The Phoenix Suns against better, weaker defenses

Posted by on September 14th, 12:06 am

Steve Nash was still one of the best offensive players in the NBA last season, but according to a recent Basketball Reference study he was not quite the elite offensive player against the best teams that he was against the worst squads.

First the good news on Nash from Neil Paine’s look at which players excel against the best and worst defenses. Two Time was the best player in the league against below average defenses last year, just ahead of such luminaries as D-Wade, Kobe, LeBron and D-Rose.

However, Nash was “only” the 20th best offensive player against above average defenses, putting him near the bottom of Paine’s list (237th overall) in terms of the differential between how he performed against the league’s better than average defenses and the below average defenses.

My only explanation would be that the above average defenses did a better job of rotating against Nash’s brilliant passing or possibly had an elite defender to stick on Two Time to slow him down a bit.

In 2009-10 Nash was also better against worse defenses but not by as much as he ranked ninth against above average ‘D’ and fifth versus below average defense.

Hakim Warrick also was a much better player against weaker defenses last season, as was Amare Stoudemire.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jared Dudley possessed the league’s best differential in terms of how he played offensively against above average defenses compared to the below average ones last year.

I’m sure some of this had to do with luck, for example Dudley getting major opportunities against San Antonio and Miami (and scoring 60 points in the two games) right after the big midseason trade, but still it speaks to the fact that for the bulk of the season Dudley was flat-out better against better teams.

And 1

Dudley tweeting on the setback in labor negotiations: “I heard the meeting with the League didn’t go so well.U can’t get to high when you hear good news And Don’t get to low when u hear bad news.

“This is goin to be a process. The league has been planning this lockout for years, it’s not goin to get done quickly.

“Can’t wait for our @TheNBPA meeting in Vegas this Thursday! We’ve seen the owners and league game plan is, it’s time to discuss some things…” …

Nash tweeted about his Team Canada experience, elaborating on a question in which he said he probably won’t play for his national team again.

“The moments and memories I had playing for Canada are the best of my career. It wasn’t an easy decision nor one I wanted to make, to stop playing for the national team but something had to give. I was 30, playing year round, carrying injuries into both seasons, and not enjoying playing hurt. I was asked to do a lot for the suns and after 13 years with the national team I felt I had to choose one or the other to prolong my career. And the NBA is my lively hood.”

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Jared Dudley · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Steve Nash

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jt's hoops Blog // Sep 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

    It makes sense. Good offensive players always play better with poorer defensive teams.

  • 2 Lloyd I. Cadle // Sep 14, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Dudley doing well against better defenses may be a good reason to let him compete for the starting job at the two next season.

    Gortat will be even better with the pick and roll with Nash after playing in the Suns system for a half season.

    I’m sure that that stats of Nash suffered some with all of the new players at the start of last season. Plus, the mid season trade also required some big time adjustments for Nash as well. Not many point guards would do nearly as well as Nash with all of the changes.

  • 3 sun-arc // Sep 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Nash is usually pretty darn good against good defenses too- but this past year was not a good sample year. Lots of rotation changes, less overall talent, and injuries hurt him.

    Still- if you look at him being #1 against poor defenses, this suggests two things:

    1. He is very good at being opportunistic. He makes any opponent pay for their mistakes, which is great.

    2. His path to the basket was cut off against good defenses, and he passed the ball. The stats in the article might not take that into consideration. This is where Nash is so great: dribbling the ball and finding the open man. Problem this year, the open men weren’t as good as in the past (even the ones returning. Even Dudley & Fry’s 3-pt percentages were way down).

    Dudley is just awesome, though, considering what he wills himself to do. He has so much heart.

  • 4 Raddchad // Sep 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    You know what would compliment and reward Steve Nash in his waning years? A trade bringing Dwight Howard to Phoenix would give Nash a great shot at finally getting a ring. The team owes it to him to try and go get someone to replace Amare. Dwight Howard will be traded before too long, might as well be to the Suns, right?

  • 5 sun-arc // Sep 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Raddchad: the only chip they might want would be Nash. Oh, and maybe Gortat. Which would make sense, since we couldn’t possibly bring Dwight over with Gortat on our team. We couldn’t do that to Gortat, could we?

    And, if they traded nash for dwight, it wouldn’t make them better, except shedding salary for 2012.

    I’d love to have Dwight, but I don’t see any way of landing him. Pau Gasol, maybe (Carter’s corpse and expiring contract to get them closer to the cap)? He’s older, but still a great player. Horrible contract, though.

    I think what is interesting is how the Sun’s have positioned themselves for the 2012 draft/free agency. I think this year is a “throw away” season. it’ll be horrible to watch- but hopefully they’ll bounce back quickly. (look at: http://hoopshype.com/salaries/phoenix.htm and compare the suns to lots of other teams). We might be able to get Dwight next summer…

  • 6 Steve // Sep 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I think the best hope we have is if the onwers dominate the players in negotiations and force the players to accept a hard cap that is effective immediately with all existing contracts being restructured and each team being able to renegotiate one contract (think Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis type deals) and buy out those contracts for 25% or so if negotiations are unsuccessful. That type of financial chaos would cause a massive sale from some of the teams with way too much payroll for their own good.

    Btw, since I’m mentioning the lockout and a proposed financial plan for the NBA, I want to add one more thing. Player contracts should not be guaranteed, and players should be forced to take cuts if their production drops/rewarded if their production soars. If someone makes an all-star game, an all-nba team, and wins an mvp, they should be paid like one of the best players in the league. If someone did that five years ago but has since been riding the bench for two seasons, they should NOT be paid like one of the best players in the league (I’m looking at you, Shaq). There are a ton of ways that these rewards/penalties could play out, but I really think it’s the best way for owners to keep player salary in check, prevent themselves from blowing up their franchise, and give players an incentive to put forth their best effort for 82 games. It’s a win-win-win-win-win-win-etc for the owners. I know players will never agree to it, but that’s what makes me believe it would be a truly awesome system. I mean, what kind of a league would it be if players were paid according to their ability? That’s not fair at all. We need the Rashard Lewises and Gilbert Arenases and Vince Carters of the world to be making more than the Kevin Durants, Derrick Roses, Zach Randolphs, and Steve Nashes of the world. That’s fair, right, and just the way it should be. :|

  • 7 Michael Schwartz // Sep 16, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I have to disagree with that last point, Steve. If players could be dropped and rewarded yearly then everybody would always be playing for themselves rather than the team. It would be all about getting theirs so they could get their money rather than team goals. Team planning would also be impossible if you have no idea how much any of your guys would make on a year to year basis.

    But I guess I feel you overall. A hard cap that forced the Lakers of the world to make some tough decisions would flood the market with players that the Suns could take advantage of in 2012.

  • 8 Steve // Sep 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Warning: Giant wall of text ahead.

    I understand that, and I think that’s part of the reason players would never agree to it. And you’re probably right about guys just playing for themselves… but 90% of the superstars in the league do that anyways. And, by the way, I didn’t really explain this in my previous post, but this merit-based pay scale I’m talking about would only be applicable to “stars” in my imaginary world.

    Btw, if you don’t want to read what I have to say, Bill Simmons came up with a fairly similar pay scale in one of his articles a while back. He had a lot of the same ideas as me, and it might be a pretty good read.

    I’ll expand a little bit on my thoughts:

    Mid-level players (not guys with the “mid-level” exception necessarily) – I would reduce their salaries to about 1/2 to 2/3 of what the mid-level exception in the old format would have been, or basically just 1/2 to 2/3 of the “average” that an NBA player makes. I love them, but the Jared Dudleys, Josh Childresses, Channing Fryes, Mickael Pietruses, etc, of the world should not be making $5m per for their contributions. They’re not worth it. Those types of guys are a dime a dozen, so why should teams pay them like they couldn’t just easily go out and find a replacement for their talent, or even IMPROVE for less money? If Channing Frye is making 1/3 of the amount of money LeBron James is making basically because Frye has “tenure” in the league, shouldn’t that mean he contributes 1/3 of the amount LeBron contributes to the Heat/Association? I hate LeBron and love Frye, but there’s no denying that he’s WAY more than 3x the cash cow that Frye is.

    Dealing with the stars, especially up-and-coming stars is a little more difficult because teams will want to keep those stars, but don’t have a great way to do that with the current CBA. I’d propose that rookie contracts stay in the current form (5 years with a couple of outs at 2 and 4 years, I think), except for that I would add a reward system for those rookies if they accomplished certain things in those first four years. For example, if a second-year player makes an all-star game, I think he should automatically be bumped to “all-star” status (more on that later), and be able to earn “all-star” money if his team or another team would be willing to give it to him. If his current team is unwilling to pay up, then any other team in the league (following a waiver order or something along those lines) would have the opportunity to snatch him up if they were willing to buy out his remaining rookie contract from the team that drafted him and pay him “all-star” money the next season. For non-rookie contracts, I would cap them at three years and I wouldn’t include mandatory performance incentives for established players (not on their rookie contract). HOWEVER, I would include a few salary levels for “star” players that would be far above the mid-level player salaries, and with huge incentives for those stars to stay put. So, if you make a certain number of all-star or all-NBA appearances for the SAME team within a four year period (longer than max contracts), that player’s cap figure would jump to something around 10-25 million, depending on the number of appearances/awards, with his “home” team being able to pay 20-25% over the cap figure for a new contract. So, a star could make $10-$25M while a guy like Channing Frye would be limited to something like $3M. You might argue this would be unequitable, but is it really? Is it “fair” that LeBron James makes the Heat and NBA and his sponsors hundreds of millions of dollars every year, but he only makes 3x as much as Channing Frye? THAT’S not “fair.” I think people should be paid according to their accomplishments. That’s fair.

    FOR example, Joe Someboy just ran off a three year stretch where he had two all-star appearances, a scoring title, and one all-NBA team nomination. That would qualify him for a $16M cap figure (I’m just throwing out a number here, don’t dwell on it too much). His contract is up, and he’s hitting the market this summer. His team can offer him UP TO $20M per for a four-year deal ($80M total) vs every other team’s ability to pay him $16M per ($64M total) if I go with the home team being able to pay 25% over the cap figure. That extra $16M the home team paid wouldn’t count against their cap figure, so even though they’re paying a star $20M per, only $16M counts on their payroll.

    A guy like LeBron, who just won two MVPs, four all-NBA teams (offensive and defensive), four all-star appearances would fall in a higher cap category, but with the same priveleges for the “home team.” Also, the only awards/accolades/accomplishments that would count toward a player’s cap figure would be things that happened within the past 4 years with the SAME TEAM.

    If you go up a status in your current deal, you’ll be entitled to more money on your next deal, if you down in status, you wont’ be entitled to the same money in your next deal. I typed this with like 10 breaks in between. I hope it’s cohesive. From what I remember of the Bill Simmons article, we pretty much had the same idea, so I would read that if what I wrote is completely incoherent.

  • 9 Michael Schwartz // Sep 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I agree with the gist of your argument but not the specifics. I completely agree that nobody is screwed more than stars and elite players on their rookie deal and nobody makes out better than the mid-level guys (especially on this Suns team). That’s why it was worth it for the Knicks to hand the Rockets their first born in terms of draft pick compensation, because if they had acquired say Bron and Wade it would have way more than made up for it. Those guys are worth way more than the max. Then obviously nobody is screwed more than an established star like Durant still making rookie money.

    My issue in your theoretical world is just the reward system because that stuff isn’t always fair, especially the All-Star stuff. What if Yi is voted in as an All-Star starter although he’s a marginal player? All the time you see ridiculous fan voting and All-Star snubs. And then, as I said before, I feel it will take away from the team concept because players like just being trying to get theirs.

    So in conclusion, I like what your plans is trying to do (paying the players in a more equitable fashion, which we can all agree is definitely not the case under the current structure), just don’t think that’s the way to do it.

  • 10 Marley // Sep 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Hah! More Dudley love fest I see! LMAO!

    Dudley’s a DUD. He is not athletic enough to play against most opposing teams starting SG or SF. His numbers will drop as a starter. If Dudley ever becomes a starting SG, all of you loving Dudley right now, will be wondering what you were thinking at the time! LOL

    JJ Barea of Dallas showed us during the NBA playoffs how over-rated Steve Nash really is. Any small quick PG can do well in a pick-n-roll offence in the NBA. If you have a big man and shooters, small PGs like Barea, Nelson (Orlando Magic), and Nash will look more valuable then they really are.

    There are advantages on offence for being a PG of Nash’s size in the NBA. You can run circles around most other guys. The problem is that PGs of Nash’s stature are a BIG liability on defense.

    Like Dallas has with J. Kidd, the Suns need to find a bigger and stronger PG to offset Nash’s weaknesses.

    In regards to @Steve’s comments about the NBA labor negotiations: what @Steve is proposing will never fly with players!

    The NBA is a players league. You need star players to win a championship. There is no exception to this fact.

    Teams in big markets clearly make more money and have more money to spend to buy the best players.

    What ultimately needs to happen in the NBA is for the elite star players to be spread out among as many teams as possible. No more super teams like the Heat, Celtics, and Lakers.

    Here are my suggestions:

    1. On top of the salary cap, limit the number of max and big contracts a team is able to give out. For example, a team should only be allowed to offer 1 max contract, 1 90-95% of a max contract, 1 80-90% of max contract, etc …

    2. Max and big contracted players who sign with teams in smaller markets, should be reward with additional salary bonuses from the NBA that comes out of some kind of revenue sharing pool. This will entice stars to want to sign with teams in smaller markets.

    Make sense? Hopefully!

  • 11 Steve // Sep 19, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Ummmm…. my suggestions would reward stars more than the current system, and it would also make it easier for teams to hold onto their stars instead of having them flock to the coasts (Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Celtics, etc). Those are the same things you’re wanting to accomplish, just with a different method.

    And I still stand by the point that just because the players would never accept that deal doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. In fact, I would suggest the opposite. I have always been anti-union (well, for my lifetime, at least, and in this modern USA, where unions don’t serve the same purpose as they used to). Unions today typically allow the bottom of the barrell of a workforce to control those who put food on their tables. The fact that there are more Channing Fryes than there are LeBrons doesn’t mean we should cater to the Fryes, but that’s what a union does. These guys aren’t being robbed of anything by the owners. They’re making more money in a year than most people see in a lifetime (and 70% of them still end up broke because they don’t have brains). The vast majority of Americans (or even humans) don’t have the luxury of a guaranteed contract. The reason players want guaranteed contracts isn’t because they deserve them. It’s because they know they don’t.

    95% of these guys don’t have an irreplaceable skill set. I say replace them if they want to take it that far.

  • 12 Michael Schwartz // Sep 20, 2011 at 12:21 am

    @Steve How would you feel about getting rid of the max contract concept altogether? That’s really how stars get screwed. LeBron might be worth upwards of $30-35 mil but he can only be paid the max. You can say a guy like Bosh deserves the actual max whereas LeBron is also a max player who deserves twice that amount. If the cap gets any harder this would make it difficult to field a complete team, but if we want players to be paid what they’re worth there shouldn’t be some arbitrary figure capping the amount they can make. That way a team can either pay one LeBron (and five minimum guys) or six Channing Fryes.

    Just throwing that out for the sake of our discussion, I don’t think max contracts will be abolished and I definitely agree with your point about unions robbing the LeBrons to pay the Fryes since there are more of them. Would also be terribly interesting to see how much Bron (and next year Howard/CP3/D-Will) would command on a true open market.

  • 13 Steve // Sep 20, 2011 at 7:21 am

    @ Michael- I would be for getting rid of the max contract. I think that what the NFL has is brilliant. The fact that Manning and Brady make nearly 1/6 of their teams’ caps really puts a lot of pressure on those GMs, coaches, owners, scouts, etc, to do a fantastic job finding young, cheap talent that will compliment those stars. Those two guys are making about 10x more than the average player, and their teams are taking huge risks (with high rewards) in signing them to those contracts. I don’t hear any Pats complaining about Brady making bank while they’re “barely getting by just trying to make a living.”

    I agree that they’re not going to get rid of the max, but I really think they should. It would certainly make owners a lot more aware of exactly what they’re doing when they give Joe Johnson the biggest contract in a year where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Amar’e Stoudemire are free agents. And yes, it really would be scary to see how much those guys would command. I really think LeBron would take up over half of the cap, and maybe even Dwight too.

  • 14 Onuoha // Jan 22, 2014 at 12:14 am

    I actually just rveieecd confirmation from Metrotown location that for the $19 deal for menyou can only go to the gym on these specific days. (Mondays, wednesdays, fridays and sundays)Whereas for women it would be (Tuesdays, thursdays, saturdays and sundays). Apparently you have to come in on these specific days otherwise your pass is not valid. I ended up getting a deal that was $29 a month which I found to be worthwhile especially since like to go to the gym at random times and days. Only downside is that I can only go to to 1 gym..so I dont get to go to any other steve nash location. Hope this info helps.

  • 15 here // Jan 30, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Articles like this make life so much simpler.

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