This is either a picture of one of the biggest +/- differentials or one of the best point guard rotations in the NBA, depending on which month you're talking about.
It has taken most of the offseason, but we are nearing the end of the MySynergySports.com review of the 2011-12 Phoneix Suns. Only one position group remains, and it is the position that has defined the Suns for the last eight years: point guards. First up is offense.
In my last installment, I included a poll asking whether I should take a look at our old (pun intended) starting point guard or our new one. Goran Dragic was the overwhelming winner of the poll, but the comments were more balanced. However, after a conversation with NashMV3 I was reminded that this is a series reviewing the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash was on that team, while Goran Dragic was not. For those that wish to make a clean break from the Nash era and have no interest in being reminded about him, feel free to skip over that part of this story. For those that are excited about Dragic, stay tuned to the Bright Side.
First, allow me to explain in more detail the numbers I looked at. Here's a key for the terms Synergy uses:
Synergy Stat Definitions
• PPP – Points Per Play. A "Play" is always ended with a shot attempt, turnover or getting to the free throw line. PPP is the player’s total points, excluding technical free throws, divided by their total plays.
• Rank – This is where a player or team’s PPP ranks amongst their league peers. A player must have at least 25 plays for a given category in order to qualify for a league ranking.
• %SF - Percent Shooting Foul. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team drew a shooting foul.
• %TO – Percent Turnover. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team turns the ball over.
• %Score – Percent Score. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team scores at least 1 point, including any resulting free throws.
So these numbers track the raw results. They don't factor in everything, which is where the interpretation begins and where watching the games live helps.
The offensive categories are Isolation, Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler, Post-Up, Pick-and-Roll Roll Man, Spot-Up, Off Screen, Hand-Off, Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition, All Other Plays and Overall. On defense, the categories are the same minus the Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition and All Other Plays categories as there aren't really any individual defenders assigned on these plays.
With that out of the way, let's dive into the numbers.
Everybody knows Steve Nash is a pick-and-roll point guard. That is who he is and that is what he does best. So it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that 60.9% of Nash's possessions were pick-and-rolls. As a pick-and-roll ball-handler, Nash shot 53.6 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3-point range. He did turn the ball over on 23.8 percent of those plays, but he still finished at 0.92 PPP and was ranked 28th overall. Keep in mind this was only his scoring and does not factor in his assists at all, which is the best part of Nash's game.
No other play type is even close, as second on the list is isolation at only 64 total plays all year. He showcased his typical selective shooting and trademark efficiency with or without a pick, as he shot 51.1 percent from the field and scored 0.89 PPP (rank 33). He can't do it as often as he used to, but the old man still has some moves.
Third is transition at 60 total plays. Nash wasn't so good as a scorer on the break with a 33.3 turnover percentage and a 0.93 PPP. That was ranked 252nd overall. He still shot pretty well, but the fact that he turned it over so much and was usually the guy starting the break rather than finishing it hurt his PPP.
When Hedo Turkoglu was brought in, the plan was to put the ball in his hands some to let Nash, one of the greatest shooters of all time, act more as a spot-up shooter. Based on Nash's numbers, that might have been a good idea on paper. He spotted up on 49 plays and scored 1.27 PPP, which was ranked 11th overall. However, as the 60.9% percent pick-and-roll number suggests, that's not how Nash plays. He wants the ball.
Nash's sharpshooting was also evident in his 63 plays running off screens or taking hand-offs, as he converted 30 of his 51 shot attempts.
Overall, Nash scored 0.92 PPP and was ranked 164th. He shot over 50 percent from the field and was just shy of 40 percent from 3-point range, but he also turned the ball over on 26.2 percent of his possessions. Nash drew a shooting foul on only 1.6 percent of his plays, though, which means he didn't get to use his 90 percent free throw accuracy too often. Too many turnovers, too few free throws and a relatively low number of 3-point makes are the reason for his fairly average overall offensive ranking.
Also interesting to note is that the decline in Nash's game is pretty evident by looking at his last three seasons. His fouls drawn, field goal attempts an 3-point field goal attempts all have been decreasing while his turnovers have gone up. He's also became far more reliant on the pick-and-roll to get his shot off as his percentage of plays as the pick-and-roll ball-handler have shot up and all his other play type percentages (most notably his isolation numbers) have gone down. We all saw this happening on the court, so this shouldn't be a surprise. He's getting old (well, older).
Like the man he backed up, Sebastian Telfair was primarily a pick-and-roll point guard with 43.2 percent of his plays coming as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. He wasn't quite the master Nash was, as either a scorer or passer, but he still found a way to be effective despite low shooting percentages. Telfair used screens mainly to create space to pull-up for a jump shot, a shot he missed a ton early and hit a lot in April. That explains his low field goal percentage at least somewhat. Telfair only shot 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from beyond the arc, but he did hit 14 3-pointers and his shoot-first mentality meant he kept his turnovers relatively low at 11.8 percent. Telfair scored 0.80 PPP, which ranked him 67th overall.
Isolation is second at 16 percent, and just like with the pick-and-roll, his shooting percentages are terrible but he still manages to be effective. He shot 38.8 percent, but did a good job of drawing fouls at 11.6 percent of his possessions (which is only 8 trips to the line, but still a good percentage). His PPP was 0.81 which was ranked 78th overall.
Oddly enough, Telfair actually shot much better in transition (14.2 percent of his possessions), yet only scored 0.97 PPP and was ranked 239th. Telfair shot nearly 50 percent, while most other decent players shot well above 50 percent. Telfair took a lot of jumpers on the break and missed a lot of tough layups. Even though he said he loved to play fast, he was actually more effective in the half-court, at least compared to his peers.
Bassy did pretty well as a spot-up shooter, which was only on 39 plays all year. He scored 1.08 PPP and was ranked 51st. However, I would beware a small sample size here as he didn't shoot a particularly high percentage and drew two shooting fouls to affect his final number.
Even though most of Telfair's rankings look pretty decent, his overall performance was less than impressive at 0.85 PPP and a rank of 285. Telfair did well as a pick-an-roll ball-handler and in isolation, but both of those aren't very efficient play types and because they made up the majority of his attempts it hurts his final ranking.
Another thing to keep in mind is the disparity between the way he played at the start of the season and at the end of it. It is difficult looking at his season and judging it as a whole, especially because we don't know which one is the real Bassy Telfair right now.
Just kidding! Ronnie Price sucks on offense. 0.73 PPP, rank 418th, 37.7 field goal percentage, 23.5 %TO.