Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns still soul searching, but will not tank

USA TODAY Sports

How did the Phoenix Suns handle the week that was? What were the highs, the lows, the key stats, and the players that performed on the court as well as those who did not?

Coming into the week, the Phoenix Suns had two seemingly winnable games: one that could have easily been a lopsided loss, and another that ended up being exactly what it should have been.

In classic 2013 Suns fashion, they dropped both games against the lesser opponents, beat a playoff team, and then were routed by another playoff team. It has been that type of season for the Suns so far and after going 1-3 in their last four games, they hit the road for three games in four nights.

Game Recaps

@ Toronto Raptors - L (71-98)

@ Sacramento Kings - L (112-121)

vs. Houston Rockets - W (107-105)

vs. Denver Nuggets - L (108-93)

Jared Dudley on Tanking

"It is understandable because you want to have the highest pick but at the same time, if I lose on purpose, I may not be able to find a job in Phoenix. If Jared is not playing well, let's get rid of him. I am trying to be here for a long time and have a good reputation in the league. At the end of the day, we will be in the lottery no matter, so hopefully we get the best pick."

Lottery Update

These three losses pushed the Suns into the sixth slot in the lottery after getting as high as third just a week ago. The schedule gets very interesting over the next few weeks as they will play the Wizards, Lakers, Timberwolves, and Jazz, all of which have some significance on the season. A win over the Lakers is beneficial, but losses to the Jazz, Timberwolves, and Wizards could easily vault the Suns back into the Top three of the lottery.

More on lottery odds in the coming weeks.

Key Stat

360 (5.62 per game)

Season to date, the Suns have scored 6,056 points to the 6,416 that they have given up to their opponents.

The margin of victory (or loss) this season has been, on average, -5.62 points per game. There were a lot of close calls, some wins, and some blow-out losses. That was the identity of the team through roughly 50 games of basketball. Well, since the All-Star Break, the team has gone 5-6 overall, but the margin has gotten worse at -7.27.

The Highs

This season, there have been very few highlights, but against the Rockets, they had a few that were noteworthy. Kendall Marshall threw a pass between the legs of Omer Asik that drew national attention on Twitter and more as one of the highlights of the night.

Later that night, Marshall hit a circus shot with the shot clock expiring that helped the Suns stay on top late in the fourth quarter.

The Lows

Another week, another dance with franchise futility on the offensive end. The switch to the defensive culture has been tough to watch at times, but it has allowed the Suns to go 5-6 since the All-Star Break, allowing 101.7 points per game on the defensive end. Of course, the offense has struggled, only scoring 94.4 points per game and to reference the key stat, that is not an improvement, as that is a differential of -7.27 points per game.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • B+ for Jared Dudley: The demotion to the bench didn't effect Dudley on the whole, as he went out there and still put up numbers and was productive. He is a more natural bench player that has developed the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways.
  • D+ for Luis Scola: His role has been limited in order to give the younger bigs more playing time, but when he was on the court, he shot poorly at 32.1% from the field, hurting the team offensively.
  • B+ for Marcus Morris: Consistency was the key for the newer Morris. He scored at least nine points every game and shot the ball over 50% from the field. The defensive effort and rebounding has been of quality while playing the three or the four.

Player of the Week:

Hamed Haddadi - 5.3 PPG 6.3 RPG 0.5 APG 2.0 BPG 41.2% FG

Why not? The team dropped two games that were lost in fairly embarrassing fashion and the win was paced by the play of Haddadi. There was not one member of the Suns that played a consistently good brand of basketball for three games, but Haddadi had arguably the best game based on circumstance. He is now the only center on the roster and when facing teams with larger frontcourts, he becomes a valuable asset. This week, he achieved his career-highs in points, rebounds, and minutes played over the past four games.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, March 13th @ Houston Rockets (34-30)

Friday, March 15th @ Atlanta Hawks (34-28)

Saturday, March 16th @ Washington Wizards (18-46)

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