While it is only 16 games into the season, The Suns seem to be playing the right way.
What that usually means is twofold. As a team they are playing hard, persevering through hardships, being accountable for their mistakes and being encouraging to teammates. On the other hand they are playing smart, taking more efficient shots, not committing as many turnovers and playing together, none of this hero ball stuff.
Some recent examples of these positives happened in Friday’s game. To start the game, Utah went on a 9-0 run right off the jumpball, forcing Hornacek to call a timeout to straighten everything out. Phoenix came out swinging and quickly righted the ship, as the score was tied at 11 soon thereafter. This illustrates the resiliency this Suns squad has compared to recent years. A previous team might have “let” the opponent be ahead most of the game, try to make a run near the end of the game, but inevitably fall short. This team, punched on the gas and cranked up the defense to even the score, then the offense helped them pull away.
Also, Phoenix committed only eight turnovers against the Jazz, which shows discipline that former teams from the valley of the Sun may not have had.
Playing smart is all about efficiency.
As a team, you want as many shots as undefended as possible. That’s why you encourage ball movement. You also want each player to make as many shots as possible of the ones they take, so you encourage smart shot selection.
This Phoenix Suns team is currently ranked pretty high in some efficiency statistics.
Adjusted Field Goal Percentage (AFG%)
- Miami Heat (.570)
- Houston Rockets (.558)
- San Antonio Spurs (.537)
- Golden State Warriors (.530)
- LA Clippers (.528)
- Phoenix Suns (.521)
Adjusted (or effective) field goal percentage is “A better representation of a player’s shooting ability (as) it takes into account the bonuses of a made three-pointer. It is calculated: FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA.” That is according to the Chicago College Basketball Glossary.
The Suns just have a better selection of which shots to take in particular situations. It helps to be rid of Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley who take a lot of ill-advised shots as well as Marcin Gortat’s myriad of missed baskets RIGHT around the rim. It is also beneficial to have two playmakers on the court (Dragic and Bledsoe) because as the shot clock goes down playmakers create better shots, as opposed to isolation on the perimeter for a contested jumper.
It also helps to get easy (almost automatic points) in uncontested transition situations.
The Suns are still FIRST in fastbreak points per game averaging 20.4 per game, which is almost three points per game better than the next closest team (New Orleans Pelicans). Phoenix has significantly improved in this area since last season when they averaged 13.5 fastbreak points per game.
Seeing as Phoenix is fifth in three-pointers made and fifth in three-pointers attempted it stands to reason they rank well in points per shot.
Points Per Shot
- Houston Rockets (1.42)
- Miami Heat (1.40)
- LA Clippers (1.30)
- Oklahoma City, Golden State, Dallas, Phoenix (1.25)
This is just another way to measure efficiency. The encouraging part for this young Suns team is they are firmly inside the upper echelon of teams in the NBA in some important statistics, even when this Phoenix squad wouldn’t be characterized as elite.
These are some factors that show how Hornacek has gotten his team to play the right way; and it’s paying dividends.
There’s a reason the Phoenix Suns have the TENTH-BEST record in the entire NBA and that could continue to improve, seeing how the production so far isn’t a fluke and should be repeatable, but the mild injuries won’t continue.