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Phoenix Suns close out strangely entertaining season

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It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns finished the 2016-17 season with the third worst record in franchise history, marking a really bad 7-year stretch for the team:

  • three of the four worst records in the 49-year franchise history (25-57 in 2012-13, 23-59 in 2015-16 and 24-58 this year)
  • no playoffs for seven straight seasons, the longest stretch in franchise history by two years
  • tied franchise-record 8-game home losing streak
  • tied franchise-record 13-game overall single-season losing streak

Yet, the season has largely been fun to watch - especially since the All-Star Break where the team’s bevy of young players got to play a ton of minutes.

The franchise executed a masterful tank job that earned the Suns the most ping-pong balls in franchise history (2nd most in league), overtaking the Lakers in the final week, while also giving great minutes to talented rookies (Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss and Derrick Jones Jr.) and second year players Alan Williams and Devin Booker. Top rookie Dragan Bender was the only injury casualty, but he flashed well and will get plenty of chances next year.

We’ve seen 58 losses this year, but even many of those losses have been of the most palatable kind - where the Suns fought hard in (nearly) every one of them, climbed back to 1-2 possession deficits against good teams before losing, mixed with only a few memorable nights.

Let’s take a walk down short-memory lane.


Most all of these stats are available here, thanks to the great Suns stats team, in a primer made prior to game 82 against the Kings: http://www.nba.com/gamenotes/suns.pdf


No public feuds!

  • For the first time in three years, not one player went public with complaints about management. Not even Brandon Knight, who sulked in the second unit and was benched for “veteran” reasons yet is nothing like Tyson Chandler and is by far the youngest vet-benching in probably the history of the NBA.

Most game-winning buzzer beaters in 20 YEARS!

  • The Suns have a league-high four game-winning buzzer-beaters this season by DEVIN BOOKER (March 11 at Dallas; Feb. 3 at Sacramento), TYLER ULIS (March 5 vs. Boston) and ERIC BLEDSOE (Nov. 2 vs. Portland).
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Suns are the only NBA team in the last 20 years that such play-by-play data exists (since 1997-98) to have at least four game-winning buzzer-beaters in a regular season (the 2009-10 L.A. Lakers most recently had four in the regular season and playoffs combined).

Good in the clutch?!?

In the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime this season, the Suns are shooting a combined 12-of-26 on field goal attempts to tie or take the lead (Bledsoe: 5-of-8, Booker: 4-of-11, Warren: 1-of-1, Tucker: 1-of-4, Ulis: 1-of-1, Barbosa: 0-of-1).

Good on the fringes

  • The Suns rank in the NBA’s top five in all four miscellaneous points categories, ranking 2nd with an average of 19.6 fast break points, 5th in with 47.3 points in the paint, 4th with 14.9 second chance points and 3rd with 17.9 points off turnovers.
  • Also, the Suns rank 2nd in the NBA in pace with 102.9 possessions per 48 minutes.

Historic Mexico games

  • The Suns made NBA history by playing two games in Mexico City (108-113 vs. Dallas on Jan. 12; 108-105 vs. San Antonio on Jan. 14), as the games marked the first time the NBA hosts two regular-season games in Mexico in the same season.
  • Earl Watson still calls the win over San Antonio the biggest win of the season.
  • Devin Booker scored 39 points in each game at Mexico City, including 28 in the fourth quarter against Dallas to nearly help the Suns pull out the win. Booker became the youngest ever to record back-to-back 39+ point games, two months after becoming the youngest with back-to-back 38+ point games.

Youngest starting lineup in league history

After the All-Star Break, the Suns went almost entirely young and trotted out rookie after rookie while sitting Tyson Chandler (34), Brandon Knight (25) and mostly Eric Bledsoe (27), trading P.J. Tucker (31) and watching Leandro Barbosa (34) nurse a hamstring injury for three weeks.

  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Suns started the youngest lineup in NBA history on March 23 at Brooklyn with TYLER ULIS (21 years, 77 days), DEVIN BOOKER (20, 144), DERRICK JONES JR. (20, 36), MARQUESE CHRISS (19, 264) and ALEX LEN (23, 280) combining for an average age of 21 years, 14 days.
  • This surpassed the previous youngest set by the LA Clippers on Nov. 15, 2010, when ERIC BLEDSOE, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq-Aminu, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan averaged 21 years, 143 days.
  • At least four different times this season, the Suns reset their own franchise record for youngest starting lineup in Suns history, with various combinations of the aforementioned players plus Eric Bledsoe (27), T.J. Warren (23) and Alex Len (23).

Youth is served

  • On the Suns’ opening night roster, four of the players on the 15-man roster were teenagers as of the season opener: DRAGAN BENDER, DEVIN BOOKER, MARQUESE CHRISS and DERRICK JONES JR. The Suns are the first team in NBA history with four teenagers on their regular season roster; in fact, no team has ever had as many as three teenagers play for them in a season.
  • The Suns made NBA history on Oct. 26 as they had three teenagers (DEVIN BOOKER, MARQUESE CHRISS, DRAGAN BENDER) see action, becoming the first team ever to have three teenagers appear in the same game (a feat they replicated on Oct. 28 and again on Nov. 19 and Dec. 15 with DERRICK JONES JR. replacing Booker as the third teenager).
  • Representative of his versatile game, MARQUESE CHRISS had 72 three-pointers and 70 blocks this season. He joins Kristaps Porzingis, Shane Battier, Eddie Griffin and Jerry Stackhouse as the only rookies to ever have at least 70 of each.
  • If you factor in his 67 steals with his 72/70, you can drop Griffin and Porzingis OFF that list. Only Battier, Stackhouse and Chriss have had a 72/70/67 rookie season.
  • Before you say that’s just a “longevity” thing because he started most of this season, consider this: Chriss played far fewer minutes than Battier and Stackhouse (1,743 minutes versus 2,700+). Going further, there have been 539 rookies since 1963-64 who logged 1,700+ minutes, and only 53 of those even posted a 30 threes + 30 blocks season.
  • ALAN WILLIAMS had his 16th career double-double against the Kings in the finale. In his 21 career games playing 20+ minutes, Williams has 16 double-doubles. Williams’ 15 double-doubles off the bench this season are 3rd most in the NBA.
  • Going into the final game, the Suns have posted a Net Rating of +5.3 when Jones has been on the court since the break against a Net Rating of -14.0 when off.
  • TYLER ULIS Had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds vs. GSW on 4/5, the first Suns rookie with consecutive 20/5/5 games since Michael Finley.
  • Ulis scored career-high 34 points (most ever by sub 6-0 Sun) on 15-22 FG in addition to career-high nine rebounds and nine assists as he just missed a triple-double vs. HOU on 4/2.
  • Ulis finished his rookie season with 15 starts, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds in those starts.

All-Star Weekend Representation

The Suns have not had an All-Star since Steve Nash was named to the team in 2012. That’s FIVE years, folks, the longest stretch of non-All-Star in franchise history.

This year, at least, the Suns had three teammates represent the Suns in various activities.

  • Devin Booker was named to the Skills Challenge, as well as the Rising Stars game
  • Marquese Chriss was named to the Rising Stars game
  • Derrick Jones Jr. was the runner-up in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest

Booker’s OMG season

  • At 20 years, 145 days old at the time of his 70-point game, DEVIN BOOKER became the youngest player to ever record a 70-point game—in fact, he also became the youngest to record a 60-point game and third-youngest to record a 50-point game (Brandon Jennings, LeBron James). The previous youngest to score 60 was Jerry West (63 points on Jan. 17, 1962) with an age over three years older than Booker at 23 years, 234 days. The previous youngest to score 70 was David Thompson (73 points on April 9, 1978) also with an age over three years older than Booker at 23 years, 270 days.
  • With 20 free throws made in the second half at Boston on March 24, DEVIN BOOKER tied the NBA record for most free throws made in one half. He matched the record of 20 initially set by Michael Jordan in the second half at Miami on Dec. 30, 1992.
  • Among guards, the 70-point outing was the third-highest in NBA history. The top four scoring games by guards are now: Kobe Bryant (81 vs. Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006); David Thompson (73 at Detroit on April 9, 1978); DEVIN BOOKER (70 at Boston on March 24, 2017); Michael Jordan (69 at Cleveland on March 28, 1990). The four guards included here represent a lineage of inspiration as Jordan has said he idolized Thompson, Bryant has said he idolized Jordan, and Booker has said he idolized Bryant.
  • With 246 career made three-pointers, DEVIN BOOKER has the most before turning 21 in NBA history (prev. Bradley Beal, 229).
  • With six quarters of 20+ points this season, DEVIN BOOKER ranks 1st in the NBA.
  • DEVIN BOOKER followed up his then career-high 38 points at New Orleans on Nov. 4 with a new career-high 39 points at Los Angeles on Nov. 6 to become the youngest player in NBA history to record back-to-back games with at least 38 points. Booker, doing so at 20 years, 5 and 7 days old, accomplished the feat over 300 days younger than the previous holder, Bernard King, who scored 39 then 41 points in two straight for the New Jersey Nets from Nov. 2-4, 1977, at ages of 20 years, 333 and 335 days. Booker then scored 39 in back-to-back games on Jan. 12 and 14 at 20 years, 74 and 76 days old to also become the youngest player in NBA history to record back-to-back games with at least 39 points, besting the same stretch by King (Basketball-Reference).
  • DEVIN BOOKER became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20+ points in at least 16 straight games, reaching 16 at 20 years, 97 days old. His streak scoring 20+ was one of the longest by any first- or second-year player since the merger (Basketball-Reference)
  • Booker also became one of only FIVE players in their age-20 season to average 22+ points per game, along with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Shaquille O’Neal and Kyrie Irving.

So, hey, that’s a pretty good year isn’t it?

Bring on the lotto!

Poll

Where does the 2016-17 season rank since 2011?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Best one yet!
    (322 votes)
  • 46%
    Second to 2013-14
    (314 votes)
  • 1%
    I like dumpster fires - gimme 2012-13
    (12 votes)
  • 2%
    Nothing better than constant drama - gimme 2014-15!
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    I miss the Horny firing. Bring back 2015-16!
    (10 votes)
676 votes total Vote Now