The Phoenix Suns are 10-6, ranked 4th in the West, with a net rating of +4.2. They’re presently on a six-game winning streak that’s seen them take down the likes of the Timberwolves, Jazz (two times), Blazers, Warriors, and Grizzlies. A team that began 4-6 is beginning to hit their stride.
Entering the season, the offensive firepower and expectations of winning were high for the Suns. When you roster All-NBA players like Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal, it’s clear to understand why that is. But early on the season struggles have been the narrative. Devin Booker missed eight games due to injury. Bradley Beal has missed 13. Even Kevin Durant has found himself on the injury report after missing the game in Memphis.
When 13 new players are on a roster and your top in town is injured, it is not a recipe for success. But that narrative has begun to change. Let’s take a look at some numbers pertaining to the season as a whole and those that derive exclusively from the win streak.
Devin Booker’s return to the lineup has provided an abundance of organization and stability that has enabled the Suns multiple flashes of what seems to be the identity they desire to carve out in this rendition.
It’s quite amazing what having the franchise player and, yes, point guard back does for the entire ecosystem.
Since returning, he’s at 29.0 points per game on 49.1/40.7/91.1 shooting, with 8.0 assists (2.5 turnovers), and 4.8 rebounds per game — on 9.3 free throw attempts per game as well.
A lot of what was spoken on below has come to fruition in multiple moments in this stretch.
His patience and feel have ascended to elite status, enabling him moments of master manipulation in the timing and processing of his decision-making. He’s not just taking what defenses are giving, he’s using that to the advantage he desires in any given moment, and counter punching, rather than just reacting.
They’re now 6-1 in games he plays, and continue to evolve the playbook, as well as perform better in the clutch. In three “clutch” games since Booker has returned and in this win streak, the Suns have a net rating of 19.6.
Their 152.9 offensive rating is the best in this window. Prior to his return, they had the 26th-ranked offense in clutch rating, of 78.9, and an atrocious 24th-ranked net, of 31.0.
It’s night and day in comparison, and their master organizer has served as just that in his return.
Also as noted, however, he hasn’t masked all of their deficiencies but certainly has addressed some of their chief concerns, in a manner of poise that speaks volumes to where he is as a basketball player in his 9th season
The Suns are shooting 45.0%, collectively, on catch-and-shoots from deep over the win streak. That’s the best for any team over their last six and speaks to the offense being optimized around the Booker/Durant/Beal trio.
The advantage created by these players keeps teams in a position of consistent compromise, regardless of what decisions they make. There’s a multitude of contexts and manners in which the Suns go about moving their chess pieces around the board, and the opposing conflict that ensues from it can become overbearing in waves.
In this stretch, Eric Gordon is averaging 9.5 points in this context, shooting 44.2% on 7.2 attempts from deep. He’s knocking down 54.5% of his 1.6 three-point attempts from a Devin Booker pass. His numbers boost to 77.8% on 1.5 attempts coming from a Booker pass in this win streak.
Kevin Durant is averaging 8.8 points on 70.6% from deep, via 3.4 attempts. Even more, Durant is at an astronomical 85% on his 2.0 three-point attempts that come from a Devin Booker pass. That number balloons to 90% on 2.0 attempts in his last five games.
Grayson Allen’s at 6.4 points from this context, at a 49.3% clip on 4.3 attempts from three. He’s knocking down 55.6% of his 1.1 deep attempts stemming from a Booker pass. Those numbers rise to 60% on 0.8 attempts per game from Booker passes in this six-game win streak. The depths within, and the abundance of spacing the Suns can tap into, across multiple lineup constructs pose a persistent weapon that grows prolific when optimized.
All stats listed above don’t even speak to the driving lanes and opportunities to maintain and execute within an advantage, on volume, that stems from the urgent closeouts these players garner.
It’s simply hard to quantify the Impact with just numbers.
On the season, the Suns are presently 12th in catch-and-shoot three-point makes (10.5), 16th in catch-and-shoot attempts from deep (26.1), and 5th in three-point percentage there (42.2%).
The Suns starting lineup — over the first five of this win streak — of Booker/Allen/Gordon/Durant/Nurkic, debuting with the return of Booker (and, subsequently, the exit of Beal), in 69 minutes (134 possessions), has a +26.2 net rating.
Their offensive rating is 135.5, and defensive rating is 109.4, with a true shooting mark of 73.8%, and an assist percentage of 75.3%.
Their assist-to-turnover mark is at an elite 2.89, speaking to not only the player/ball movement in play here but also the efficiency in doing so with this five-man unit. This is surely a lineup that was not featured prior to Booker’s return, that’ll surely be consistently featured the rest of the way.
The layers of spacing around their two-man game combinations (especially when they empty a corner), the conflict presented by their there-many actions, and the pace they play within the half-court make life tough in regards to defending them.
There are five capable initiators of offense, playmakers (primary, secondary, or tertiary), short-roll decision-makers, capable screeners, and general high-IQ basketball players that all have skill sets that complement each other.
These are Jusuf Nurkic’s point, rebound, assist, block, and steal numbers respectively over the win streak.
The Suns are +8 with him on the floor in this stretch, he’s knocked down a game-winner, and is nailing the little things defensively.
They’re getting the production they need from him in this window, and no surprise that we see that coincide, again, with their point guard returning to the lineup, which I zoom in on below.
As he continues to develop two-way chemistry with his teammates in Phoenix, the demand for this level of play sustaining will grow.
The context for him with this Suns team is organically complimentary to all that he brings to the table, and also optimizes the areas where he’s good.
5.) 113.1, 93.5
These are the Suns half-court offense and defensive ratings in the win streak. They are 3rd in the league in the half-court on offense, and that 93.7 rating defensively is 8th. In terms of half-court net (19.7), and the numbers themselves, this is a space I truly feel the Suns can sustain on a season-long stretch.
Obviously, there will be peaks and valleys, but this is where I feel they can be if both players married with the system and coaching are all optimized.
When games slow down, which plays directly to their desired pace, and they’re manipulating with their sequencing of plays/scoring/getting to the free throw line — and keeping their defense set — likely oftentimes in the “clutch” (a game within five points, in the last five minutes), they can be optimized.
They’re spending the most time against a set defense (85.1% of their possessions) in this window, and the second most time (81.8%) in the season.
Phoenix looks to continue their streak tomorrow at MSG against the New York Knicks.