Sebastian Telfair Brings The Juice To Phoenix Suns Second Unit

Telfair is improving by the game. Keep it up, Bassy! Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Is Sebastian Telfair one of the best backup point guards to Steve Nash since Nash returned to the Suns in 2004?

He certainly has played well recently, most notably in big wins this past week over the Jazz (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block), Lakers (13 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals) and Timberwolves (14 points, 7 assists, 2 steals and a block), all in about 20 minutes a game.

Telfair is one of the Suns' most improved players since the All-Star break, producing more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks each game while shooting at a higher percentage in those all-important minutes when Nash is resting.

He is feisty on defense, creating havoc for the ball-handler and producing steals at a high rate. And now he is being more aggressive each game, making his presence known in the second and fourth quarters. As a unit, the Suns second team has begun to produce winning results, staking the starters to a 4th-quarter lead in nearly every game lately against stiff competition.

Building on a lead is important for the second unit, considering Nash and Co. don't always come back as fresh in the second and fourth quarters as when they started each half. Telfair's unit has helped the Suns in the win column as well, contributing to the 18-8 run since just before the All-Star break.

But where does Bassy rank in terms of Nash's other backups these last few years? Hit the jump to find out.

Below is a table from basketball-reference.com showing all the backups to Steve Nash since 2004, broken down by season, for players who appeared in at least 10 games. Not a distinguished list, to be sure.

You'll see fan favorites Leandro Barbosa and Goran Dragic at the top of the list, of course. But you'll also see guys like Zabian Dowdell, Eddie House, Ronnie Price, Marcus Banks and Aaron Brooks.

Suns-backups_medium

Leandro Barbosa was by far the Suns best backup PG, and he wasn't even really a point guard! At least some of his minutes each game since 2004-05 were played at shooting guard alongside Nash. Eddie House ranks high as well, despite not being a true PG either.

And while Aaron Brooks is fairly reviled on this board as an undersized shooting guard, his assist rate as the Suns' backup PG last year was higher than any Suns backup PG since Nash returned to the Valley. By far.

It is really difficult to back up Steve Nash because Nash has a unique and highly effective style that teammates love because he sets them up so well for easy scores. Any backup pales in comparison, especially if they try too hard to imitate the Nash Rambler, and generally take a long time to acclimate themselves into a successful role. Take a look at the first season for each of those guys in Nash's shadow, all clustered at the bottom of the list.

A couple more things jump out at me on this list:

  • The Suns have never given the backup PG a real chance to shine. Other than Barbosa, not one of them started more than 5 games in a season, or averaged even close to 20 minutes a game. And many of Barbosa's starts were at shooting guard.
  • The best backup PGs have been, in order: Barbosa, Dragic then Brooks.
  • Telfair is possibly the best of the rest of journeymen that follow those three.
So, is Sebastian Telfair the best backup ever? No.

Is he better than Price, Banks, Dowdell and House? Yes.

Is he holding his own in each game, while Nash is resting? Yes.

While I was not excited about Telfair as the Suns' backup this season, he has really held his own this season and is improving by the week. He plays both ends of the court, and brings a certain swagger to the team. It's taken him only half a lockout-shortened season to find his game, and now he is producing at a high clip for the Suns most every night.

Let's hope he can keep it up for the last 9 games while the Suns earn themselves a playoff spot.

Once again, opposing teams are shaking their heads at the Suns' depth, wondering how the Suns are playing so darn well with such a journeyman squad. Most of them credit all of the Suns' wins to Nash, but really you have to spread the credit to the rest of the team and the coaching staff.

And maybe even a sprinkle of credit goes to the Suns' front office for signing Shannon Brown, Michael Redd and Sebastian Telfair for less aggregate salary than Josh Childress makes this season.
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