The reason for a team to employ an offense geared towards extra possessions (pace) is that by doing so, coupled with an offense that shoots the ball well (scores efficiently), that team can have a better chance of outscoring their opponent. This is the philosophy the Suns have chosen to implement this season according to all reports from their organization. There's only one problem.
The Suns can't shoot.
The Suns were never lower than 4th in the league in the league in pace (# of possessions per 48 minutes) during Mike D'Antoni's tenure (they were 1st twice). They were even 4th during the Porter/Gentry season. The team slowed a little bit over the last thee seasons finishing 4th, 7th and 8th, respectively. The Suns push the tempo. This year the Suns are in high gear so far, currently standing at 2nd in the league in pace.
So far that hasn't been good.
By only posting meager shooting numbers of 42.3% from the field and 30.3% from three, while benevolently yielding 46.1% from the field and 43.5% (yikes!) from three, the Suns attempt to run and gun has been self-defeating. They are creating extra possessions for opponents who are scoring far more efficiently than they are.
The eFG% numbers make a clear cut case. The Suns are shooting 45.6% and allowing 50.7%. Good, or even decent, teams don't have a net -5.1% in this comparison. That's atrocious.
As horrific as the overall drop in field goal percentage has been, it seems it has been trending this way. After a seven year stretch that saw the team average nearly 49% and never dip below 47%, the team dipped to 45.8% last year and has bottomed out (I hope) at 42.3% to start this season. The FG% has in fact decreased (depending on the much larger remainder of this season) each of the last five seasons.
The results from three point range have been even more nugatory. The Suns currently stand at 30.3%, which would be a full 10.9% drop from the 2009-10 season. That's over one extra three per 10 shot attempts, or just over two extra three point shots made per game based on their current 18.9 attempts per contest.
Six extra points per game.
These Suns aren't those Suns, though, so that may be an unfair comparison. So, of course, I've devised another.
The top chart depicts the Suns current and career three point field goal percentages. The number at the bottom right is the number of three point field goals the Suns would have made this season based on the career shooting numbers, which have been adjusted to reflect the proportionate amount of attempts for each player.
Seven extra threes. 21 points this season.
They could have probably used a few of those points in the season opener against Golden St. or in a couple of their other losses to keep them from getting out of hand.
So why are the Suns
failing epically struggling shooting the basketball this season? Here are a couple possibilities:
- Anomalous early returns that will soon adjust to a higher true value for the season. This would propitiate well, since it implies the team has some improved shooting performances on the horizon.
- The constitution of the team coupled with a paucity of talent and elite shooters. This team likes to take long twos. Two of the players who comprise a bulk of the three point attempts are reputed "chuckers" who aren't deterred from taking a long shot just because they're well defended (although one of these two has carried the team with his shooting at times this season). I'm not the least bit surprised that a team composed of Nash, Richardson, Dudley and Frye would shoot better from three than the current assortment of Dragic, Beasley, Brown and Dudley. It's also not surprising that teams with the likes of Stoudemire and Marion/Shaq were more efficient than the current Gortat/Scola duo.
- Steve Nash. Dude was kind of good at getting people the ball in a position for them to be successful. Even the point of entry for a pass is important for a three point shooter so he doesn't disrupt the rhythm of his shot.
- Gentry's "shoot the shot that's available to you" philosophy. That works great when you have good shooters with high basketball IQ, but with these Suns maybe that's not the best idea. It's absolutely eerie how many open shots opposing teams allow in the 19-23' range...
- Add your own more astute and discerning observation in the comments below.
The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one, and Phoenix, we have a problem.
Will it auto-correct? Doubtful. What the Suns were able to accomplish over the better part of the last decade was truly special. It is unlikely this team will be able to match the pace or efficiency of those previous incarnations. They will hopefully at least come close and not become a pitiful travesty.
The Seven Seconds or Less era is gone. The "New Era" is Eight Seconds or Beasley.