Phoenix Suns history is littered with great names: Steve Nash, Charles Barkley, Connie Hawkins, and so on and so forth. You know what it’s even more littered with? Not-so-great names. For every Kevin Johnson, there a dozen Gani Lawals or Ian Lockharts. This is true of all NBA franchises.
There have been 340 or so players on gameday rosters in Phoenix Suns’ history. Half of them played for Phoenix for 1 season or less. Only 14 played 410 games (the equivalent of 5 seasons) or more for the Suns. Of those four, 10 of them are in the Ring of Honor. The four remaining players are Mark West, Leandro Barbosa, Alvin Scott, and Jeff Hornacek, role players who managed to stick in Phoenix for one reason or another. Jared Dudley can join this list if he finishes out the season healthy in Phoenix.
All of this churn and lack of permanence makes sense, but I was not prepared for the picture this painted of the most “typical” Suns player*. Take tenure for example. When I set out to find the most “average” Phoenix Sun, I was thinking it would be someone along the lines of Eddie Johnson. Johnson played in 222 games in Phoenix in just under 4 seasons, both of which are higher than average. The typical Phoenix Sun only stuck around for about 2.3 seasons and played in a meager 114 games.
So, join me for a surprising look at some of the most average players in Phoenix history. Some are infamous. Some are obscure. All however, are completely average in one way or another.
Rebounds: Where the average leads to one of the best rebounders in Suns’ history
Let’s start in one of Phoenix’s historically weak categories. With the notable exceptions of Charles Barkley, Paul Silas and Shawn Marion, attacking the glass has never been a strong suit of Suns’ players. Your average Sun has pulled down 499.66 rebounds in their Phoenix careers. Two players in Phoenix Suns history approach this number. First, there’s Michael Finley who pulled down 494 rebounds in a near-average tenure of 109 games in his all-too-short Suns career in the mid-90s. And then there was the very un-average George Wilson.
George Wilson, a power forward-center, was drafted by Jerry Colangelo as part of the 1968 expansion draft when Phoenix joined the National Basketball Association. He would only play 41 games for Phoenix before being traded mid-season. Despite that, he accounted for 505 rebounds in his half a season, for an average of 12.3 rebounds per game. If 12.3 rebounds per game seems curiously high, it is. George Wilson had the best rebounds per game average in Phoenix Suns history, ranking just ahead of Paul Silas (12.08).
Blocks and Steals: It’s guards all the way down
Along with rebounding, defense has never been a Phoenix Suns hallmark. And there is no better poster boy for the Suns’ history on defense than the Suns’ most average stealer. Casey Jacobsen was drafted out of Stanford as a sharpshooter. He was most definitely a 3 guy, but not a D guy. And yet here reps the franchise in averages for steals and steals per game (94 and .49) with numbers that are almost dead-on for the Suns’ historical averages (93.46 and .48).
Rim protection in Phoenix is similarly represented. Your average Sun has blocked 53.5 shots. And, as of this writing, you know who is sitting exactly at 53 blocked shots in Phoenix? Tyson Chandler. That puts him firmly in average territory, along with Gerald Green and Ron Lee with 54 apiece, both of whom were guards and both of whom took nearly 2 and 3 times more games respectively to get there. We’ll give the average mantle to the guards since Chandler will likely keep adding to his total and guards are the lifeblood that course’s through this franchise’s veins.
Passing: A couple of gunners rep the average Suns’ passer
One thing Phoenix is famous for is point guards: Steve Nash, Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, Eric Bledsoe. Phoenix has rarely lacked for a big name at the lead passing position. Obviously everyone on that list (even the drive-and-kick Bledsoe) is an above average passer. But all those guys have a gravitational pull of Phoenix’s passing numbers. The average Sun has assisted on 283.8 baskets, and as luck would have it a pair of Suns’ guards are within sniffing distance of that number: Jason Richardson (289) and Devin Booker (279).
Booker won’t be there for long, so the distinction rests with Jason Richardson who racked up his 289 assists his 162 career games in Phoenix. Not bad for a guy who was brought in to shoot, dunk then shoot some more.
Scoring: Obscurity and disappointment are average scorers for Phoenix
The one thing one has (usually) been able to rely on in Phoenix is a team that puts lots and lots of points on the board, whether it was the Cotton Express in the late 80s and early 90s or the 7 Seconds or Less squad in the late-2000s. So, I was kind of surprised to find out that the average Sun has only scored 1213 points on a meager 6.6 points per game. Two guys come close and neither one is heralded in Suns’ lore.
Mo Layton comes closest to the average number of points scored by a Suns player. The Phoenix Suns took Layton in the third round of the 1971 NBA draft. The Phoenix College/USC product played his first two seasons in Phoenix, notching 1194 points in 145 games, placing him right on the numbers for an 8.2 point per game average. But the most average scorer in Suns’ history is also one of their most disappointing.
Hot Rod Williams was a center so coveted by the Suns that they gave up Ring of Honor member Dan Majerle, Antonio Lang and a 1st round draft pick to acquire him from Cleveland. He was supposed to help Phoenix compete against the big men of the Western Conference. Instead, back problems hampered him and his arrival heralded the end of the Suns’ run from the late 80s to early 90s. Envisioned as a star center for a playoff team in the 1995-96 season, he ended up an average guy on a perfectly average 41-41 team. Fittingly, he scored 1251 points in his 201 games as a Phoenix Sun for a nearly perfect Suns’ average of 6.2 points per game.
The Most Average Sun?
This was a tough pill to swallow. In the frontcourt, there are respectable names like Ty Corbin, Kurt Thomas and Luc Longley. All of whom had decent to above average careers, despite the shortness of their stints in Phoenix. Longley probably comes the closest. In his 111 games in Phoenix, he snatched 544 rebounds and blocked 63 shots. He falls well below the average in points (791) and steals (45).
In backcourt however, one name dunks on the rest. Between 2011 and 2013, this guy suited up for Phoenix 118 times with 41 starts (averages are 114.4 and 50.5). In 2802 career minutes (2733 average), he scored 1,267 points on 42% shooting (1,213 on 43% average), while notching 103 steals (93.46 average). He falls short in the rebounding (306 vs 499 average) and assists (107 vs 283 average), but that’s not surprising once you find out this player is a shooting guard named Shannon Brown.
The Suns went 58-90 in Brown’s tenure in Phoenix. Like Hot Rod Williams in the 90s, Brown’s arrival coincided with some of the worst basketball to grace the Valley of the Sun. The Suns have not made the playoffs since Brown signed with Phoenix and posted one of their worst seasons in franchise history with him on the roster. I’m not laying all of this at Shannon Brown’s feet. I just wish my favorite team’s most average player was someone other than a fearsome dunker with questionable decision-making skills who caused audible groans in Bright Side of the Sun’s comments section.
*All stats courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com. All very questionable and sloppy math, courtesy of me.