The Phoenix Suns went into the week against two playoff teams from last year with five total All-Stars and played against one. For the week they went 1-1 overall, as seen in the recaps below this line, but overall they showed signs in a few different areas that are cause for positivity.
@ Houston Rockets - L (92-95) Full Recap
vs. San Antonio Spurs - W (121-90) Full Recap
While this is only the pre-season is the pre-season there has been a lot to like about things with this team. There are chemistry issues on offense as new faces and new roles are being broken in, but the other side of the ball has been a pleasant surprise.
On defense thus far in the pre-season they have yet to surrender 100+ points in a game and have been the 2nd best points against defense through four games.
Points per game is a simple way of looking at defense as a whole, while important, because the more times you score more points than your opponent, the more wins you have in the end. The offense has shown flashes of being one that can score points in a hurry with a prime example in the Spurs win, but the offense is being created by their defense. In the heyday of the "Seven Seconds or Less" offense the defensive success (yes, they were better than you remember) was created by the offense. The offense took teams out of their comfort zone and used that as a way to be an effective defense.
This incarnation of the Suns will be looked at as a dynamic offensive team, but that is from their defensive style of swarming, attacking, and moving horizontally well.
As the team goes small they have more athletic, fluid athletes, that are undersized against a traditional wing or forward, but they get into them keeping them in-front and away from the basket. They rotate well getting out on shooters that appear to be open when the pass is on its way, but is a contested shot because of the foot speed of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green on the perimeter or Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, and Miles Plumlee in the interior.
It is easy to discuss the negatives of not having the traditional size at each position, but for all positives there are negatives and for all negatives there are positives. There will be nights where an opposing team will lean on the Suns hard and make the lack of size a weakness for the team.
There will also be nights like against the Spurs in the pre-season where they overwhelm their opponents with the littles running around. What is most important is finding that happy medium to live in for 45-55 games of the season.
Teams are shooting 23.2% from three against the Suns and 52.3% from two through the four games. Teams are turning the ball over at a very high rate (22.25 per game) leading to easy points for the Suns (23 per game) in transition.
I looked at one key for this team being the perimeter rebounding last week and this is going to be the key as the season gets started. Using their speed, quickness, lateral movement, close out ability on shooters, and ability to cause turnovers to get stops on defense will be the teams barometer of success.
Let's dive deeper into this week:
20 MPG 12.5 PPG 5.5 APG 3.0 RPG 2.0 SPG
Plug in Isaiah Thomas with either starting point guard on the court with him and he just seems to fit in well. The most important part of this is that Thomas is playing tremendous in what is realistically going to be his minute allotment in the regular season. There will be some games where he gets over 30 minutes if he is lights out and the team is winning because of it as well as the inverse of that. Bledsoe is logging 23 minutes per game and Dragic 20.5 minutes per game this week, both of which will bump up, of course, but getting more from less with Thomas like they are is going to be the justification of the master plan the front office had this off-season.
Quote of the Week
"We have to use our speed; we have to use our quickness. We just have to get after it. We can't let any plays go during the game. We had a couple stretches tonight where I thought we took some plays off and a team's going to burn you. In those two situations, I think they scored five points. We can't get those little spurts like that. " -- Coach Jeff Hornacek
- T.J. Warren: 33 minutes 12 points 3 rebounds 1 assist 54.5% FG (6-11 FG)
- Tyler Ennis: 10 minutes 4 points 0 assists 25% FG (1-4)
As the team is trying to figure out a rotation they cut the training camp invites (Joe Jackson, Casey Prather, Jamil Wilson) and limited the minutes of the young guns. The rookies are not playing a lot of minutes, but so far in this reduced role in the pre-season Warren has made good use of his time. He is scoring efficiently and even shooting the ball well from distance. On the other hand, Ennis is not playing a role of significance, but that is to be understood with chemistry needing to be established with the core back-court.
2015 NBA Draft
- Los Angeles Lakers: (Top 5 Protected) There is too much fluidity at the top of any draft in May let alone October to speculate names, but with the Lakers looking like a dumpster fire with a motivated Hall of Famer on the roster this pick could land in the Valley. A few names to keep an eye on when the season starts are Myles Turner (Texas, FR.), Cliff Alexander (Kansas, Fr.), and Karl Towns Jr. (Kentucky, Fr.) who all have tremendous athletic upside.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: (Top 12 Protected) It would be a unique scenario that saw this pick land in Phoenix come draft night, but stranger things have happened. So, if this happens, the Suns can take a hard look at Trey Lyles (Kentucky, Fr.), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, Jr.), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin, Jr.), or Bobby Portis (Arkansas, So.) all of which have varying skills at the four. All four could see their names called higher, but could fit well into the mix in the 12-15 range.
- Phoenix Suns: With the front-court as thin as it is right now in the short term a power forward with the upside of those listed above would fit nicely. Anthony Tolliver could be option'd out this summer and the Morrii are locked in for five years, but are not typical fours. In this draft there are a lot of forwards with the potential to impact the long-term future of this team
News & Notes
- Robert Sarver jjabs the San Antonio Spurs, offers "gift" to fans in attendance of the very one-sided game.
- Of course, Gregg Popovich responded.
Suns History Lesson
This week in Suns History: October 22nd, 1976: Tom and Dick Van Arsdale played their first NBA game together and the first game twin brothers played in league history...
This week in Suns History: October 23rd, 1993: Charles Barkley scored 28 points and won the Drazen Petrovic Award as the Suns defeated Buckler Bologna 112-90 in the sixth McDonald's Championship at Olymphiahalle...
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Tuesday, October 21st @ Los Angeles Lakers (1-3)
Wednesday, October 22nd @ Los Angeles Clippers (1-4)
Friday, October 24th @ Utah Jazz (4-1)
Finishing off on the road with three games in four days seems apropos for a final test for the Suns to help with the bonding through adversity. Road trips are the best form of NBA adhesive to assist in the gluing process of a team. Granted, it is the pre-season, so naturally, "take a grain of salt with the pre-season;" but this should tell a lot about a young teams readiness for the regular season.
As mentioned above the Lakers are a dumpster fire and the Suns kick off the actual season against them at home in nine days so that needs little discussion. The other Los Angeles team has been kicking the tires so far giving up 100+ points in all but one pre-season game so far. They do not need this season to prepare as much as other teams, but they are still playing 48 minutes like every other team. Overall the most intriguing game on the schedule this week is in Utah to face a young Jazz team that, may be a few years away from contention, but are loaded with potential young talent. Something said albeit in slightly different context about the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns. Unless the Suns sit out their better players because of a two week long European trip then this looks like a 3-0 week, ending the pre-season on a high note.
Also, three games in four days in the re-season just before the real action starts? Come on NBA, these guys are already playing insane back-to-backs and at times adding another game just a day later in the regular season. You can do better.