The third-greatest offense ever?

Amare Stoudemire's second-half surge is a big reason why Phoenix boasts the NBA's third-most efficient offense since 1973-74. (Alan Walsh/ValleyoftheSuns)

Amare Stoudemire's second-half surge is a big reason why Phoenix boasts the NBA's third-most efficient offense since 1973-74. (Alan Walsh/ValleyoftheSuns)

We all know the Phoenix Suns are enjoying another special offensive season, leading the NBA in offensive efficiency just as they did in the five previous years since Steve Nash returned to the Valley.

But in John Hollinger’s recent piece on just how good this Phoenix offense is, I was blown away to find out that the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns possess the third-best offense since 1973-74 when adjusted for league averages. With all the talk about Robin Lopez and an improved defense, the chief reason the Suns have overachieved this season remains their lethal offense.

When Hollinger posted the story before Wednesday’s game against the Spurs, the Suns trailed only the 03-04 Mavs and the 04-05 Suns in efficiency and barely at that, although Friday’s ugly offensive performance won’t do much to trim the 04-05 Suns’ slim efficiency lead. Continuing down the list, No. 4 is the 01-02 Mavs and No. 5 the 06-07 Suns. It doesn’t take a genius to determine that the key similarity between all five of those teams is that they share the same starting point guard, Steve Nash.

Say what you want about the two MVPs, but if that isn’t evidence enough that Nash is a Hall-of-Famer, I don’t know what is.

Hollinger argues in his piece that we take the Suns for granted because this offense has been so deadly for so long; whereas in 2004-05 they were revolutionizing the sport, today we are in Year 6 of the Steve Nash-Amare Stoudemire Project.

The reason this offense has been so good is because the Suns possess basically the most efficient point guard and most efficient power forward in the NBA, and those guys take a good percentage of the Suns’ shots.

Hollinger also notes that in the last half of the season Stoudemire has basically taken over for Nash as being the lead dog in this offense with his PER and usage rate going up to superstar levels while Nash’s numbers in those departments have descended a bit.

This season should be symbolic of a passing of the torch from Nash being the franchise player and Stoudemire being his lead sidekick to STAT being the franchise player and Nash playing a supporting role.

We will find out this summer whether that will continue to be the case or whether this stellar season is the swan song for this historically dynamic duo.

What to do about Frye

Last weekend The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro not surprisingly reported that Channing Frye will decline his option for next season.

This is fairly obvious news being that Frye, averaging 11.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg, has clearly outplayed his $2.1 million option.

Frye called Phoenix “situationally … the best place for me.” This is true not only because Frye went to high school a few miles from USAC but also because he meshes perfectly with the Suns’ personnel both on the floor and in the locker room as the kind of floor-spacing big who can thrive next to Steve Nash and then keep the mood light away from the court.

In a perfect world Frye comes back, but first the Suns need to figure out what happens with Amare Stoudemire. If STAT leaves, the Suns will have plenty of money to bring Frye back in the fold, and even if he returns they should have a few extra millions for the former Wildcat.

I think a Frye return would be a good thing for both sides at the right price, and ideally in concert with an Amare re-signing. But Frye certainly wouldn’t be the first Phoenix player to enjoy a career year with Nash and the Suns only to bolt.

Don’t call him a bust quite yet

ESPN’s David Thorpe recently ranked all the rookies in terms of whom he feels will enjoy the best careers. Of course, seldom-used Suns forward Earl Clark did not crack his top-10 list. However, he did include Earl in his list of six guys who could end up in the top 10, writing this:

We’ve written about Clark’s talent and unique physical combinations. And seeing how Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic have improved so much in just one season, it’s fair to assume Clark can do the same in Phoenix. He has enormous potential in every phase of the game.

Last year, many experts said that as good as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were for the Lakers, it was Lamar Odom who made that team special, and ultimately, champions. Clark has the same potential to be an impact player for a champion.

I agree with Thorpe. As I’ve written a number of times, Clark can be the Suns’ Swiss Army knife on defense, and he combines those abilities with a versatile game on the offensive end of the floor as well. Time will tell if he develops as quickly as Lopez and Dragic did.

Updated playoff picture

The Suns’ loss to Oklahoma City combined with everybody else continuing to win certainly put a damper on Phoenix’s seeding hopes. With three to play for everybody but Utah (with two), the Suns will need to gain two games on Dallas and Denver to pass them and likely win at Utah in the finale to pass the Jazz.

I don’t think there’s any realistic scenario in which the Suns pass Dallas.

The Suns need to hope the Nuggets lose either today against the Spurs or Monday against the Grizz and also in Phoenix on Tuesday. Denver would clinch its division with the two home wins, which would make it so Phoenix could not catch the Nuggets even if the Suns win out because at best they would be tied and Denver would hold the being a division champ tiebreaker.

If the Suns win at least one of their two home games, they will be playing Utah for a top-four seed in the finale, as they would win the tiebreaker over the Jazz so long as Utah doesn’t win its division.

Obviously Denver could still fall back with a couple losses, so the above scenario about the season finale may be different by the time we get to Wednesday. But basically the Suns will need to win out and get help to get No. 3, and the most likely scenarios have the Suns in the 4-5 game against either Denver or Utah.

Suns Dancers need you now

It’s not looking good as of this writing, but there’s still time to vote for the Suns Dancers in the Finals of the NBA Dance Bracket.

Voting on NBA.com is open until Monday at 11 a.m. MST. Something would not be right with the world if the Charlotte Bobcats’ dancers beat the Suns Dancers!

Nice while it lasted

NBA.com ranked the Suns as the third-best team in the league and the best in the West at the start of the week.

It’s my birthday today

This note has no relevance to the Phoenix Suns, I just felt you should know.

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