Okay Okay, don't hang for saying Suns and defense in the same sentence. I don't think the Suns showed the best defensive game against the New Orleans Hornets, but we competed in an ugly game. This is something that we have notoriously fallen apart in. Considering we only shot 40% from the field and hit only 5 threes, we should have won that game. We have to obviously take into consideration that New Orleans is in a transitional season, but I can promise that this team is not as bad as they are being predicted to be. They aren't a phenomenally talented team, but they have a lot to prove and they have one of the most underrated and talented shooting guards in the league. Everyone seems to forget how easily he can put up points and now that he is the main offensive option he will do it even better.
Back to the defensive end, the Phoenix Suns managed to keep the hornets to 44% shooting and only 85 points. If we can keep teams in the low 90's high 80's we will have a chance to win all of our games, what it comes down to is effort. With a more active Robin Lopez at the rim, and a still elite defender in Grant Hill, and a much improved rotation structure I see the suns finishing as one of the better defensive teams this season. This might be too early to tell, but all I can say is in the first game I found myself getting more excited over our defensive stops then our offense. The crazy part is, there is a lot more they can do to tighten up the rotations even more and get better at helping each other out. For example in the final play where Eric Gordon took the ball in an iso at the top of the key against Jared Dudley, I would have preferred to see Jared in his face instead of giving him space. This is a bad habit from last season, when we couldn't rely on our bigs to step up reliably, if Dudley had smothered him causing Gordon to put the ball on the floor and drive, he would have found himself trapped between 2 excellent rim defenders in Lopez and Morris. However these habits will die as Dudley learns he has backup when a player gets past him.
Here is where it gets a little uglier...offense. This is the second time that the Suns have called attention to their sputtering offense this year and it is a little uncomfortable when you have a team full of shooters who can't hit the broad side of a barn. Like I said in my last article, though, I don't think this will last. I think that Monte Williams, head coach of the Hornets, is a defense first kind of coach with a team that buys into that so it should be expected that we struggle offensively. Even still that was a special kind of suck, I think with time the new guys will find the creases that will give them easy buckets and Grant Hill will work his way back into shape. Offense isn't what worries me if we can continue to work on D the way we started the season.
I am still going to predict the Suns finishing at the 8th seed, and this time it is based purely on defense. Also looking around the western conference I just don't see the kind of talent that many others see. I think that Minnesota will still suck, Sacramento will have it's bubble burst, portland still can't compete against the big teams, New Orleans is a 9th seed best case scenario, and Utah is the worst team in the west. That only leaves Golden State, Houston and Memphis to deal with and only Memphis scares me.