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Suns Week 13 Stock Exchange: Phoenix improves in the 4th, Durant shines on defense, and have you seen the bench?

The Phoenix Suns are headed in the right direction, as are the arrows on the SSE.

Indiana Pacers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ll start this week’s Stock Exchange with an open-ended question: Are you liking these ‘weekly arrow up, arrow down, arrow flat’ observations of the Phoenix Suns? They’re a bit different and I do like authoring them as I find that having weekly benchmarks is like having chapters in a book. You can go back week by week and understand the story of the 2023-24 Suns.

I thought I’d some metric to the Suns Stock Exchange, focusing specifically on how they performed in the week relative to the rest of the league. Let’s run the numbers:

  • Week 13 Record: 3-0
  • Week 13 OFFRTG: 117.7 (9th)
  • Week 13 DEFRTG: 110.9 (7th)
  • Week 13 NETRTG: +6.8 (6th)

The week began with an unprecedented victory over the Sacramento Kings. Phoenix was down 22 points, trailing 109-87 with 8:09 left in the game. They closed on a 32-8 run to win it.

It was off to The Big Easy for their first battle with the Pelicans, and the Suns walked away with a convincing 123-109 win. Zion was, as always, plenty for the Suns to handle, but the defensive prowess of Kevin Durant on Brandon Ingram proved to be a vital cog in the Suns’ win. Something tells me we’ll see an arrow pointed upward for his efforts this week.

Week 13 ended on Sunday night as Phoenix hosted the Indiana Pacers for the first time this season. The newly retooled Pacers, at that, seeing as they recently acquired highly desired wing Pascal Siakam. Phoenix received 91 points from the Big Three, winning the game 117-110. It is a matchup we will see again in Week 14.

The stock is up for the Suns as they are starting to move up the standings. What is of note is that they’re beating good teams, as Week 13 showed us. The Pacers are a good team in the Eastern Conference, and both the Kings and the Pelicans were ahead of the Suns in the standings in the Western Conference.

What’s up and what’s down? That’s what the SSE is here to discuss.

Q4 Suns: Stock ↑

The SSE has been harping on the fourth-quarter Suns for weeks now, and perhaps with the win against the Kings, we can retire that narrative. Sure, Phoenix gave up an 11-0 run in the fourth against the Pacers, allowing them to take a 105-103 lead with 3:20 left in the game. But the Suns responded, closing the game on a 14-5 run to win their fifth consecutive game.

How did the Suns do in the fourth? Compared to the rest of the NBA, and knowing that they’ve been awful through the first 12 weeks of the season, here is what we witnessed:

Quite the improvement. Granted, there still is plenty of work to do. When you delve into the performance of their bench in the fourth, you find opportunity. The bench unit was -12 (27th) on the week, shooting 50% (9th), and 42.9% from three (12th). But we’ll get into the second unit here shortly.

KD’s D: Stock ↑

Durant had a stellar week defensively, especially in the fourth quarter. Head coach Frank Vogel had to adjust his game plan in the Kings’ game, choosing to have Durnat guard All-Star center Domanatas Sabonis rather than Jusuf Nurkic. The decision was the right one in that situation as KD locked Sabonis up, leading to a historical comeback for Phoenix.

Durant had an 84.0 defensive rating in that fourth quarter.

Against the Pelicans, Durant was tasked with guarding another All-Star in Brandon Ingram. He guarded him for 6:14 of game time and 31.7 possessions. Ingram went 0-of-4 with KD on him, turning the ball over once. Fair to say, like Sabonis, KD locked him up.

Then there was Pascal Siakam. An All-Star again for KD to guard? Sure. In 18 possessions, KD forced him to go 2-of-4 from the field. Another effective lockdown at the hands of Durant.

The Suns’ Bench: Stock ↓

Oy, the Suns’ bench. If they have a weakness, it is that their bench forgets that they need to contribute when called up. The Big Three, when Grayson Allen and Nurkic are on the floor, average 39.6 points in 14.6 minutes through 10 games played together. They shoot 56.4% from the field and 45.1% from deep.

They’re lethal.

When they begin to pull those players off the court for rest, second-team units are inserted. But they are there in physical form only. The production they provide, perhaps because the likes of Booker, Beal, and/or Durant are still on the floor, is minimal. That needs to change. Yes, you want your stars to take the majority of the shots when they are in the game, but when called upon, you expect your bench unit to contribute.

The Suns bench does not.

Eric Gordon, who played the most minutes off of the bench at 79.3 minutes, shot 32% from the field and 20% from three-point range. He did find his shot (thankfully) in the comeback against the Kings, but outside of that, he has been non-existent. Keita Bates-Diop attempted one shot in 17.1 minutes, and Chimezie Metu hasn’t provided much offensive assistance either.

What can the Susn do to motivate these players to produce? Or will something be done via the trade market or buy-out market to fortify the bench? The clock is ticking, and the SSE is watching.

The Suns are playing well right now, primarily on the backs of their Big Three, but that’s what we want. That’s what we expected. That’s what we need to get through the regular season in hopes that we get a proper seed in the playoffs and can make a run in the postseason.

The test continues in Week 14.

They play the Bulls tonight and then they head out on a seven-game road trip. It’s time for the team to truly be tested. The arrow is headed in the right direction. The challenge now is keeping it pointing up and moving forward.

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