th 113.3 2nd
2006/07 95.6 3rd 113.9 1st
2005/06 95.8 1st 111.5 2nd
2004/05 95.9 1st 114.5 1st

 

While 95.9 was good enough for the Suns to be the fastest team in the league in 2004 and 2005 now the Suns are only 4th in Pace and are actually faster then they were. The league has gotten quicker overall. Offensively, the team has been fairly consistent when it comes to points per 100 possessions which is Pace adjusted measure of offensive potency.

Looking at the same question using numbers from 82games.com we also see that the Suns have remained remarkable consistent with the percentage of shots coming within 15-seconds on the shot clock.

Season Under 15 seconds Under 10 seconds
2009/10 73% 42%
2008/09 70% 43%
2007/08 73% 43%
2006/07 72% 43%
2005/06 75% 44%
2004/05 75% 48%

 

The first couple of years with Nash and D'Antoni however were played at a higher speed with 6% more shots coming quicker in the shot clock in 2004 than this season. Overall the Suns are still shooting quickly but not quite as quickly as before.

The difference between these two data sets is probably due to other variables. Pace is a measure of possessions per 48 minutes which is clearly impacted by the how quickly a team shoots but is also affected by rebounding, turnovers and free throws.

 

Earlier in the season there were some indications that both Nash and Grant Hill weren't satisfied with the style of play and specifically the lack of tempo but with the winning record and high scoring that seems to have gone away.

"It just seems to be who we are and I don't know exactly why but that's fine. We're still moving the ball, creating mismatches and double teams and getting penetration and opening up the floor and spacing the floor with our shooters. Everyone's come to the place where we're comfortable with that," said Nash.

 

 

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