Reality is, this team at its best is a contender for an 8 seed in the playoffs and possibly an above .500 record. We have all focused on what needs [or what we want] to happen for the future. Today, however, I would like to address what can be done now to help this team push toward that ultimate goal of mediocrity [as I believe with a loss to the Cavs and the 4th quarter meltdown to the Lakers have shown us to be below mediocre].
My plan after the jumpAfter nine games, we have seen Gentry used 20 different lineups and at times has used all 12 players in a game. Some of that was experimental, trying to determine which PG or SF to go with. He has even played Warrick at the 3 to try and find him minutes [more on that later].
We haven't played enough minutes to determine which 5-man group is most effective from a statistical standpoint. Of those combinations, only 4 groupings have played more than a total of 18 minutes together, certainly not enough to know if the numbers would hold up over more minutes. So it is difficult to draw any conclusions about lineups and rotations based on the statistics as of yet. However, our observation of the first 9 games gives us a few ideas.
First, it is clear that we need to shorten our rotation. No successful team plays 12 guys in the rotation. I would also argue that few play 10. A perfect rotation usually is 9 rotation players with one spot minute guy when situations arise.
So, we need to abandon trying to make people happy and get on with business.
It is clear that Josh Childress is not going to play. Settled.
In my opinion, regardless of the fact that Ronnie Price isn’t the sexiest of backup point guards, he at least plays a nominal amount of defense and has shown he is going to be the backup this season. No more minutes for Bassy. Settled!
That brings us to 11.
With the addition of Redd, we are at a conundrum. Why sign Redd if you believe Shannon Brown to be a viable rotation guard? The answer in my mind is that I never believed he was. Yet what was the Suns front office thinking?
So that leads us to question who should be getting minutes at the 2? We haven’t seen enough of Redd to know where he fits. We have all seen enough of Brown. It is high time to abandon Shannon and get Redd into the mix. If he does not pan out, Brown is always there. If there are games where Redd is stinking up the joint, play Brown, Until then, Brown needs to take a seat. Settled!
Down to 10.
This is because Gentry and the Suns announcers want you to believe that Warrick can play at the 3. By his early numbers [which have fallen greatly as of late], you would think that to be true. Yet Warrick has only played at the 3 for 28.5 minutes of his 180 minutes of game play, and all of those minutes included Morris at the 4 spot. I would contend that Warrick was the 4 in that lineup and Morris was the 3. In any case, this gimmick is simply done to find Warrick minutes because we have an overabundance of bigs due to the unexpected play of our rookie.
It is time to stop giving away minutes and start making them compete for them. One would think that Warrick, Frye or Morris would be on the losing end of this. Me thinks not. The guy that needs to earn it is Lopez. It is time to relegate Lopez to spot minutes where he has to earn the right for more. If he plays well, let him run. If not, count on 4-6 minutes a game on average and some DNPs. He isn’t helping us and other guys are just as if not more productive. Let’s not talk anymore about his first game, how important it is that he perform, or how much promise he has. Earn it, or sit. He isn’t doing enough defensively or on the boards to warrant giving him minutes. Yes, he can be a factor, but he hasn’t been and we need to move on. Sit down Fropez. Settled!
Down to 9.
Nine rotation players works. Of course, at any point if a player is really out of sorts, gentry should feel free to plug in a Brown or Lopez. Yet for the most part, these guys need to know their roles and get comfortable with who they are playing with. Too many adjustments need to be made every time you sub a new guy in. Enough already.
Now that we have the guys we are going with, we need to figure out our lineups.
For the last two games, Gentry has been giving Morris the opportunity to be our featured player on a few possessions. It is clear that when REQUIRED to make something happen, Morris isn’t quite ready. He is much more comfortable producing when the defense is not keying on him. To me, he plays more comfortably when Nash is on the floor.
Conversely, I am not sure Channing Frye plays vastly different regardless of Nash being on the floor [yes, I understand, Nash makes EVERYONE better]. But as a veteran, Frye is better equipped to play without Nash than Morris. It may be time to move Frye to the bench and start Morris. This helps Morris be productive as the "hidden gem" and avoid lineups where he has to do too much, and it helps the bench by adding Frye as a scoring option. I also believe that Morris is an all-around better defender than Frye, which may help us get to better starts and more consistent play. Frye can assess the game, come in and be a designated shooter on that second unit.
Next comes the issue with Nash. First, he is playing far too many minutes. Part of that is because we are terrible without him on the floor. I feel that has less to do with Ronnie Price than it has to do with how that unit with him plays. Just because Nash runs the pick – and – roll [pnr] offense to genius perfection, doesn't mean everyone can or should. The combination of Ronnie Price’s and the rest of the bench’s skillset don’t allow them to effectively run that offense. Price doesn't attack the pick aggressively, doesn't get into the lane enough [often thwarted by the big man hedge], doesn't finish in the lane well and lacks vision as it is to be running primarily pnr offense.
It may behoove Gentry to switch strategy when his backup guard is in the game. Face it, our bench players may be a better fit for a more traditional post set, or running a flex, than pnr. Using Warrick/Frye/Morris in the high post, and getting the ball into Gortat, Warrick and Morris on the low block, may confound the opponents bench a bit [after running D against the pnr all game]. Additionally, our guys run pick after pick and too often end up with garbage as the clock runs out – thus the cries for a shot creating player. We don’t necessarily need that. Using Warrick and Gortat as the creators from the post, and utilizing our guards as spot up shooters, rather than creators, allows us to maximize their skill set and provide a bit more structure for Price and Co. It also would result in more trips to the free throw stripe and less ugly jump shots.