The Suns’ defense sucks.
Take that advanced statistics. I don’t need fancy numbers to tell you why it sucks. It sucks. End of story. I know it. You know it. They know it.
I could not even begin to tell you what a “worst case” scenario would look like. I honestly have no idea. I guess it’s just the 2018-19 squad staring in the mirror. It can’t get worse. It can’t. I don’t even think it’s plausible. I’m serious.
The boss has instructed me to look at an advanced statistic. Defensive rating. I thought that was a pretty fancy metric, but learned that it has been around since the 70’s. Anyway, it’s not a number with which I’m terribly familiar.
Check out John Schuhmann’s article prior to the start of last season. Six years ago your Suns had a defensive rating of 105.6. The following season that number improved to 105.3. Four years ago that number dropped to 107.9. The next year it fell to 111.3. The Suns’ defensive rating at the conclusion of the 2017-18 campaign was 111.6.
Last September, not two weeks away from the start of the Suns’ preseason slate, Schuhmann wrote:
“It could be a slow climb, but the Suns have nowhere to go but up.”
The Suns’ defensive rating last year was 114.2.
But look, I have to come up with something. My contract demands it. So here’s the worst case scenario. The Suns’ defense is so bad in 2019-20 that we have to develop an all-new metric for such futility. I don’t know what we’ll call it, but I’m open to ideas. It will be advanced statistics on top of advanced statistics until the players evaporate on the court and all that is left is a calculator.
And if the players evaporated on the court would anything really be that different?
Now onto the best case scenario. Something we can sink our teeth into.
Let’s start at the bottom. Devin Booker had a defensive rating last year of 115.1, good for 499th in the league.
I know people trash Book’s defensive capabilities and to a certain extent I get it. But I think we need to be realistic about what he can and can’t do. This is a guy who can get to a place where he’s scoring 30 points a game. Do I wish he played better defense? Sure. But maybe we should look to the guys who won’t be scoring 30 a game to up their performance on the defensive end of the floor.
Deandre Ayton was second from the bottom last year as far as the Suns who are still around. His defensive rating clocked in at 113.3, 475th in the league.
I’m not heartless. I’m giving the guy a break as a rookie. The moves the Suns have made in the offseason will only help, particularly the addition of Aron Baynes. I absolutely feel like Ayton can be a defensive monster in the league. We all know that his passiveness under the hoop was grossly evident at times. That will change when Baynes comes in and starts doing Baynes things.
Kelly Oubre Jr. had the same defensive rating as Ayton at 113.3.
Now this is a guy that needs to get his act together. He’s going to play significant minutes, and while he shows impressive flashes of being a play-maker, he’s obviously not going to get the pass that Booker does.
Mikal Bridges has the stuff. He ranked at 438th, but I’m not worried about Bridges. Like I said on Friday, he’s going to be an All-Defensive Team selection one day.
Tyler Johnson can probably make his impact most felt on defense. It may be what saves his career in Phoenix. If not for those contributions, he may see his minutes gobbled up by Ty Jerome.
Ok, now on to the new guys. Firstly, let me say that when you play defense as nauseating as what the Suns displayed last season, new faces is obviously a good thing.
Ricky Rubio has always played serviceable defense as far as I’m concerned and I expect to see something similar in the coming season. That said, he has selfishly decided to age so losing a step won’t come as a surprise. His addition will be good for the defensive numbers, though.
I think Dario Saric is a gigantic question mark defensively. Earlier in the week Dave King said it better than I can. The tools are there to provide a huge upgrade in Phoenix. But I see the possibility of lack of interest and a lack of hustle as well.
Aron Baynes. Aron Baynes is where it’s at, man. You don’t even need much of an explanation, and you’re not going to get one because it’s almost dinner time. Baynes in Phoenix is probably what I’m most excited for in the upcoming season.
I want stuff like this, nightly:
And then we need to let that boil over on occasion.
Alright, I’m about finished. So the worst case scenario simply doesn’t exist on this planet. The best case scenario is the slightest upgrade from Book. Baynes makes Ayton a beast. Rubio ages more slowly than Mother Nature intends. Bridges keeps doing what he’s doing, only better because he’s not surrounded by bums on the defensive end. Saric plays well enough to warrant a contract extension and a place in the starting lineup.
Best case scenario? Your Suns climb a few rungs on the Western Conference’s defensive ladder. I’d like to see them leapfrog the Sacramento Kings, another team that made some offseason moves with defense in mind.