The Phoenix Suns (2-0) kicked off their pre--season with an international twist knocking off South American power Flamengo and then welcomed to town likely competition for the "non-playoff team from last year most likely to make that leap this year" in the Denver Nuggets. They knocked them both off, looking sloppy overall, but getting the wins nonetheless.
vs. Rio De Janeiro Flamengo - W (100-88) Full Recap
Right now the Suns look more like the team should have looked last year with 10 new faces to the rotation. However the situation this year is that they have two rookies to work in and free-agent addition Isaiah Thomas, but the roster as a whole was brought back from last years 48 win team.
The team is building chemistry. That takes time as Eric Bledsoe is adjusting to missing the
final 43 games of the season bulk of the final 39 games and Markieff Morris is adjusting to a likely new role that does not feature veteran Channing Frye in front of him as insurance. Early on against Flamengo it was rough to watch with lots of turnovers and sloppy play as they trailed all the way into the mid-third quarter.
Defensively there have been some positives as they are holding opponents to 88.5 points per game while limiting their shooting to 39.7% from the field (26.0% from three) using their speed and athleticism to force bad shots.
On that note they are forcing 22.5 turnovers per game getting out in transition (19.0 fast-break points per game) and getting teams to play into their style, which is easier said than done. The Suns are build for the frenetic and the chaotic with their athletic waves of guards and wings that get in passing lanes, cause deflections, and then chase down the ball for easy scoring opportunities. That is their identity.
Sure, in the half-court the Suns are a competent scoring team with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic working the pick-and-roll game, breaking down the defense, and creating easy scoring opportunities. Bledsoe especially looks like he is ready to be the half-court offensive catalyst through two games.
The team needs better overall cohesiveness on the offensive end and the rebounding needs a lot of TLC, but the offense is as dynamic as we thought it would be and it is in its infancy right now in terms of fluidity and comfort.
Let's dive deeper into this week:
25.0 PPG 6.0 RPG 5.5 APG
Granted, last year as individuals in vastly different roles Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green averaged 36 points per game while starting for more than half the season. They were asked to be different people in Sacramento and a Phoenix without Eric Bledsoe last year respectively, but this year, in a more confined role, they are more important to the success of a team with a higher ceiling. As a bench duo that would be more than three NBA teams last year and one of the best pairs in the league overall. Throw in a productive Anthony Tolliver and Alex Len and this could be a massive weapon for the Suns this season.
Quote of the Week
"That first group in there with Anthony (Tolliver) - they were moving the ball a little bit quicker. Anthony keeps it spread out, so we'll continue to play with it and see what works best." -- Coach Jeff Hornacek
- T.J. Warren: 18 minutes 13 points 7 rebounds 1 assist 50% FG (3-5 3PT)
- Tyler Ennis: 13 minutes 4 points 50% FG
Neither rookie played significant minutes in either pre-season game and Ennis came in initially with butter fingers and nerves of glass. After the first few minutes though the rookies looked like they belonged on an NBA court. Ennis did not have a major punch in the boxscore while running the team and facilitating the offense, but Warren shot the ball about as good as anyone could have hoped knocking down threes and scoring nearly a point per minute. It is just two games and one was against a South American team. Overall these two are going to look very good in their D-League uniforms while the Suns try and figure out their rotations. When they get called up they will contribute.
- Los Angeles Lakers: (Top 5 Protected) Wow, they looked like a dumpster fire the other day against the Warriors and that will be an every 3-4 games type of Lakers performance. Buckle up. This could get ugly. The Lakers played their starters and Julius Randle quality minutes so this was not a blitzing of the scrub unit. Oh, wait, Jeremy Lin wasn't in action. That is what it was.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: (Top 12 Protected) The ideology that they are going to be terrible is a false notion when you look at the productive NBA players on the roster, Rubio as they leader, and an army of young athletes ready to play. That does not mean they are playoff bound, unless they were Eastern Conference down and bound, but they should hover around that protection line this season.
- Phoenix Suns: Where else would the Suns draft? They will be somewhere between 13-15 with the stacked Western Conference and potential for so many 50+ win teams. The team is building something and this is another step in that process.
News & Notes
- Former Suns player Michael Beasley signed to play in China.
- Alex Len is to be reevaluated for his "pinky" injury this Wednesday, October 15th.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 5 points (3 rebounds, 2 assists) in 19 minutes against the Spurs in pre-season.
This week in Suns History: October 11th, 2008: The Suns lost to the Nuggets, 77-72, in a pre-season game at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It was the first outdoor game in nearly three decades...
This week in Suns History: October 13th, 1998: The NBA announced it is canceling the first two weeks of the NBA season due to stalled negotiations with the NBA and the NBA Players Association...
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Monday, October 13th @ Houston Rockets (2-0)
Thursday, October 16th vs. San Antonio Spurs (1-1)
This week there is a Texas-Two-Step for the Suns as they hit the road for the first time against Dragic's former team in Houston then return home to take on the NBA Champions. These will both be quality tests as the Rockets are trying to figure things out with their rotation and are playing with purpose to as high a degree one can in pre-season, much like the Suns are. They have questions with their forward rotation and back-up guards. The Rockets are one of about 3-5 teams that have enough questions about their team make-up and identity where they might be fighting for a playoff berth rather than just getting one given to them like years more talented team.
The Spurs are the Spurs. Like every year they have a locked in primary rotation and will tweak the bench accordingly as they always do. The Suns could pull out another 2-0 week with continued practices, chemistry building, and a rhythm on the court.
Hey, Ish Smith, hi from everyone here at Bright Side. Good luck in Houston and we all are rooting for you no matter where you land.