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Phoenix Suns 20 games in: Five surprising statistics through the first quarter of the season

Now that Phoenix is 25% of the way through their season, here is where the unexpected has become reality.

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Following the Phoenix Suns win over the Memphis Grillizes last night, doing so to the tune of 116-109 in the return after a one-game absence by Devin Booker, the team is now 12-8. They’re 20 games in. 24.3% of the way through the season. It goes quickly, doesn’t it?

There is so much basketball yet to be played. In the same breath, however, the tale of the 2023-24 Suns has already provided us with memorable moments, and a blueprint of what this team can be. The chapters we have witnessed are still in the character-development stage with so much of the story to be written.

What have the first 20 games taught us? What surprises have occurred? What happened that we’d figured would happen? The answers to these questions are as bountiful as the excitement we felt entering this unprecedented season. Where should we start? Let’s go with stats, shall we?

Let’s focus on some of the surprises, as it pertains to statistical production, through the first 20 games of the season.

1. 0

You cannot start the summation of the first 20 games of the season without this number. The euphoric high entering the season was around the dynamic trio that James Jones had assembled when he added Bradley Beal to the roster alongside Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. Zero? This is the number of games we’ve seen all three play together.

Through the first 20 games, Bradley Beal has appeared in as many games as Saben Lee and Bol Bol. Three. Averaging 17.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists, Beal has been dealing with a lower back issue for the entire season. We patiently wait to hear what the results are of his evaluation next week for those statistics listed above would be a nice addition to what Devin Booker and Kevin Durant are doing as a duo.

Booker has missed some time as well, as he has played in just over half of the Suns’ games. In 11 games, he is averaging 27.9 points and 8.4 assists, having quite possibly his best season to date. But lower extremity issues have negated his availability as well as he has had issues with his right leg.

Durant? The oldest of the bunch has played 18 of the Suns’ 20 games and is putting up MVP-like numbers. 31 points on 51.2/49.4/89.6 splits. He’s also grabbing 6.4 rebounds and dishing out 5.8 assists. Somehow KD has prolonged his prime and is a pure bucket getter. Is the opposing team on a 7-0 run? Durant will end that with a simple flick of his wrist.

Any predictions below as to what game we will actually see the big three debut? If I was a betting man — and I am — I’m going to say game 28. That is the Christmas night affair against the Dallas Mavericks.

2. 7.0

You guessed it! Your Phoenix Suns lead the league in blocks per game with swats nightly!

When was the last time the Suns led the league in blocked shots? If your guess was “never”, you’d be correct. The highest they’ve ever finished in a season? The 2007-08 Suns, the team that traded Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal, ended second in the league with 6.3 blocks nightly.

The Phoenix Suns have never been a franchise that has been top-tier when it comes to blocks and rebounds. Dynamic offense? Sure. Blocks and rebounding? Nah. Blocks and rebounding are like defensive football for a team that can run the ball. You control the game

Enter Frank Vogel with a lineup built in his image.

What is impressive about the 7.0? The team’s top shot-blocker, Jusuf Nurkic, is 20th in the league with 1.3. They have no dominant interior force, rather, a collection of length athletic players with an instinct to deflect shots. Durant has 1.2 blocks and Drew Eubanks has 1.1, but everyone on the roster has that ball-hawking ability.

3. +64

The four-man lineup of Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, and Eric Gordon has been the most effective this season. Easily. Just like you planned it, right?

They’ve played 216 minutes together, primarily due to necessity, and the quartet is shooting 48.5% from three-point range on 136 attempts. Together the lineup has generated 577 points, which ranked them as the 34th highest-scoring quartet in the NBA.

I’m not worried about the low-point total relative to the quartet, as that is a pure metric of availability. What is surprising is that Devin Booker is not part of that +64. Again, a product of availability. So I guess it isn’t surprising. See, I’m backtracking my words right in front of you!

What is impressive and surprising is the three-point shooting total on the total number of attempts.

4. 27.1

I’ve talked about it before, but I’m continually surprised and pleased with how aggressive the Phoenix Suns are in getting to the line. This is not been the norm in Phoenix for a decade, and it is so valuable. Trust me. When the postseason comes around, and every possession is a battle, we will be thankful that we have a team that not only possesses the mindset to get to the free-throw line but the ability to knock down those shots.

The team is second in the league with a free throw rate of 0.315, second only to the surprising Orlando Magic. Phoenix is currently third in the league in free-throw attempts at 27.1. And they are fourth in the league by making 84.1% of those shots. And that is without Bradley Beal playing.

Beal has averaged 4.6 free-throw attempts per game over his entire career. If you were to slot him in at that metric, he would be the third-highest free-throw attempts per game player on the team (which he still currently is with 5.3 attempts in his three games played this season). When Kevin Durant is averaging 8.6 free throw attempts and Devin Booker is averaging a career-high 8.2, the Suns’ offense is imposing its will.

5. 97.2

How fast do you think the Suns play? Do you believe that they are a team that gets out and runs? Surprisingly, they aren’t. Their 97.2 pace of play is 27th in the NBA. Last season they were 98.2, which was 22nd in the league.

Surprisingly, moving on from Chris Paul at point guard has slowed the team down.

Phoenix is a methodical team on offense that primarily runs everything through either Kevin Durant or Devin Booker, based on availability. Their half-court offense has produced a team with the ninth-best offensive rating in the league at 117.7.

But when you look at metrics about getting out and running, that’s where opportunity lies for the Suns. They are a mid-tier rebounding team, averaging 44.1 boards (14th in the league). They are 23rd in the league and steals, with 7.0 per game. Both of these lead to the ability to start the fast break.

The fast-break hasn’t been the strength of Phoenix thus far this season. At least, in the chapter titled, “The First 20 Games”.

75% of the season still lies before us. Heck, the All-Star Game is two-and-a-half months away! Think about that. The book that is being written has so many twists and turns ahead.

What has surprised you thus far this season? What metrics jump off the board? How do Frank Vogel and the gang right the ship on the metrics that need some love?

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