Phoenix Suns Weekly Writers Roundup: January 13
1. Which player needs to step up the most in Bledsoe’s absence?
Lorenzo: Goran Dragić. Dragić will need to be the player that steps up in Bledsoe’s absence. His ability to attack the basket will be helpful to a team that now has one fewer weapon on offense. The team will need the on-court leadership of Dragić in order to be competitive for the rest of the season.
Troy: Without Bledsoe, it falls to Gerald Green to be Dragic’s backcourt partner. Dragic can’t do it alone, so Green has to step up so the Suns backcourt can still be enough to compensate for whatever personnel weaknesses the team may have. He’s also got to work on his own flaws. The Suns won’t be able to run a two PG system with Green, but he still has to improve on elements such as shot selection, seeing as he’ll have potentially a lot more chances to hoist up threes. Dragic has to maintain his current high level of play, but it’s Green who has to rise to the occasion so Dragic doesn’t have to carry the team single-handedly.
Eric: While technically Dragic and Green will take the minutes vacated by Bledsoe, Markieff Morris is the player who needs to step up for the Suns. The former Western Conference Player of the week earlier this season has been in a slump for a while and needs to step up and give the second unit a scoring punch. He needs to be efficient, aggressive and deliberate. Shot selection will be key and most of his looks should be from the post.
2. What aspect of the game do the Suns currently need to work on the most?
Lorenzo: The team needs to do a better job of limiting second-chance points. The team would benefit from better play on the inside of the paint that would lead to easier baskets for them. Plumlee and Frye need to have better games in the paint.
Troy: Overall passing. They rank dead last in APG as a team. The offense has still been great without it, but if the Suns improved their ability to distribute and find open scorers, it could be even better. With Bledsoe out, Goran Dragic and Ish Smith are the only players who the Suns’ can even expect to dish out a lot of assists on any given night, and even they don’t do that routinely. The Suns have shown great chemistry and teamwork, but that has to translate into sharing the basketball on the floor.
Eric: I was going to say Phoenix needed to work on passing, upping their assists totals, and rebounding, but since Lorenzo and Troy already touched on those, so I’ll mention a couple other issues the Suns have. Shot selection and complacency. Since it is a very young team, at times they can get complacent chucking up shots, instead of staying aggressive and driving to the rim.
3. To what do you attribute these three losses on the road-trip to sub-.500 teams?
Lorenzo: I would attribute the three losses to the Suns inability to stop the other teams from pushing them around in the paint. The Suns were outscored in the paint by 44 points in those three losses. In the most recent game against the Pistons the Suns were outscored 68 to 40 in the paint. The Suns will continue to lose if they aren’t able to win the inside battle.
Troy: Obviously, the lack of Eric Bledsoe has hurt. The Suns were always hanging at or around .500 without him, so this isn’t a huge surprise. He’s a big part of the quick pace they play at. The teams the Suns have faced are also uniquely equipped to poke at one of the Suns weaker areas. Teams like the Grizzlies and Pistons are very tough on the glass and in the paint, while the Suns don’t have as much interior bulk. The opposing teams have been better equip to grab boards and score inside than the Suns have. This is a problem that the Suns have dealt with the entire season, and without their star, it makes their weakness inside even more of a disadvantage.
Eric: While a Swiss-cheese-like interior defense has been a problem recently and has contributed to these losses on this road-trip, there has been another factor. With Bledsoe sidelined, the Suns have big stretches where they can’t manufacture points against some of the league’s top defenses. This is due to a lack of elite talent on the floor from game to game. With that the case, they will have those times. But it’s still a problem.