The good, the bad and the ugly -- Part III

We’ve looked at the good and the bad, and now it’s time for the meat and potatoes of what went wrong for the Phoenix Suns this past season. There were clearly no shortages of disappointments, but here are the three developments that made Suns fans turn off their TVs in disgust:

Hedo Turkoglu’s PF career

When Turkoglu and the Orlando Magic came to Phoenix near the end of the season, a media member asked Hedo why he wasn’t successful with the Phoenix Suns. Before Turkoglu could answer, Brandon Bass said with a laugh, “Because he was the four man.”

Hedo Turkoglu

Every player, coach and fan knew Turkoglu wasn’t capable of playing the four, and it was foolish of the Suns to think he had the ability to defend power forwards yet space the floor on offense.

Turkoglu was supposed to come in and become a second facilitator to Steve Nash, but there’s no such thing as a second ball handler with Nash on the floor, so Hedo became nothing more than a glorified spot-up shooter.

He was more than solid in spot-up situations, as according to Synergy Sports Technology he ranked fourth in the NBA in spot-up shooting, scoring 1.55 points per possession on 58.3 percent shooting from two and 57.9 percent from three.

But the Suns had enough spot-up shooters, Turkoglu was counted on to be a playmaker and at least hold his own on defense. He failed to do either.

Turkoglu scored only 0.62 points per possession on 31 percent shooting out of isolation situations, and wasn’t much better facilitating the pick and roll as he scored 0.69 points per possession while shooting 40 percent from the field.

Defensively Turkoglu ranked 405th in the NBA in overall defense, allowing 0.99 points per possession and 44.6 percent shooting. Hedo quickly became a joke to Suns fans as he was booed continuously. Turkoglu’s underwhelming stint in Phoenix is something the front office is trying to forget as it was their worst experiment of the season.

Vince Carter’s inconsistency

While the Hedo experiment is Phoenix’s ugliest move, Carter’s play is a close second. Although Carter didn’t have big expectations as Marcin Gortat was the centerpiece of the trade, I don’t think many people thought he’d be as sorry as he was with the Suns. Carter finished his Suns season averaging 13.5 points per game and shooting 42.2 percent from the field.

But it wasn’t his overall body of work that was frustrating, it was his inconsistency. Carter would explode for 30-plus and then forget to show up. He scored in double figures for his first 10 games with Phoenix, but his second-longest streak of consecutive games in double figures was four.

His shot selection was horrendous and his effort was even worse. Like Turkoglu’s, Carter’s career in Phoenix will not be a memorable one.

Robin Lopez’s gigantic regression

At media day Alvin Gentry said Lopez was “one of the most important guys on our team.” Steve Nash threw around the word “premier” when talking about Lopez’s play.

Robin Lopez

After Lopez’s joke of a season Gentry and Nash have to be wondering what they were thinking when they made those comments.

But can you blame them? I wrote how Lopez was the X-factor for the Suns this season, and it wasn’t a stretch that he’d produce after the way he looked at the end of the 2009-10 season and against the Lakers in the playoffs.

But Loepz was a shell of his former self, losing eight inches off his vertical and showing little to no mobility on the floor.

While he added a nice mid-range jump shot to his game, he scored only 0.65 points per possession out of the post and was even worse defensively.

The 7-footer ranked 459th in the NBA in overall defense as he allowed 53.1 percent shooting and 60.0 percent shooting out of the post.

From 2009-10 to 2010-11 Lopez’s traditional stats decreased in every major category – points, rebounds, blocks, FG percentage.

If Gortat didn’t come in and save the day it’s hard to think where the Suns would have finished this season because Lopez brought nothing to the table and gave the Suns reason to worry about their once-promising 23-year-old center.

Tags: Hedo Turkoglu Robin Lopez Vince Carter

  • Marley

    @Mike Schmitz

    Here is what is funny with you assessment of Hedo and VC.

    You admitted that on the Suns team, Hedo had no choice but to be spotup jump shooter because Nash handles the ball so much. You criticized Hedo because of this.

    VC’s role is to be that guy who can create shots for himself. Here is the thing. When your job is to create shots for yourself, you tend to make a lot of bad shots especially if there is nobody else on your team to create space.

    Then when VC stands around like a spot shooter, ie. waiting to make “good shots”, just like Hedo, folks like you criticize him for shooting too much and not creating enough shots driving to the basket.

    What do you want?

    A spot-up shooter or someone who creates his own shot?

    If it isn’t clear to you, the problem is the OFFENSIVE SYSTEM.

    The Nash offensive system has not proven to win championships. All it has proven is that it inflates a players stats allowing him to win awards.

    The teams that win championships are the teams that run a well balance traditional offensive system. Think Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs.

    You can’t run pick and rolls all night and then in the last few minutes expect a player to “take over” and create shots for himself.

    All the defense has to do is don’t allow the 3 shooters waiting around to get into a rhythm. If the Suns are going to beat you, then they’ll have to beat you running pick-n-rolls all night.

    There is no rhythm to this kind of offense!

    Why you think Orlando is having a hard time?


    The Knicks just agreed to keep Chauncey Billups as their PG for $14.2M.

    That is one team down that will not be trading for your hero Steve Nash.

  • Mike Schmitz

    @marley: I respect your points but I clearly blame management first and foremost for the Hedo experiment.

    “Every player, coach and fan knew Turkoglu wasn’t capable of playing the four, and it was foolish of the Suns to think he had the ability to defend power forwards yet space the floor on offense.”

    “Turkoglu’s underwhelming stint in Phoenix is something the front office is trying to forget as it was their worst experiment of the season.”

    Secondly, there’s no way you can argue for Vince Carter this season. You’re saying he would go for 30 one night and 3 the next because of the system? No. If he got hot he’d play with confident and desire. If he missed a few he’d sit back and stare lazily. I respect your points, but not on those two aspects of this post.

  • Steve

    I didn’t realize I was part of this conversation…

    For the record, I’m not a big Nash fan. He’s a fantastic player, and I think it’s very likely he’s a top-5 PG of all time (Magic, Oscar, Isaiah, Stockton would be the four I would put ahead of Nash for sure), but I honestly don’t like his attitude and demeanor, nor his seeming lack of mentioning or fixing his defensive issues. He’s not even my favorite PG in Suns history. Actually not even top 2 (Kevin Johnson and Gail Goodrich, thank you). He’s most certainly not my hero. I’m well past the point of thinking of sports figures as heroes (never really had a time where I did, from what I can remember), and even if I did view sports characters as heroes, Steve Nash wouldn’t be the one I would want to emulate.

    Now that we have that out of the way, it makes sense that the Knicks would pick up Billups’s option. I don’t remember ever saying, “I would bet money Steve Nash will be a NY Knick next season.” I remember saying something along the lines of, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Nash, D’Antoni, and Amare are reunited in NY next year (if there is even a season).” The reasons it makes sense for NY to pick up the option:

    1. They have no basketball sense. They’re they guys who pay Eddy Curry $60M, don’t fire Isaiah Thomas when he gives you 50 good reasons every day, pay max money for a player NO other team in the NBA is willing to pay, will pay Allan Houston $20M to sit on a bench, hire Latrell Spreewell… I’m getting sick of writing all this stuff. We all know how stupid the Knicks are with their money. But the thing is, they have a lot. That’s one of the reasons it makes sense to exercise Billups’s option. They can.

    2. There isn’t anyone who is close to Billups’s talent that will be available through FA that I am aware of. The only guy the rumor mill is spinning on for trades is Nash, but that’s not even too heavy right now (Nash wants to stay, the Suns want to keep him, so given Nash’s contract and whatever else they might have to give up, Nash is actually a bit more expensive than Billups even though Billups has the higher salary for some odd reason). With no one available through FA at the PG spot, I think they’re in a panic to make things happen and get this roster looking right on paper to ensure they keep their “superstars.” It’s about appearance, and as far as I know, Melo still hasn’t signed his extension with the Knicks. If the Knicks don’t keep things “competitive,” I wouldn’t be surprised if Melo bolts. Billups is a step toward keeping things “competitive.”

    Again, I’m not really sure why you called me out. I never said he was going to the Knicks (I actually said Orlando is the most likely destination, in my opinion, but that still doesn’t mean he’s going there). Regardless, the Knicks overpaid for Billups because they can and because they had to. Not surprising whatsoever. You can always count on Walsh to do the wrong thing. Sign two overrated “superstars” for max money and sign a PG who gets more credit than he deserves for his brief successes for more than Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook make, and nearly as much as Chris Paul and Deron Williams make.

    Also, I’m curious as to why you defend VC. Where are you from? What team is “your” team? You can’t be a Suns fan. Anyone who cares about the Suns could not feel as strongly positive as you do for Vince Carter. I loved VC back in the day. Jumping over a 7-footer IN A GAME is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen on a court. The man was legit and exciting as any player I’ve ever seen. I really don’t hate Vince Carter. I’m just realistic about his actual abilities. He’s not very good any more, and when he scores 30 on night and 3 the next night, it shows me that he still has talent but doesn’t care to use it unless he feels like it. Kobe Bryant doesn’t disappear on his off nights. MJ never disappeared on his off nights. If you want to treat VC like he is some sort of God, try to compare him to someone who has actually accomplished something in the NBA, and I think you’ll see he doesn’t stack up favorably in the “caring” department. He’s a supreme talent with a bad attitude. Simple as that.

  • Phil

    @Marley, I find it interesting that you state that the Nash offensive system ‘has not been proven to win championships’. Its a clever choice of words, as it is a statement of the obvious rather than saying it can’t win championships, which is a view that has been posted on these boards many times before.

    However the rest of your post makes it clear you are in that camp, and that is a view I have a problem with. Arguing that the Nash system cannot or could not win championships because it hasn’t is the same logic as saying “all cats have four legs, my dog has four legs. Therefore my dog is a cat” You will never convince me that the 2007 Suns didn’t win the championship because of their system – they failed because they didn’t get the breaks. Remember they lost games 5 by 3 points missing two starters after one of the most absurd rulings in sports history.

    In any case, the biggest internal barrier to the Suns winning a title in the Suns era was never Nash or defense, but Amare and his uncanny ability to stop boarding when it counts. You can win championships with a poor or average defense if your offense is good enough, as the Showtime Lakers proved, basketball is simply about scoring more points than the opposition.

    I am a Nash fan and I disagree with Steve about his on court demeanour (although not his defensive failings – at the very least I find it odd a guy with Nash’s court vision can’t at the very least grab a couple of steals a night) as he has brough any number of different Suns squads together during his time in the desert.

    As for Carter, I refuse to waste anymore time on discussing him. He doesn’t care, is overpaid and overrated and anyone who can’t see that hasn’t watched a basketball game in the last 5 years and values talent over teamwork anyway

  • Steve

    Yeah, I guess I should clarify what I meant by Nash’s on-court demeanor. I wasn’t talking about his interaction with teammates. He seems to interact with his teammates exceptionally well, and everyone loves and respects him. I was talking about how he treats the referees and how he reacts to situations when he isn’t getting the calls he wants. I’m not saying he’s the biggest whiner in the league, and I know that every superstar is going to have chats with the refs throughout the games, but when Steve isn’t getting his way he usually gets mad, and his anger negatively affects his play. Steve Nash doesn’t get better when he plays angry. It blinds him. I used to be the same way. Regardless of the sport, I would let the officiating get in my head and it would negatively affect me to the point where I felt I had to make up my mind and do something to prove them wrong.

    Again, Nash isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen with this. Not even close. However, I feel like that’s an obvious character flaw he should have addressed over time. My parents used to beat my whiny butt if I nagged refs/umps/whatever because it shows a deep lack of respect for others and no concern for your own quality of character.

  • Phil

    Yeah I think that’s fair – your point that Nash getting angry doesn’t make him better (unlike a lot of stars) is a great one I think.

    That said, I do think Nash gets less calls than pretty much every other star in the league and I’ve never quite understood why (The Game 4 no timeout/no foul call vs the Lakers in 2006 is the best example of this – I can’t think of another star in the league who would not have got that call) – this is pretty frustrating when you watch LeBron or even a PG like Paul barrel to the basket and get bailed out time and again.

  • Nick

    I never thought I’d see the day someone defends Vince “Vagtastic” Carter….you’re right he’s a phenomenal player averaging 22.2 ppg for his career…..on 18 shot attempts (44.5%)! Sorry man, but that is not efficient scoring for a SG that is held in such high regard by many fans. 25.4 ppg on 48.5% is solid for a SG (D-Wade). Furthermore, if you want to bring the argument to his playoff performance, you can hardly do so. His post season stats scream choke artist that is detrimental to his team (23.3 ppg, 41.5%, 19.5 attempts, 2.4 TO).