It is the year 2020 and the Phoenix Suns have a winning record in +20-point margins in a season for only the second time in a decade.
And with 35 games still to go, their 4-2 record in +20 margins — capped off by a 29-point win over the Mavericks on Tuesday night — includes the most +20 wins in a season since the last Western Conference Finals run.
Here’s the tale of the tape on +20-point margins:
- 2019-20: 4-2 (35 games to go)
- 2018-19: 2-20
- 2017-18: 1-17
- 2016-17: 3-5
- 2015-16: 3-14
- 2014-15: 3-8
- 2013-14: 4-2
- 2012-13: 2-15
- 2011-12: 4-4 (66 game season)
- 2010-11: 1-5
- 2009-10: 11-5
When the Suns are hot on offense, they’re tough to beat. They are 11-10 in games where they make 12+ three pointers vs. 9-17 when they don’t. They are 9-4 when they make +50% of their shots vs. 11-23 when they don’t.
And when they’re cold, they have to scratch and claw to stay in the game. Since January 1, the Suns have rededicated themselves on the defensive end. The league’s 7th best defense since the new year, but just the 20th ranked offense and a measly 7-7 record to show for it.
Deandre Ayton has been a big help on the defensive end. Sure, he’s posting better numbers in the box this year too, but it’s been the defense that has grown leaps and bounds this season.
Ayton defends 18.7 field goal attempts per game, the 2nd most in the league behind Rudy Gobert. He holds opponents to 39.5% shooting, -7.5% worse than their shooting averages. That -7.5% differential is tied for 4th best in the league, with Gobert.— Xin Varlock (@XinNBA) January 29, 2020
It helps to have their best players available to play. The Suns are 9-8 in Deandre Ayton’s 17 games this season (he missed 30 games due to suspension and injury). They are 9-7 when both he and Devin Booker play. And they are 9-6 when all of Booker, Ayton and Ricky Rubio play. It’s a shame those three have only played together in 15 of the Suns 47 games.
Overall, they are 18-20 in games decided by +4 points vs. 2-7 in games decided by a single possession (three or fewer points). That’s the sign of a young team unsure how to close out tight games consistently.
Overall, the Suns are almost exactly even-steven on the scoreboard. They have the league’s 14th-best net rating of -0.2 points per 100 possessions (which balances for pace).
If you think I’m getting overly excited about the ways in which the Suns can accomplish a ho-hum 50% win rate, you haven’t been suffering as much as I have these past 5 years. I’ve been running this site since 2012 — NO IT’S NOT MY FAULT THEY SUCK! — so let me tell you that anything better than a 30% win rate is worth celebrating.
Let me keep my joy for a minute over all the ways this Suns team has proven they can win half their games.
Yes, the schedule gets daunting from now on. The Suns have the league’s toughest remaining schedule based on opponent winning percentage and such. But then they just beat the vaunted Dallas Mavericks (29-18) by a whopping 29 points last night, so anything can happen right?
For now, I’ll leave you with a quickie highlight of Devin Booker channeling the Mamba in his final performance before All-Star reserves are announced on Thursday night. Credit goes to friend-of-the-blog Mike Vigil.
These back to back mid range iso’s by Devin Booker remind me of someone pic.twitter.com/QJa9DbvvbC— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) January 29, 2020
On Tuesday night, Devin Booker became the youngest guard ever to score 7.000 points in the NBA, passing his icon Kobe Bryant (Booker is about 150 days younger than Kobe was, who came straight out of high school to the league). Overall, Booker is the fourth youngest player at any position to score 7,000 NBA points.
This year, Booker could be the Suns first All-Star in eight seasons, since Steve Nash was last voted to play in the game in 2012. Booker is currently enjoying one of the most historic offensive seasons in NBA history.
Devin Booker is averaging 27.1 points, 6.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds on a 63.4 TS%. He's on pace to be one of three players in NBA history to ever average those numbers over a full season. The other two are LeBron James and Stephen Curry.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) January 29, 2020
I sure hope the coaches choose Booker to play in the All-Star game. Reserves are announced on Thursday.
If you want to re-live the big win over the Mavericks on Tuesday night, have at it with these highlights.