Why are the #NBA’s Phoenix Suns so good?
The Phoenix Suns were supposed to be in tank mode after a couple lackluster seasons, but this year, they’ve completely shocked the NBA world with a winning record and fighting for playoff positioning.
Rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek has remade the Suns from the post-Nash fiasco to a rebirth in the Valley of the Sun. Let’s take a look and find how the Suns are rolling so well in the tough Western Conference.
Hornacek knew the star-in-the-making point guard Goran Dragic, a Slovenian, was going to have a busy summer competing for the Eurobasket this past summer. Instead of pushing him right into training camp, Hornacek did not allow Dragic to participate in drills or camp and gave him time to rest and recuperate. Here’s an excerpt from SheridanHoops.com:
“I was talking with Jeff, and he told me, ‘Look, I know that you’re in great shape, and I know that you’re tired, so we’re just going to sit you down a little bit (in camp); you’re going to just do some walk-throughs with us so you can see the new plays, but most of the practices with us, you’re going to be on the sidelines and just trying to get your body right until the beginning of the season,’ ” Dragic told USA TODAY Sports…
“Jeff is a great coach and a great coach for the young players. He teaches a lot. And I think from the first day on, we had great communication between me and him.”Hornacek is but one of the many pivotal pieces to the league’s most unexpected turnaround, but he’s as important as any. And for Dragic, he’s the man who helped make the game enjoyable again.”
I feel Dragic was an All-Star snub, but here’s why: Per the Suns’ SB Nation blog (and is a must-read about Dragic’s evolution), Dragic averages 20 points per game, 6 assists per game and shooting over 50% from the field. He is one of five NBA guards who have played more than 500 minutes so far.
Also, the article said that Steve Kerr, who was the Suns’ GM when Dragic was drafted in 2008, felt that Dragic was the second-best point guard in the draft. They thought so highly of him that they bought out the rest of his contract in Europe and had him back up an aging Steve Nash.
For fun, here’s Dragic dropping 28 points on the Knicks this season:
Now, Dragic is running the point for the 35-24 Phoenix Suns. The Suns are third in the competitive Pacific Division and sits in the 7th slot in the Western Conference playoff standings (and barely above Dallas for the 7th slot). But why?
Sports Illustrated said in December that the Suns are the best pick-and-roll teams in the league. Even after Eric Bledsoe went down with a meniscus tear and was out for a month, the Suns regrouped and still won games. Suns.com writer Matt Petersen quoted the Hang Time Blog, regarding the Suns’ offensive proficiency that is a hair ahead of the high-flying Houston Rockets and Portland TrailBlazers:
“The Dallas Mavericks have been the most prolific pick-and-roll team in the league, but the Phoenix Suns have been the best, scoring 1.09 points per pick-and-roll possession, just a hair better than the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.”
It doesn’t stop there. Their team is solid all-around and does not remind anyone of the years between Nash and Amar’e and now. The Suns rank 14th in defensive efficiency, per ESPN.com’s John Hollinger, which is average.
But, they are 8th in offensive efficiency, ahead of the likes of Kevin Love’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors. They score the 5th most points per game in the NBA and shoot 37.2% from 3 point range. The Suns shoot an average 46% from the floor and 76% from the free throw line, as ESPN.com reported.
The Valley of the Sun is back.