We are ten games into the Season and we have already gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. But it's okay. We know the drill here at Bright Side of The Sun, after all... this is Suns Basketball right?
Whoever said that the Suns were going to be boring was wrong. So far we have had some interesting things going on in Planet Orange that have made us feel: sad, bitter, frustrated, cheated, confused and amazed. The Suns are still very entertaining, not the way that we hoped for but still entertaining and by the way...our record (7-3) is not horrible.
Let's talk basketball.
If someone would have travelled into the future and came back to tell me that the good guys were going to have a 7-3 record on Nov. 16th I would have been pleased. Yes, I'd have probably asked him if we were going to win the championship instead but you get my point.
Down to business.
The Suns have showed the ability to score in bunches, we encountered a little bit of a speed bump in the last few games but we still know that this team can score. The numbers don't lie, we are 6th in the league with an average of 100.5 points per game and a great FG% of 49. And yes ladies and gentlemen, this is the highest FG% in the entire league.
We are shooting 37% from behind the arc and have won 6 of the 7 games when scoring 100+ points. Which means that we still rely on our offensive weapons to win games.
I know it's a little bit early to talk about standings but just FYI we are currently 4th in the West Conference just one game behind our beloved enemies The Lakers which are at first place. The only reason that were are not 2nd is due to the fact that Houston and Utah are division leaders.
Obviously Kerr's and Porter's main concern was the defense. We have seen encouraging signs that the players are indeed committed to actually play it but the truth is that there is still a lot of work to do in this area. But then again, none of us expected this team to become a defensive juggernaut out of nowhere. Here are our main stats:
Rebounds per game: We are currently 2nd in the league allowing our opponents to grab 38 per game and 5th with a +2.60 differential. On the flip side, the combination of the Suns pace, the low FGA and the high FG% account for 29th in offensive rebounding.
It's no secret that the addition of Shaq has helped us improve in this area and let's not forget the other "bigs" like Robin Lopez and Louis Amundson and even Matt Barnes have contributed this season in this specific and important area. Overall, team rebounding has been a bright spot for the Suns.
We are averaging 4.7 BPG (21st in the league) and 6.5 SPG which is mediocre at best but it gets worse when you find out that other teams average 8.3 steals against us (collectively), which leads me to...
The Turnover Nightmare
My high school coach used to tell me: "There's nothing worse than a turnover in this game, I don't mind you taking a contested or ugly shot at the rim, throwing up a brick or whatever. At least you tried to get the ball through the hoop. Don't let the other team get more chances to score than the ones they already have"
He also used to tell me that turnovers were caused by different reasons but mainly lack of concentration, not knowing your fellow players on the court, indecision due to not knowing the offensive system and nervousness. We can scratch the last one since we are talking about NBA pros. Not that they don't feel nervous in a game but at this stage they should be able to control it so it doesn't affect their game.
So that leaves us with the first three which IMHO are the main reasons the Suns have problems with turnovers. This should get better with time, the more they play and start to practice and get acquainted to execute the offensive plan, the amount of turnovers will go down.
Let's keep an eye on that.
Things that I've liked in this 10 game stretch:
The Zone Defense: Zone defense tends to confuse other teams, Porter has used it several times and has worked but he has to be careful against which teams he's going to use it. The zone defense takes care of one of our main defensive problems: *cough-Nash-cough* or the PG position for that matter. If the opposing team has a player or players too quick for our guards, the "poor" defensive player can get help from a teammate if he is beaten . Other benefits of the Zone defense include a less tiring defensive system so it can be used if the team is fatigued towards the end of the game, It helps if players are in danger of fouling out, so it can take away the pressure of guarding the lanes (Centers and Forwards).
But there's a downside to everything, Zones tend to be weak on the perimeter, so they are not very effective against teams with good outside shooters. We saw this in the Hornets game but I have to be fair and say that even guarding man to man they shot the ball well. Other disadvantage is that it becomes really hard to box out players for rebounds, therefore, it's easier for the other team to get an offensive rebound.
So it's up to Terry Porter to identify the situations where the team can take advantage of using the Zone. So far so good.
Good job resting players: So far Porter has done a good job resting our veterans. Shaq has gotten days off and has performed well after resting. Nash is averaging 32.0 minutes per game and Hill is coming of the bench. This will certainly help if the Suns make it to the playoffs. Fresh legs make a huge difference. And by the way...it's great that we actually have a bench now.
Amaré and Shaq dominating: We have seen great performances from both of them and it's no secret that both of them feel that the inside game is what will help the Suns become an elite team again. Porter feels the same way and it shows in every game where he calls plays for Shaq and Amaré at the post. Diaw has been playing great also. Let's keep that up.
There are things that have to improve, Nash really needs to get involved in the offense. We just can't have the luxury of not having our top PG contribute, turnovers have to go down, Porter needs to get his rotations straight and the rest of the players have to get on the same page and stop thinking and complaining and just play basketball and enjoy the game. It wouldn't hurt to go small and run from time to time, there has to be a balance.
I'm optimistic and although I've been accused of having mood swings before, I still feel the same way as when I wrote Part 1 of the Season Preview Series. I'm up for the change, It's a new challenge. Let's be patient and enjoy the game, after all...7-3 is not that bad Huh?
Stay tuned for the next 10 Game Recap.