The 2011-12 Phoenix Suns through advanced stats

Posted by on May 10th, 9:56 am

Thanks to the NBA’s great new stats tool, today we will delve deeper into the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns’ season with the help of advanced stats.

The first half/second half offensive discrepancy

The simplest reason why the Phoenix Suns were so bad in the first half of the season and so good in the second half all boils down to their offense.

As I wrote during the All-Star break, the Suns’ first-half offense just did not get it done, be it because of a lack of familiarity, not being in playing shape or just flat-out missing shots.

I don’t know why the offense slipped so much, but I do know that according to the NBA’s stats tool that the Suns ranked 16th in offensive efficiency in the first half with an offensive rating of 100.2.

The second half was a completely different story as the Suns ranked fourth with an offensive rating of 107.1 that sat behind only the Spurs, Nuggets and Thunder, and they were tied for second in the league in this time before the final two games.

Overall, the Suns’ offense progressively improved as the season went on as they boasted a 96.2 offensive rating in December, a 98.0 in January, a 103.7 in February, a 107.1 in March and a 107.0 in April.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, the defense steadily declined throughout the season by sporting a 100.2 defensive rating in December, a 102.6 in January, a 103.5 in February, a 104.6 in March and a 105.1 in April.

The Suns ranked 21st with a 104.9 defensive rating in the second half and although that’s worse than their first half rating of 102.7, that early season mark actually ranked 23rd as offense picked up league-wide once the lockout rust was shaken off — just not as significantly as it did in Phoenix.

Overall the Suns were eighth with a 103.5 offensive rating and 23rd with a 103.8 defensive rating, which means both that their .500 record makes sense based on their offensive and defensive efficiencies and that when all was said and done their offense was above average and defense below average (surprise, surprise).

Last season the Suns ranked ninth with a 107.0 offensive efficiency and 25th with a 107.4 defensive efficiency, so although both of those numbers dropped their offense and defense stayed in the same general areas when compared to the rest of the league.

The Suns’ top and bottom lineups

Among lineups that played at least 48 minutes together, the Suns’ top unit was one consisting of Nash-Brown-Dudley-Morris-Gortat as that alignment outscored opponents by 26.9 points per 100 possessions over the course of 86 minutes in 25 games.

Next on the list is the Suns’ starting lineup when healthy of Nash-Dudley-Hill-Frye-Gortat as in 747 minutes over 45 games the starters outscored opponents by 12.5 points per 100. The Bassy-Redd-Childress-Morris-Lopez group was also great with a net rating of 11.5 in 147 minutes over 19 games thanks to a torrid second half.

On the flip side, Bassy-Redd-Brown-Morris-Lopez was absolutely abysmal, as in 108 minutes over 21 games they compiled a -17.1 rating, largely during the otherwise stellar second half when they played all but 21 of those minutes.

They were only broken up when Hill got hurt, shifting Brown into the starting lineup and Childress to the bench unit, and once that happened the bench suddenly turned into a juggernaut that played 22.9 points per 100 better — a whopping difference of 46.7 points per 100 compared to the Brown bench’s -23.8 net rating.

The Nash-Price-Hill-Morris-Gortat lineup that the Suns also tried early in the year was pretty bad as well with a -15.5 rating in 65 minutes.

The Suns’ top four-man lineup consisted of Price-Warrick-Morris-Lopez of all things, but they played just 58 minutes to compile a net rating of 22.8. Next was Nash-Brown-Dudley-Morris at 21.8.

The starting lineup quartet of Nash-Dudley-Frye-Gortat played 1168 minutes over 59 games together and produced a 9.2 rating.

Down at the bottom, Bassy-Redd-Warrick-Lopez were horrid with a -43.8 net rating in 60 minutes, and Bassy-Redd-Brown-Lopez were the worst group that played over 100 minutes (142 to be exact), as they put up a -19.9 net rating. Once again, Brown was just a poor fit with the bench.

Moving on to three-man lineups, Morris-Price with either Telfair (27.0) or Warrick (18.2) cleaned up in small sample sizes, but the Suns’ top trio that played together for over 160 minutes was Hill-Frye-Gortat (11.2 net rating in 863 minutes), followed closely by Nash-Hill-Frye (10.6 in 887).

Down at the bottom, Bassy-Dudley-Gortat did not work out to the tune of a -25.7 in 118 minutes and neither did Bassy-Brown-Morris (-10.3 in 311 minutes).

Nash-Dudley-Gortat played the most together, logging 1471 minutes in 61 games. They were a positive 8.4 per 100 possessions, and it certainly reflects well on Gentry that their top 17 trios all finished in the positives.

Finally, the Suns’ top two duos involve Channing Frye: Frye-Hill (9.8 net rating in 935 minutes) and Frye-Nash (7.2 in 1378 minutes). Next are Nash-Dudley, Frye-Gortat  and Dudley-Hill, all three of which played over 1000 minutes together. In fact, with a minimum threshold of 200 minutes for duos, all but a random Lopez-Price duo played at least 900 minutes together among Phoenix’s top 11 pairs.

Bassy-Gortat pull up the rear with a -18.1 net rating, and Dudley-Warrick (-15.3) weren’t much better.

Nash and Gortat played more than any other combination, logging 1780 minutes and producing a 5.6 net rating. It certainly makes sense for the Suns’ most-played duo to consist of their best two players, especially when their games complement each other so well.

Nash, Frye shine in plus/minus

As has become an annual tradition, Steve Nash led the Suns in adjusted plus/minus with a 13.35 adjusted rating, according to Basketball Value. Robin Lopez surprisingly finished second at 11.74.

So far as net rating is concerned, Channing Frye paced Phoenix as the team was 12.75 points per 100 better with the UA product on the court, including a team-best 11.13 better offensively. Frye ranked second in this category last season to Nash and first in 2009-10 ahead of Two Time. Predictably Team Canada’s new GM was right on his heels this year at 11.02.

Using the NBA’s stats tool to dig deeper into on court/off court issues, we can see the Suns scored 106.5 per 100 possessions with Nash on the floor but a mere 98.5 when he sat. This season that was the difference between the Nuggets and the Raptors.

Moreover, the Suns shot better from every spot on the floor save for threes between 25-29 feet (and barely at that) with Nash in the game as well as every type of shot aside from the above the break three. For example, the Suns shot 45.9 percent in the paint (aside from the restricted area) with Nash but 35.4 percent without him. Yes, that man deserves the contract he is about to sign and then some.

The Suns were also significantly better offensively with Frye on the floor, scoring 107.7 per 100 with him but just 98.8 without him. If Channing were a team, he would have ranked second in offensive efficiency this season. Phoenix also shot better from every distance and floor area with Frye in the game, pretty crazy considering Frye himself shot just 41.6 percent from the field.

One would not think that would be the case for a streaky shooter who was so bad to start the season, yet his spacing ability really is that important to the Suns’ offense, and it has been the last three seasons. It’s debatable whether he would be this important to every offense league-wide, but it’s safe to say his presence really helps the Suns. This was also obvious in the de facto play-in game in Utah that he missed.

And 1

  • The Suns upped their rebound rate this season, improving from 29th to 23rd. This season they corralled 49.0 percent of the available rebounds, including 71.7 percent of the possible defensive boards to rank 24th (up from 28th last season). Both Gentry and Lon Babby were pleased that the Suns improved in this area but both would like to see the team continue to get better on the glass.
  • As for the other Four Factors, Phoenix shot a 49.9 effective field goal percentage (ninth) and yielded a 49.1 effective field goal percentage (19th). The Suns also produced a turnover ratio (turnovers per 100 plays) of 10.95 (eighth) and an opponent turnover ratio of 10.94 (22nd) as well as a free throw rate (ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts) of .257 (23rd) and opponent free throw rate of .262 (10th).
  • The Suns were not very good in the clutch (defined as ahead or behind by five points in the final five minutes), getting outscored by 15.8 points per 100 possessions in such situations, sixth worst in the league. None of the squads below them sniffed the playoffs. Surely, Phoenix’s lack of a closer is a big reason why, and slightly improved play in the clutch probably makes the Suns a playoff team.
  • Phoenix was significantly better offensively at home (107.0 offensive rating) than on the road (100.1). The defense did not fluctuate nearly so much with a 103.4 defensive rating at home and a 104.1 rating on the road.
  • The Suns shot 62.5 percent from less than five feet (third in the league), 41.0 percent from 5-9 feet (third), 38.8 percent from 10-14 (17th), 43.8 percent from 15-19 (second), 37.7 percent from 20-24 (13th) and 33.6 percent from 25-29 (18th).
  • They finished ninth in pace at 95.0 possessions per game. Last season they were eighth and the previous six seasons in the Nash era they ranked in the top five.
  • This isn’t an advanced stat but interesting nonetheless. The Suns were the only NBA team not to play an overtime game this season.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

43 responses so far ↓

  • 1 steve // May 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Lots of interesting little tidbits. Thanks for all the research.

    It seems that advanced stats did a very fine job of summing up the Suns’ season: Average.

  • 2 grover // May 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Interestingly, the Suns improved in most categories over last years team. You would not have expected that given the predictions leading into the season and aging stars. For having pretty poor talent levels, I think they played as well this year as you could expect. They lost a couple times they shouldn’t have, but they also won a few they shouldn’t have (and almost won a few more).

    All fine and dandy – they get a gold star for effort, but this is not the Suns team I want to cheer for the next several years. I’m happy they played as well as they did this year as I was fearful of much worse, but they have to improve.

    I have to give some credit to Frye as well. I’ve shouted more than a few expletives at some of his failures, but he probably deserves more credit than I’ve given him. Iespecially if his shot returns, the spacing he provides (so long as there is a pg on the floor who can make use of that) makes a lot of other players look better even when Frye doesn’t take the shot himself.

  • 3 Michael Schwartz // May 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    It’s really crazy, the Frye impact. Gentry has been talking about it since his first season. I mean, you look at this Wins Produced numbers (0.043 WP48) as well as his shooting percentage with so many of those brutal 3-for-13 games mixed and you would think he’s the weak link of this lineup. Then these numbers say the Suns are significantly better when he’s actually on the court and really have been the last three years. I guess it just goes to show the importance of a true floor-spacing big in this system.

  • 4 steve // May 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    For all the improvements the Suns made, it was clear this year that rebounding is still an area that needs to improve greatly. I just read the Greg Oden article on grantland, and I’ve got to say that I would be extremely intrested in pursuing Greg Oden if I was the Suns GM/PBO, especially if Robin is gobbled up by another team in free agency. I realize there isn’t a whole lot of a chance that Oden can stay healthy and/or get back to peak form. However, I see virtually no harm in signing him to something like 2 years at $3M-$6M per year if he’ll take that and no one wants to give him more. The Suns have more than enough cap room to spare to take a chance like that on a former #1 pick. The man can defend the paint and pull down boards with the best in the NBA (when healthy). If it is possible for him to rehab and get healthy enough to play 40-60 games 20-25 minutes per game, Phoenix is as likely of a place as any other for that to happen. I think the addition of a force like Oden could have the potential to bump the Suns into the top half of the league in rebounding and defensive efficiency.

  • 5 Tony // May 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    @Michael and Grover,

    the primary reason for the Suns’ better play with Frye on the court is because of the lack of a legitimate starting pf. With Warrick and Morris as the other pfs, or even going back to the Hedo experiment at the 4, it should be pretty obvious why the Suns play better with Frye on the court as he at least has legitimate size to play pf and because of his reputation from 3-point distance, he helps space the offense. That’s not to discount how Frye has improved his game since his first season with the Suns-his post defense has probably been his biggest area of improvement and he’s finally learning to take the ball to the basket and not settle for 3s. With that being said, with only Morris and Warrick as alternatives to pf, it shouldn’t be surprising how important Frye is to the team.

    @Michael,

    it should be interesting just how awful this Suns team is next season without Nash. As your stats showed, Nash was the leader in plus-minus and was the leader in the Suns best floor line-up. Gortat will likely become the Suns best player and that is far from a good thing as he’s shown very limited ability to excel offensively without Nash. Furthermore, without the intangible qualities that Nash brings, especially leadership, I wonder if next season’s Suns team challenges the Bobcats record for lowest winning percentage…..The Suns near future looks pretty bleak.

  • 6 Scott // May 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    While some may be surprised at those stats, I think they pretty much reflect the games I saw this season, and match up with the recommendations I’ve made right along.

    Lopez IS better than Gentry credits, and was underused. He should start at center, with Gortat at PF. Lopez alters shots, and he gets to the line. Lopez and Gortat together should make a fierce defensive presence for the starting unit.

    Contrary to the belief of many fans, Frye IS good on offense, and would be a great boon to the 2nd unit. His offensive game doesn’t require the elaborate set-ups from Nash that Gortat and Lopez need, and his defense is more than adequate for most of the league’s 2nd unit centers. Even though he isn’t really a creator, Frye stretches defenses by himself; which is another reason to have him with the 2nd unit, as they’re not likely to be blessed with a lot of skilled creators.

    Furthermore, maybe Gortat CAN shoot the corner 3 as well as the short jumper, and thus be able to help space the floor. He obviously has more of a finesse shooting game, so personality-wise this change may suit him. We’ll never know till it is tried.

    Childress and Warrick CAN be effective in lineups, and they should have been used at the start of the year in place of the newcomers. The Suns would be in the playoffs again if this realization had been followed.

    The Redd-Brown combinations did not work, because A) both players were new to the system, and B) as a pair they never really were that effective defensively or that synergistic on offense. Better to have one of them and Childress, if you needed a complementary 2nd unit wing man.

    Likewise, Redd-Warrick or Brown-Warrick combinations would be expected to not work because of too many defensive lapses. (But note that apparently Warrick was okay when played at SF with Morris at PF.)

    So it’s not exactly rocket science with the Redd-Brown-Warrick combos. You can only have one of them on the floor at a time. So one becomes a starter, one becomes a 2nd unit guy, and one becomes a deep reserve. Or when forming the team next year, you skip one of them.

    The Bassy-Brown-Morris combo did NOT work, as expected, because they’re all three new to the system. Contrary to this, the Bassy-Price-Morris combo DID work, despite newness, and that’s because Price brought additional creation skills and defensive pressure.

    The “odd” combination of Price and Lopez worked, because on offense Price would drive toward the basket and dish to Lopez, and on defense both players are solid. Bassy-Lopez was probably not quite as good, because for much of the year Bassy had trouble creating effective offense for Lopez.

    As for next year, I think the Suns would play better if they made no changes to the roster, because now everyone is familiar with one another and the system.

    I think the Suns would play better in general if they dropped Brown, kept Redd, moved Frye to 2nd unit center, and started the pair of Gortat and Lopez. And keep Warrick in mind for minutes at SF, a position that suits his body type better. I think the numbers here bear that out.

    Why drop Brown? Brown and Redd are somewhat similar, but Redd creates for others and gets to the line more than Brown does, and both qualities are desperately needed by the Suns. However, if Redd asks for an uncomfortably big contract and Brown doesn’t, the Suns wouldn’t be that far off to take Brown over Redd.

  • 7 RC // May 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    @steve, Greg Oden plans to recuperate the whole next season.

  • 8 Grover // May 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Re: Oden…. There was a pretty scathing article on the medical staff at Portland included somewhere there. I’m sure Babby uses that and similar stories of other teams in contrast with the Suns med staff when talking with potential players. Oden would be worth a cheap contract after next year, but as tr prior post indicates Oden claims to be taking the whole 2012-13 season for rehab.

    I would be blown away if the Suns are worse next year than this year, even without Nash. With $30+ million available under the cap, they should be able to make improvements. I’m not expecting them to immediately morph into a direct challenger to OKC or dominance in the West, but they should be able to bring in enough to improve. If they don’t improve its either and indication they screwed up royally or found themselves in bidding wars over mediocre players and wisely decided to turn rebuilding into a two year project instead of a one year project.

  • 9 steve // May 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    @RC – Thanks for that info. I wasn’t aware it would take so long to recover from microfracture surgery, but it IS Greg Ode we’re talking about.

    Even still, I’d like to see him with the Suns during his recovery, as getting him with Phoenix’s excellent training staff would give Phoenix an opportunity to see if there is hope for him, and it would probably also give Oden the best chance at recovering well and recovering quickly.

    Regarding Frye, his substantial net rating doesn’t indicate it was just a result of him being better than the other terrible options at PF. He didn’t just have a lower negative net rating (meaning he’s bad, just not as bad as the others), he had an extremely good net rating (meaning he’s good, and the Suns were very good with him on the floor). The numbers show Steve Nash was wrong about one thing. This Suns team had talent. They were certainly flawed, but the fact that their starting five whooped up on opponents all year long shows that the talent to win games was there for this squad.

    There was talent on the bench, but it came together much too slowly. I think that can be blamed on a couple of things. First, no backup PG understood the system. Second, Gentry didn’t rely on the guys who had already been there and done that. Right out of the gates, Ronnie Price, Bassy, and Brown were heavily leaned upon to be anchors of the second unit, and Lopez, Warrick, and Childress were virtually ignored despite understanding the system. I know it’s not all that popular to bash Gentry, but I really think he failed as a coach this year. I also know it’s not popular to praise Childress, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he didn’t appear on any of the Suns worst lineups (and had an appearance on the best list).

  • 10 Roger // May 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Maybe sign Greg Oden for min $ veteran pay for 2 years and let him heal with Suns trainer for 12-13 season while learning the playbook to get ready for 13-14 season. Not sure of CBA if he can be signed for min veteran pay?

  • 11 Scott // May 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    @steve -

    I think the “not enough talent” quote from Nash is misunderstood by many.

    When Nash says that – regardless of who his teammates are – it means they need to play harder. It’s a phrase designed to take teammates off their individual high horses and get them to take pride in their collective effort.

    Too often players get absorbed in thinking they have skills and make great individual plays, like a great dunk or drive, and that such things prove their worth. But then that player also fails to play well in a team sense, like getting a hustle rebound or getting back on defense, and consequently the team loses.

    Nash wants his guys focusing on the effort it takes to create wins, not on flashy plays.

    I believe Nash said essentially the same thing a few years before, back in what fans now consider the “golden age” of Nash-led Suns teams.

  • 12 Suns Critic // May 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    The reason why the team scored more when Frye was in is because he played with the starters. The only reason why the team shot better from everywhere when Frye was in is because he sits on the perimeter waiting for the ball with his big man thus everyone else is getting a better shot. Not a bad strategy but, it doesn’t help offensive rebounding.

    I’m just tired of Frye I want someone aggressive down low, Frye or Morris can come off the bench.

  • 13 Tony // May 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Frye only averaged 10.5 ppg, on 41%, 5.9rpg, and only 34.6% from 3-point distance. So let’s be clear, the guy is not a starting caliber player either at PF or C.

    It’s just flat out wrong for anyone to blame Gentry for the Suns outcome. Contrary to the fantasy notion of some, this Suns team was one of the least talented teams in the NBA. For the team to finish 33-33 was a great achievement and Gentry deserves a ton of praise. In fact, Scott Brooks had said that Gentry deserved COY consideration for the job he did. Frankly I have a ton more respect for Brooks’ knowledge of basketball than some who claim Gentry “failed as a coach this year.” It would have been extremely easy for some of the Suns players’ to tune him out and not follow the gameplan following their 12-19 start. However, they didn’t and instead came together to achieve that great 2nd half run. Gentry deserves just as much praise for the 2nd half as the players do.

    @Scott,

    I don’t understand why you cannot seem to grasp why Gentry didn’t use Gortat and Lopez together?? You seem like you have a solid understanding of basketball, so it surprises me that you are not appreciating how vital spacing is to the Suns offense. Without proper spacing, i.e., a clogged paint, the Suns pick-and-roll would be neutralized because opposing bigs wouldn’t be forced to guard their man outside with neither Gortat or Lopez being reliable outside shooters. Frye and Morris provide that spacing because of the threat of the 3-point shot. If you put Frye and Morris together in the 2nd unit, then you would have no pick&roll bigs and would be entirely dependent on them shooting from the outside. Thus, there would be no balance between the 1st and 2nd units.
    Oh, and as far as Gortat shooting the corner three, where are you getting this notion that he’s a consistent mid-range shooter to extend his range to 3-point distance? Just look at his shooting form, it’s not exactly ideal.

    Now, assuming Nash signs elsewhere, installing a new offensive system might allow a Gortat and Lopez combo to work. It just won’t work with the offensive system the Suns have run since the Nash-era. Then, on the defensive end, both Gortat and Lopez have a ton of trouble guarding mobile bigs. So any possible and speculative improvement playing them both together might have offensively would be negated by a reduction in defensive efficiency.

  • 14 Tony // May 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    @Grover,

    Nash was the key to this team’s mediocre success this season. We also saw how dependent Gortat is on him. So, unless the Suns sign Derron Williams, why would you expect them to be better next season? What other free agent would have the impact to not only neutralize the impact losing Nash would have but also serve to improve the team? I’m sure the FO will make a push for either or both of Gordon or Batum, but it’s extremely unlikely either of the Hornets or the Blazers let those players go. Both teams have the cap space to sign those players, so we can pretty much scratch off those guys off the list of potential free agents the Suns will be able to sign.

  • 15 steve // May 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    “It would have been extremely easy for some of the Suns players’ to tune him out and not follow the gameplan following their 12-19 start. However, they didn’t and instead came together to achieve that great 2nd half run. Gentry deserves just as much praise for the 2nd half as the players do.”

    So, you’re willing to give him credit for the good finish, but not willing to criticize him for the poor start… Typical. If you don’t believe Gentry was responsible for the poor start, that’s one thing. But to say, “It’s just flat out wrong for anyone to blame Gentry…” is epically fallacious in light of the fact that you believe he can be credited for the finish.

    But I’m sure that means nothing…

  • 16 Ty-Sun // May 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Frye’s not really the problem. He has played well during his time in Phoenix… not great but well. Yes his stats were down slightly from last year but last year was his best year ever. And I’ve always said he was at best a borderline starter/backup.

    If the Suns can somehow acquire a real “go-to” guy then the whole team will be better. Yes, they could use better talented players in several positions both as starter and off the bench but if they just had that one guy who could create his own shot – and hit it consistently – it would improve the team greatly. Even if he doesn’t play great defense (like Gordon). Yeah having two guards that don’t play good defense will hurt but the Suns need an offensive force more than anything. Whether it’s through free agency, the draft or a trade, the Suns need a SCORER to really compete.

    Although I mentioned Gordon, I wouldn’t make a really big play for him if I were in the Suns’ FO. He and Nash together might score a lot of points but they would give up a lot too. But I’m not paid to make these decisions. Hopefully those who are will make the right ones during the off-season.

  • 17 Tony // May 10, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    @Steve

    If by typical you mean another ignorant posting by you, then I totally agree.

    Although I know it will probably be in vain, I will attempt to explain why Gentry should not be blamed for the poor start and why he deserves praise for the team’s second half run.

    When the season started, training camp was only a week long. There was no summer league for Morris and some of the other Suns to participate in and get their games ready for the start of the season. Gentry was also presented with not only the weakest roster he’s coached while with the Suns, but he also had to integrate so many new players into the system. Telfair, Brown, Morris, Price, and even Lopez, due to lack of playing time as a result of injuries, all needed time to become accustomed to what Gentry wanted from them.
    Secondly, the lack of a normal training camp and exhibition time hurt Nash and Hill particularly with their shooting and conditioning. Hill especially struggled early on because he wasn’t in NBA game shape. The other primary Suns players also struggled early on with their shooting, again mostly a result of not being ready for the start of the season.
    Lastly, because there were so many new Suns players on the roster, the team chemistry wasn’t there early on. This was to be expected with all the new players. There was nothing Gentry could do to speed it up as that is something that just takes time to develop.
    I know what I’ve just written will fail to register with you but that doesn’t discount that under the circumstances the Suns were in, without a regular training camp, with integrating new players into critical roles, and with the time that is required to develop team chemistry when there are so many new players getting accustomed to playing with veterans under a different system, the Suns poor start was not so unexpected.
    The Suns turnaround was unexpected as the team could have easily collapsed and finished like the Blazers or the Warriors. Yet, they didn’t. Instead, they regrouped, didn’t panic, and stayed within the gameplan. The players’ confidence and mental attitude stayed positive which several Suns players attributed that as a result of Gentry’s attitude and belief in them.
    But in any case, I know you think you know more about basketball than Scott Brooks or Steve Nash and Grant Hill, both of whom also immensely praised the entire coaching staff for the Suns’ season, but in reality you don’t. So try again!

  • 18 steve // May 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    He could have relied on the guys who had been in the system.

    I get what you’re saying about the new guys… but he didn’t need to hand them the keys to the second unit right away.

    As far as gentry having anything to do with the turnaround, I don’t think the coach is the one to motivate professional athletes and get them to do their job. That’s not the way any business I know of actually works. Bosses give assignments and roles. In gentry’s case, he basically just sets rotations. The rotations were lousy at the beginning of the year. That’s on him.

  • 19 steve // May 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Please note, I’m not calling you ignorant or insane or any other petty names. I know this is largely a matter of opinion. For someone who believes I have trouble knowing the difference between opinion and fact, you sure think you know it all.

    Just keep track of how often you insult my (or anyone else’s) ideas. I think you’d be surprised how… objectionable you actually are.

  • 20 Tony // May 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    @Steve,

    I repeat, I only respond in kind. Clearly your “typical” remark was an indirect dig so I responded albeit more overtly.

    In any case, I think you’re underestimating the importance a coach has on the pysche of his players. If I remember correctly, I believe it was Telfair, when talking about his turnaround this season, mentioned Gentry’s demeanor and positive vibe that really helped him. I mean come on Steve, I’m sure you’ve played sports in leagues before right? If so, you didn’t notice a difference in the way you performed playing for a positive encouraging coach rather than a hard-ass always yelling?
    With that being said, I’m not arguing that Gentry is a great coach and in fact, he cost the Suns several games this past season by failing to make adjustments or making them too late. But, when you look at the aggregate of the season, I really believe he was instrumental in making this Suns team respectable.

    I guess we’ll just agree to disagree, which is fine.

  • 21 Scott // May 11, 2012 at 12:58 am

    @Tony -

    Other teams – both currently and throughout basketball history – have had a PF and C who play close to the basket.

    Take for instance the combo of Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

    Or, for a more recent example that pertains to the Suns, look at Amare and Shaq, or Amare and any other Suns center other than Frye.

    There’s a bazillion examples of PF and C who play fairly close to the basket.

    How about Scola and Yao?

    Pao and Bynum?

    Randolph and Gasol?

  • 22 Larry // May 11, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Great comments all around from you guys. One thing I wanted to throw in about Channing Frye, his defense was much better this year. If you look at a couple of the games where he played against Blake Griffin (primarily the home games), he shut Blake don’t. There were times where in this compressed schedule you could tell he as tired/worn and his defense showed it, but overall he played some exceptional defense, didn’t require a double team on some of the league’s good players. I give him credit for those games.

  • 23 Scott // May 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

    @Larry -

    I do like Frye’s game. However, IMO he’s more of a mismatch threat at the C spot on 2nd unit, and that’s where he’d have the most impact, giving the team separation every time the 2nd unit steps on the court. When you put him at starting PF, he’s not as likely to dominate as he will at 2nd unit C.

    To me, it’s more important to have the other 7 footers on the team – Gortat and Lopez – play on the first unit, because they have more difficulty with shot creation and can use Nash’s help.

    Would Gortat and Lopez clog up the middle, preventing Nash from running around? I don’t see why, as Nash was still able to play with Amare and Shaq, and that was under D’Antoni. What will happen is that Gortat and Lopez will give him room, and when Nash drives toward the hoop, defenses will have to try to collapse on the big guys to prevent the pass and easy bucket, and if successful, they’ll probably be leaving someone on the perimeter (Hill, Redd, Dudley, Brown, whoever) open for a shot.

    Gentry just has to let himself play with size, a luxury he’s probably never had before. Certainly the Suns haven’t had it, not for decades.

    It doesn’t always have to be small ball. Small ball rarely wins championships.

  • 24 steve // May 11, 2012 at 8:48 am

    “…I only respond in kind.”

    Now you’re just lying.

    “Clearly your ‘typical’ remark was an indirect dig…”

    And this wasn’t?

    “It’s just flat out wrong…”

    Or how about this?

    “Contrary to the fantasy notion of some”

    Or how about this remark to Scott?

    “I don’t understand why you cannot seem to grasp…”

    Those weren’t “indirect digs?”

    Btw, “typical” might have been a bit condescending. I’ll give you that one. I shouldn’t have stooped to that level. What I actually meant by saying typical is more along the lines of, “You can’t have your cake and eat it to by giving anyone all of the credit and none of the blame and vice versa. It’s illogical.”

    But to say you only respond in kind? That’s just a “flat out wrong” “fantasy notion.”

    @Larry – You’re absolutely right about Frye’s defense. He was actually stellar in quite a few instances this season, and very solid all around. I think he’s a relatively weak rebounder given his size, but I think his on-ball defense in the post makes up for that.

  • 25 Michael Schwartz // May 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

    @Scott I would have liked to have seen the Gortat-Lopez alignment tried in particular situations, such as against the Lakers’ trees, but the way the Nash Suns are constitued they really do need that spacer. Amare was pretty much the spacer big man in those scenarios you threw out, and I think it’s telling about how Gentry feels about the lineup since he never tried it despite Gortat saying on Media Day it was something they were going to give a whirl. I still would like to see it in action so we have something other than the theoretical to judge it by, but Frye’s numbers with Nash (and vice versa) are so good that I think the Suns got their starting lineup right.

  • 26 steve // May 11, 2012 at 9:52 am

    @Michael

    I wish we could have seen it played out as well, because we would have something more to talk about besides theories. My thought in wanting to see Gortat and Lopez played together (I’m not sure if Scott would agree with me here or not) is that I believe Nash is smart enough to figure out how to make it work. I had no faith, on the other hand, in the bench being able to figure out how to work with a bunch of guys who couldn’t create their own shot and/or work within the Suns’ system. Frye was certainly fantastic with the starters and helped that squad a bunch, but I think he would have had the same type of positive impact on the bench squad (if Gentry had tried that out).

    So, I believe the bench would have been helped more by the presence of Frye than the starters would have been hurt by the lack of Frye’s presence. We’ll never know, but those are my thoughts on the matter.

  • 27 Scott // May 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    @Michael -

    I disagree with the premise that Amare was more of a spacer than Gortat. Amare (like Pao, Duncan, Scola) had a reliable midrange shot. I know he didn’t have it in his first year, and I honestly don’t recall if he had it by the time Nash joined the team. I’m inclined to believe it came about in his 3rd year, while Nash was playing. But Amare was not ever shooting from the perimeter, like Frye.

    Gortat has a midrange shot, and for that matter, Lopez is a lot more accurate from midrange than Shaq.

    There’s no reason I can see why Gortat/Lopez should prevent penetration any more than Amare/Shaq, or more than Duncan/Blair prevents Parker, or more than Boozer/Noah prevents Rose.

    Nash runs among the tall trees. I could swear I’ve heard that before. ;)

  • 28 Scott // May 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Or maybe it was “amid.” ;)

  • 29 Tony // May 11, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    @Scott,

    the crticial aspect you are missing with those combos is that they complemented each other’s games so well. For instance, the Gasol and Bynum combo works well because both have different styles of play. Whereas Gasol is more of a finese player, with a nice mid-range shot and can also pass very well for a big, Bynum is more of a typical low-block center who uses his strength and size to score in the paint and rebound. It’s the same way with Randolph and Marc Gasol as Randolph is more of a typical low post pf and Gasol, who has a pretty nice mid range shot and is an excellent passer.
    In case you don’t remember, the Amare-Shaq combo was not exactly very effective. With that being said, because Amare had a reliable mid-range shot he could in fact space the floor for Shaq in the post. However, as we all witnessed, the Suns trade for Shaq was not a good one. In addition, Robinson and Duncan also had very different strengths with Robinson relying more on mid-range shots and athleticism and Duncan more on low post moves.

    My point is that Lopez and Gortat actually have very similar games. Neither are very good offensively, neither have reliable mid-range jumpers or are effective in the post. Just because they are both big doesn’t necessarily translate into them playing well together. Furthermore, with the style of play the Suns have used for so many years, it is predicated on spacing the floor not clogging the paint. Since it appears Nash will sign elsewhere as the FO doesn’t appear at all interested in making the team competitive next season, Gentry or whoever is coaching may install a more traditional offense, which would be less predicated on spacing for the pick and roll. If that is the case, then a Gortat and Lopez combo might work, although I still highly doubt it.

  • 30 Tony // May 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Oh and Scott, Gortat does not have a consistent mid-range offensive game. Occassionally he makes a jumper, but overall, he’s far more effective as a roller and relying on his speed and athleticism.

  • 31 Michael Schwartz // May 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    What has this world come to, Tony, when I more or less agree with you? Ha. I think Gortat is a bit better shooter than you make him out to be, but you’re absolutely right that his strength is as a roller who relies on speed and athleticism. I think Nash is at his best with two legitimate three-pont shooting threats along with a superb roller. Gortat/Lopez is really interesting in theory, but I stand by the fact that I think it’s telling that from whatever Gentry saw in practice of that pairing (assuming he tried it there) he didn’t even want to experiment with it in a real game.

  • 32 steve // May 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Gortat actually has a far-above-average-maybe-even-very-good-for-a-big midrange game.

  • 33 Tony // May 12, 2012 at 12:32 am

    @Michael,

    I just tell it like it is. I’m not claiming to be an expert or anything, some things are just so obvious that it’s easy to point them out. Gortat is not even close to being a consistent mid-range shooter. He doesn’t even have proper shooting form and how many players are such poor free throw shooters but yet consistent mid-range shooters? Not many. Furthermore, pulling him from the basket would only serve to limit his biggest strength as a roller.

    The other thing we have to consider is that not only did Gentry not try Gortat and Lopez together but neither did Van Gundy utilize a Howard and Gortat combination. So it’s not as if Gentry is the only one refusing to use that combination as neither did Van Gundy.

  • 34 Scott // May 12, 2012 at 1:22 am

    @Tony -

    You’re talking about something that hasn’t been tried and saying it won’t work.

    I’m saying I’d like for them to try it, because I can see where it MIGHT work.

    You say that Gortat isn’t a shooter, but I say that Gentry doesn’t WANT him to be a shooter.

    Sure, Gortat can use his agility to lay the ball in. Except it doesn’t work that way in the all-important 4th quarter, as you well know. And having Frye in there in the 4th isn’t any particular help, either.

    I’d like to see if the Lopez / Gortat combo provides a better dynamic, that’s all.

  • 35 Scott // May 12, 2012 at 1:48 am

    @Tony -

    I think there are 3 reasons Gentry doesn’t play Gortat and Lopez together. 1) He wants to keep Gortat focused on being a center, because he’s the team’s best center. 2) Gentry doesn’t trust Lopez. And who knows, maybe Lopez will be gone now anyway. 3) Gentry wants to put his two best front court players in there together, and that’s Frye and Gortat.

    My rationale differs, in that I want to put players on the court in situations that provide the team with the best advantage. I think Frye is a better center than PF, and at C gives the bench a big boost, because most 2nd units can’t deal with him. 2nd unit centers are usually slow and poor perimeter defenders. He’ll score more, or cause mismatches, and help the other 2nd unit players score more.

    That situation doesn’t exist when Frye plays starting PF, because starting PFs are better perimeter defenders, and they’re close enough to his size to play good defense.

    As I’ve pointed out before, Frye was a backup PF in Portland and he had virtually no impact and looked to me like he was on his way out of the league. The Suns picked him up and used him as 2nd unit center, and that’s when people started looking at Frye like he was a diamond in the rough.

    Now if you make the change with the starters, I don’t think there’s going to be that much of a drop off between what Frye was giving at PF and what Gortat would do at that spot. Gortat might not be launching 3s, but he’s a mobile defender, a shot blocker, he can make the occasional short scoring drive, and he can shoot midrange shots.

    Lopez at center would add intimidation and shot blocking to what Gortat already provides, and if Nash is feeding him the ball, Lopez can score and get to the line. Lopez scored 30 against the Lakers, IIRC, when playing with Nash. As for Lopez sharing the paint with a midrange shooting PF, I think he’d prefer it, because that’s how he played with his brother, and I think it would help with the team rebounding to have more shots closer to the basket, with both Gortat and Lopez already in that area.

  • 36 steve // May 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

    “He doesn’t even have proper shooting form”

    Neither do most of the players in the NBA. Steve Kerr, probably a top 5 pure shooter of all time, didn’t have “proper” shooting form. Reggie Miller, the man I believe to be the only shooter in history better than Nash, had “bad” form. Ray Allen, the #3 shooter of all time, in my book, doesn’t have conventional form either. Michael Redd, Peja, Nowitzki, Boozer, Fisher, Bonner….

    Trying to find someone with a perfect shot is like trying to find a golfer with a perfect swing. What is the “right” way to do it? Is the form really all that important as long as the release is consistent? Does conventional ball rotation actually matter? Is there a sweet spot for shot arc? You know what you’ll find for an answer to all of those questions if you look at the greats of the game? Nothing.

    I’m not trying to argue that Gortat should be pulled out to the perimeter, mind you. All I’m saying is that Gortat is actually a pretty good jumpshooter from 10-20 feet, and “good” form might not be as important as it’s cracked up to be.

  • 37 Michael Schwartz // May 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    According to HoopData, Gortat shot 36.7 percent from 10-15 feet and 44.0 from 16-23. He’s ninth among centers who take the 16-23-footer on a regular basis, middle of the pack from 10-15. I’d say that’s fine for a center whose strength is rolling, but not what I would want as a spacer in a Nash system.

  • 38 Scott // May 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    @Michael -

    Without even knowing the stats, just by going what I saw in games, I wouldn’t want Gortat sitting at midrange and shooting if he kept the same percentage he’s had.

    Be mindful, though, that Gortat has completed just a year and a half of NBA court time as a starter who is expected to score. That’s not a lot, and clearly even last season he was still adjusting to playing so many minutes and having the ball in his hands so much.

    Gortat could improve the accuracy of his shooting if that’s something he practices during the offseason. Just look at what Dudley and Warrick have done with their shooting since coming to the Suns. Even old man Hill started practicing and hitting corner 3s after coming to the Suns, because it was deemed needful for the first time in his career. So don’t rule Gortat out as a shooter based on his previous experience.

    My understanding of the situation is that Gentry doesn’t want Gortat falling in love with the jump shot. And we all know Gortat is forbidden to shoot a 3. Gentry wants Gortat attacking the basket. However, Gortat is inherently a finesse player. I don’t think Gentry is going to change Gortat’s nature any more than D’Antoni was able to change Diaw’s nature.

    So, despite Gentry’s desires, we’re probably not going to see Gortat turn into a dunking beast like Amare or Blake Griffin. He’ll continue laying it up and only dunking it if he’s moving fast to the rim or concerned about a block from behind.

    IMO, Gortat should ignore Gentry and spend this summer shooting. He should shoot free throws, midrange shots, and corner 3s. He should work with a shooting coach to improve his form. He shouldn’t let Gentry define or limit his game, if for no other reason than who knows if he’s going to stay on the team.

    Presently, Gortat is seen only as a near-the-basket threat. If Gortat does become proficient at range, and if he uses this to the point where defenders come out to meet him, it will help him stretch defenses.

    And if his accuracy goes up, both Nash and Gentry will have more confidence in his shot, and that will change offensive strategies.

  • 39 Tony // May 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    @Steve,

    I don’t know why you are arguing Steve Kerr did not have proper shooting form? In fact, most of those players you listed had proper shooting form, other than Bonner and possibly Miller. What I don’t like about Gortat’s form is that he doesn’t really use his legs but rather just his arms, his shots are very flat without any arc on his shot, and he fades back constantly when he releases his shot.

  • 40 steve // May 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Tony, do some research. It’s not that hard to find hundreds of knowledgeable people who have noticed the same thing I have. Steve kerr even taught at shooting camps that he had poor form, but he found something that was comfortable and worked for him.

    Shooting isn’t all about form. Any good shooter will tell you that.

  • 41 steve // May 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    And the point wasn’t to open up a bickering match about who does and who doesn’t have perfect shooting form. The point is that there’s no such thing as perfect form. No two shooters have the same form, and many of the greatest of all time have had form that was far from “ideal.”

    Btw, look at Dennis Scott’s shot and tell me a flat shooter can’t be good.

  • 42 Scott // May 13, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Regardless, I hope Gortat works on his shot this summer, and hopefully spends some time with a shooting coach.

    Also, I wonder what Dudley’s going to work on this summer. He’s been very good about finding something to work on each offseason. (That’s a good quality to look for in draft prospects, btw.)

  • 43 Michael Schwartz // May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I happened to ask JD that very question after the season finale. Here’s what he said: “I’ll definitely work on posting up a lot more. I see that with the pick and rolls they switch a lot. And definitely work on finishing around the basket. I think I struggled with that with the bigger defenders. Michael Redd does a good job getting to the free throw line, so I think finishing around the basket and posting up would definitely be emphases for me.”

    Definitely a great quality to look for. It was crazy when he came back in 2009-10 and all of a sudden was a bona-fide long-range shooter.

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