Now that we have played about a quarter of our games, let's take a look at our defense to see where we really stack up.

Many of you focus on how many points the Suns allow as a barometer of their defensive ability. Others get a bit more technical and look at the opponents field goal percentage to determine our prowess on that end. A few look even further into the numbers and use efficiency stats compared to the rest of the league.

The problem you have with all of these methods is that, even in the most detailed, these statistics do not account for scheduling, nor do they account for the actual teams we play. In each case, the numbers are only used as comparison to the league in general, yet we have not played most of the teams in the league. In fact, most teams have only played less than a half of the entire league. Thus, those numbers don't tell the whole story.

To get a truer picture of where we stand defensively [Shannon Brown often stands in one place], you have to look at each game and each team and compare the game numbers with the opponents average on the season.

The best statistics to use are True Shooting Percentage and Offensive Efficiency [or Points Per Possession]. These two stats combine parts that tell the whole story regarding whether a team is playing to, above, or below their average.

True Shooting Percentage accounts for how efficient a team is with their shooting. It accounts for more than simply how many shots you made that you took. It also takes into consideration any free throws as a result of a shot.

Points Per Possession shows how effectively a team uses each possession, accounting for possessions that end either as a result of a score, turnover, offensive rebound or free throw. If a team is held below their average on the season, you can attribute that to the defense [unless you attribute it to some other factor: SEE PORTLAND]

So, below are the results from our schedule to date, with each team's average compared to the game result

1 L New Orleans 49.5 48.2 95.9 95.3
2 L Philadelphia 54.0 54.8 105.6 112.1
3 @ W New Orleans 49.5 38.1 95.9 85.5
4 @ L Oklahoma City 56.5 63.0 104.9 109.4
5 W Golden State 53.3 56.3 100.5 100.3
6 @ L Dallas 51.7 48.9 97.8 104.1
7 W Portland 51.5 41.7 100.7 79.2
8 W Milwaukee 50.1 48.2 96.9 98.5
9 @ L LA Lakers 51.6 54.9 99.4 110.0
10 L Cleveland 51.1 51.4 97.5 106.1
11 L New Jersey 51.7 62.2 99.7 119.2
12 @ L San Antonio 54.1 56.0 104.1 106.2
13 @ L Chicago 53.4 59.9 105.7 127.6
14 @ W New York 51.3 44.4 96.2 90.6
15 @ W Boston 53.1 45.5 98.7 79.8
16 @ L Dallas 51.7 49.6 97.8 99.3

  • We have held 8 of 16 opponents below [more than 0.3 difference] their TS% average. We were 5-3 in those games, 1-7 in all others.
  • We have held 6/16 opponents below their average PPP. We were 4-2 in those games, 2-8 in all others.

These numbers tell an interesting story. Here are some conclusions I draw from the results:

Portland was a fluke game. They were on their 4th game in 5 nights and the numbers are dramatically different. I believe a combination of the Suns playing well and Portland playing beyond horribly to account for that game.

While we have held half of the teams we played below their shooting numbers, i believe the PPP number is a better indicator of how effectively the Suns hold their opponent below their average ability to utilize their possessions. Considering we have only done so against 6 of 16 games i would say that overall we are a below average. Sure, our ability to force teams to shoot less efficiently shows an initial ability to defend shooting, the PPP stat shows that we are not very adept at keeping teams from getting points on their possessions. This is due largely to the fact that we allow offensive rebounds and do not force enough turnovers.

In looking at this in totality, I would conclude that we are a bottom third defensive team at this point in the season. In order to improve from this point, it is clear we need to do a better job keeping teams off the offensive boards, reduce the number of shooting fouls a bit, and clearly force a few more turnovers. Our initial shot defense is average. If we can improve those other areas, we may see an overall improvement in our defensive numbers to justify being considered and average defensive team.

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