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Suns Starters Play Limited Minutes Thanks To Bench

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The Suns bench has done more than cheer this season. Their play has allowed Phoenix to go 9 or 10 deep and has limited the minutes played by the starters leaving them fresh to close out games. (Photo by Max Simbron)
The Suns bench has done more than cheer this season. Their play has allowed Phoenix to go 9 or 10 deep and has limited the minutes played by the starters leaving them fresh to close out games. (Photo by Max Simbron)

The wonderful play of the Suns bench has been well documented and has lead to the Suns regularly playing 4 reserves (Barbosa, Dudley, Amundson and Dragic). With the pending return of Robin Lopez and the continued development of Earl Clark Gentry will easily be able to go 11 deep.

We've marveled at Jared's "athletic hands" and Lou's volleyball rejections but it is interesting to note how the depth of the Suns has impacted the minutes of the Suns starters.

Through 11 games the Sun with the most minutes per game is Amare Stoudemire at 34.5mpg which ranks 43rd in the NBA.The "aging" vets are even lower with 32.7 for Steve Nash and 30 for Grant Hill. This is the first time since the 1999/00 season that Nash is averaging under 33 minutes.

All this for a team that is 9-2 that has only played four times at home and has only had one two-day break between games so far.

While the Suns have looked flat on the second game of their three back-to-backs they've also managed to overcome double digit deficits four times and are holding teams to 41.6% shooting in the fourth quarter of their nine wins.

As further evidence for the benefit of being fresh there's this little fun fact from Paul Coro,

When trailing after three quarters, the Suns went 4-30 last year. They are 4-2 in that situation this season. And this is a team already on its eighth road game tonight.

Those are all signs of a rested team. Not once has Steve Nash had to play an entire fourth quarter and I can't even recall him entering the game with more than 8 minutes to go. Compare that to last season when the Suns often were forced to play Steve for the entire final period leaving him too gassed to perform late game heroics.

The depth is no surprise to Suns fans who understood that the bench was a strength of the team going into the season but the numbers are a bit startling when your top guy in minutes is only 43rd in the league.