Following an encouraging preseason win over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, Suns media couldn’t resist pumping out a series of articles on Monty Williams’ coaching musings.
But the Montyism that really stuck was this:
“It’s a free way to play basketball,” Williams told reporters. “You either shoot it, pass it or drive it. Just don’t hold the ball, and it has to happen in 0.5 seconds. So we’ll play faster because of that.”
Welcome to the 0.5 seconds or less era of Phoenix Suns basketball, where quick decisions will make all the difference in turning this organization into a perennial powerhouse.
Or perhaps, these are familiar words to you.
“No mental mistakes,” he said. “Make quick decision. Catch to shoot. Catch to drive. Catch to pass and put ‘em in a blender. Multiple ball handlers. Great spacing. Get in the lane. Share the ball. Play unselfish.”
Or maybe you remember when Earl Watson set out to optimize the Suns offense with a similar mentality in 2016. From Paul Coro back then:
“Point-five mentality,” said Watson, bringing back a phrase he implemented late last season for quick decision-making. “Pass it. Drive it. Shoot it. Don’t hold it. Cut to the rim. Sacrifice cuts and play with pace.”
0.5 seconds or less. Put ‘em in a blender. Point-five mentality. All inspired by classic basketball platitudes, these phrases are supposedly inspiring but ultimately meaningless.
That’s not meant as an early indictment of Monty as a coach, nor would I have expected him to give any other answer when prompted about his philosophy by reporters. No coach is handing out their playbook in a media scrum, but all of them talk about the importance of sharing the ball.
All this means is that we need to pump the brakes a bit on the hype, and think critically about what the Suns have shown us through two preseason games.
At their best (Tuesday night vs. MIN), the Suns have displayed a level of maturity and poise that we haven’t seen from them in quite some time. And that wasn’t because Monty’s offense was complex, but simply because the personnel changed. Ricky Rubio, for one, made a clear difference.
I don’t have access to clips from the past couple games, so here’s a video from David Nash of the 7SOL Podcast that breaks it down better than I could.
7 Plays Or Less - Random Observations....— Seven Seconds Or Less Podcast (@7SOLpod) October 9, 2019
1. Want to see the impact Rubio's signing has on a team desperate for leadership? Watch him get to every player on the court after a bad transition D possession, that ended in Book/Ayton bickering.
The result? Highlight of the game. pic.twitter.com/ZeDVbx26wf
Rubio’s leadership ensures a resilient possession from the Suns in which “quick decisions” lead to an easy alley-oop for Ayton.
In another clip courtesy of my podcast partner, the Suns even feel daring enough to get a little fancy. The pass is a little bit off its target, but Kaminsky finishes the play regardless.
AYTON BLOCK TO RUBIO NO LOOK ASSIST pic.twitter.com/3PzWFHGrIO— Mike Vigil (@ImPatBurke) October 9, 2019
In both of these clips, Rubio is the engine of the offense. And Rubio clearly hasn’t been a problem, finishing that first game with five assists and just one turnover.
It’s the rest of the team that is having some major issues with creation.
Through two preseason games now, the Suns have tallied 36 assists to an absurd 50 turnovers.
Now because it’s preseason, I don’t think this should worry you or serve as any real indication for what the offense will look like even three weeks from now.
Even so, one criticism of the Suns this summer was that the team did not do enough to address a lack of secondary creation. With Tyler Johnson sitting out last night vs. Sacramento, we were treated to odd lineup combinations featuring both Ty Jerome and Jevon Carter that couldn’t get much going offensively. And Devin Booker resorted to chucking when faced with adversity, finishing the night with 16 FGAs in 24 minutes to just three assists (and four turnovers).
So as beautiful as it is to watch a free-flowing offense based on quick decisions, we do need to consider that the Suns are still among the youngest rosters in the NBA and that young rosters + fast pace of play = more turnovers. They were bottom five in the league in turnovers under Watson. They were bottom five in the league in turnovers under Igor. And despite a great addition in Rubio, it’s important to look at the reality of how young this roster is, with three backup PGs who total 92 games of NBA experience.
Perhaps all of this points to the notion that Tyler Johnson is going to play a critical role in steadying the offense off the bench this season. Or, perhaps it points to the idea that Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker should be staggered as much as possible to always keep a true floor general on the court all game long.
We’re up to game three of preseason (which is Saturday, in Portland), so there’s plenty of time to toy with those experiments before we should demand answers.
But the bottom line is, “quick decisions” hasn’t been enough for the Suns in the past and it won’t be enough now. This team is only going as far as its player personnel can take it.