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Phoenix Suns Small Forward Analysis: Defense


Summer has begun, classes are over and I have nothing but time on my hands (until I get a summer job anyway). So, armed with, I've decided to assign myself the task of going through the Suns' roster and breaking down the usage and success rate of each position group.

Centers: Offense - Defense

Power Forwards: Offense - Defense

I previously wrote about the offensive numbers for the small forwards, and they showed that Grant Hill struggled with his shot while Micheal Redd was a decent offensive spark off the bench. Oh, and we also learned Josh Childress didn't do a whole lot on offense. Now let's take a look at those guys on defense. I have a feeling the opposite will be true (well, except for Childress; he didn't do much on defense either).

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.

Grant Hill

Considering Grant Hill was asked to match up with the opponents' best scorer night in and night out, it shouldn't be a surprise that he defended isolations more than any other play (25.2%). He gave up 0.79 PPP, ranked 159, and opponents shot an even 35% against him.

He also spent a lot of time contesting spot-up shooters (23.5%) and did fairly well, posting a PPP of 0.83 for a rank of 74 and held shooters to 36.6% from the field. Fun fact: he didn't commit a single shooting foul in these situations. Growing up I was told never to foul a jumpshooter. Apparently Hill was taught the same thing.

Grant defended the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls 21.8% of the time, and his PPP against was the same as it was in isolations: 0.79. That earned him a 106 ranking. Hill only gave up 36.8% shooting and he forced turnovers on 14.9% of plays.

Those are his three most commonly defended play types, and the total plays he defended after that fall off. Next is players running off screens at 11%. His PPP was 0.82 and his rank was 52. Opponents shot 41.3%, and again he did not commit a single shooting foul. The man is a smart defender.

He defended post-ups on 9.7% of his plays, with a .73 PPP and a 56 ranking. Opponents only shot 13-35, and he forced a turnover twice as often as he committed a shooting foul.

Hill's overall PPP was 0.78, which only ranked him 78th. But he held opponents to 36.5% shooting and 32.3% from 3-point range. He only fouled 4.1% of the time, while he forced a turnover on 8.8% of his plays defended. His overall %Score against was 36.2%. Furthermore, opponents scored under 40% of the time on each of ply types with the exception of hand offs, a play type he only defended 21 times all year. Grant Hill may be an old man, but he's still a quality, versatile defender who makes his opponent work on every play.

Michael Redd

As for Michael Redd ... well, the numbers aren't very pretty. He only recorded 144 total defensive plays, so small sample size heavily factors in here.

Redd's most commonly defended play was the spot-up, with a whopping 43 total plays recorded. He gave up a .091 PPP to those shooters, which ranked him 148th. Second is isolation with 29 total plays, a PPP of 0.90 and a rank of 246. Those were the only two play types for which he qualified to be ranked.

He defended 25 plays where his man ran off a screen, and gave up 12-21 shooting, including 5-7 from beyond the arc. However, he did much better on his 25 plays against pick-and-roll ball-handlers, where he held opponents to 6-20 shooting and forced 3 turnovers.

Most of his numbers were mediocre to bad, and that combined with the small number of plays resulted in a 0.93 PPP and a rank of 369. Ouch. He gave up 40.2% shooting and 36.2% shooting from deep. Really, the only thin he was good at was defending rick-and-roll ball-handlers.

Josh Childress

Josh Childress actually recorded almost as many defensive plays as Redd did (132), and the results are just plain ugly.

He defended spot-up shooters on 40 plays, and gave up an even 1.00 PPP for a rank of 251. Opponents didn't really shoot that well against him, but they did make eight 3-pointers (on 25 attempts) and he committed three shooting fouls to bring the PPP up.

He defended 29 isolation plays, an again gave up a 1.00 PPP for an even worse rank of 297. Iso players connected on nine of 20 field goal attempts against him, and he sent them to the line on another 6 plays.

On 23 plays against the pick-an-roll ball-handler, he again gave up a 1.00 PPP and his opponents shot 10-19. He gave up a PPP of 1.11 when chasing shooters off of screens as they shot 9-16. He was eaten alive on his handful of attempts at defending the post.

Overall, his PPP was 1.02, which was good for a rank of 445. Opponents shot 45.8% and 41.7% from deep. He was actually slightly worse last season. So much for the defensive stopper we expected when he was acquired.


According to the numbers, Grant Hill is good, Michael Redd is bad and Josh Childress shouldn't get off the bench very often. I think this was pretty clear from watching the games though, so I'm not exactly telling you something you didn't already know.

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