The Phoenix Suns aren’t exactly known for their lock down defense and as well they shouldn’t be, however the Suns made great strides last season on the defensive end finishing 21st overall in points allowed; compared to 29th the season before. Ranking 21st in points allowed isn’t impressive or even respectable by any means but compared to the points the Suns defense have been giving up the past few seasons it’s definitely a great improvement.
Consider this, the last time the Suns defense ranked higher than 21st in terms of points allowed was back during the 2002-2003 season when the Suns were ranked 14th in points allowed; that’s right 10 years ago. So how did the Suns improve last season on defense? There are two factors.
First being the lockout. The lockout affected teams’ chemistry, rhyme, and cohesiveness on the offensive end and it showed on the stat sheet. During the 2011-2012 season only 3 teams averaged over 100 points a game compared to the 2010-2011 season when 11 teams broke the century mark in points per game.
Second factor is the direct effect defensive coach Elston Turner had on the Suns defense. Turner played 8 years in the NBA during 1980s for the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. Turner was never a gifted offensive player during his 8 year NBA career. As player he had a career shooting percentage of 43%, couldn’t shoot 3s, wasn’t a talented passer or a good rebounder but he was able to stick around for 8 years due to his nasty, blood hounding defensive efforts.
Turner has certainly brought that mindset to the Suns. The Suns have a lot of improvements to make in a lot of areas but they don’t necessarily have the tools to improve in certain categories however Turner believes the Suns has the tools to be a strong defensive team and with the new additions of young athletic players Turner certainly has a case.
The impact Elston Turner made on the Suns defensively nearly earned him a head coaching job this off-season which brings me to my point. The Suns has yet to give Alvin Gentry a contract extension whose deal expires at the end of the season and at this point with the Suns turning the page there’s a very realistic chance Gentry won’t be coaching the Suns next season.
I mentioned in a previous article regarding the Suns up tempo style of basketball and maybe now that Steve Nash is gone, the Suns should consider changing their style of play. I mean let’s face it the Suns don’t have the offensive fire power they once possessed when they had Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion on the roster.
Should the Suns defense take another big stride this season there’s a very good chance Turner could potential replace Alvin Gentry next season as the Suns head coach. The Suns also have a lot of draft picks upcoming up within the next three years and nurturing young players by implementing heavy emphasis on the defensive end is nothing short of the way to go. The Suns defense jumped 8 spots in terms of points allowed from two seasons ago to last season; it’ll be interesting to see what kind of magic Turner can perform with these new additions of young athletes.