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Just How Good Are The 6-1 Suns?

The Phoenix Suns are 6 and 1 to start the season and playing great team basketball. Can it continue? (Photo by Max Simbron)
The Phoenix Suns are 6 and 1 to start the season and playing great team basketball. Can it continue? (Photo by Max Simbron)

Nobody thought the Phoenix Suns would start the season 6 and 1 and tie the 2000/01 team for a franchise best start through seven games. Nobody.

With Amare working his way back into shape and a tough early season road schedule this team was expected to struggle to find it's footing and hopefully come on later in the season when things rounded into form and the schedule lightened up.

Given the great start is it too soon to rethink the preseason prognostications that almost universally predicted this team would win around 46 games and be happy to make it to the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed?

Yes. It is too soon but that's not to take credit away from what the Suns have accomplished so far in the early days of the season.

The Suns join only the Celtics, Heat, Lakers and Magic at the top of the league standings with one loss each and of course, Phoenix handed the only losses to the Heat and Celtics and suffered their only defeat from the Magic. Pretty good company to kick things off and clearly not a fluke that the first three wins over the Clippers, Warriors and Timberwolves might have indicated.

Offensively, Phoenix is right back at the top of the association with the best field goal percentage (50%) and one of the most balanced attacks anywhere. In seven games, five different players have lead the team in scoring (Barbosa, Frye, Stoudemire and twice each for Nash and Richardson).

Shaq is no longer clogging up the lane and the Suns back to their running ways although with a Pace factor of 100 possessions per game they aren't anywhere close to reckless abandon.

The team is shooting over 45% from three and while that number will likely come down that isn't a given since most of those shots are coming from excellent shooters getting wide open looks. Inside we've seen the return of Amare's power game and the emergence of Jason's back to the basket post moves.

The Suns are still deadly in transition and are executing the half court offense as well as they did last year and better then in the glory years of 2004-2007.

The only highly correctable flaw is the miserable 70% shooting from the free throw line.

Even more surprising is the defense and rebounding.

The Suns are out-rebounding opponents 301-295 without the presence of The Big Glass Cleaner and are holding teams to a respectable 18 points in the fourth quarter of the last three road wins.

The bench play has been fantastic even with Barbosa missing three games and the Suns no longer have to fear giving up big leads when Nash goes for a rest. Since Alvin Gentry has taken over as head coach the Suns reserves are averaging 33.5 points per game which is higher than at any point in the past five years.

Goran Dragic is looking like a stable backup point guard with a 2.33 assist to turnover ratio which is comparable to Steve Nash (2.44) and Jared Dudley and Louis Amundson are bringing the energy, hustle and toughness that you want from your reserves.

The Suns are getting stops, staying even on the glass, scoring efficiently, attacking from anywhere on the court and playing with depth. This record is legit. All that combined with a feisty team that has an underdog's edge and a toughness that's been missing in Phoenix for many years and you've got a Suns team that is a threat to continue winning at a very respectable pace.

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