Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 14th, 9:55 am
Opportunity knocked on Diante Garrett’s door, and now it’s only a matter of whether it was a pseudo-investment by the Phoenix Suns in terms of their own future, that is. Garrett joined Luke Zeller as the two final pieces to the 2012-13 roster as Phoenix went with an inexpensive, developmentally-based mindset, but how the new front office reloads or doesn’t reload that developmental staff could help or hurt Garrett’s chances in sticking with the team.
If the Suns or any other NBA squad listened to interim coach Lindsey Hunter or the those with Bakersfield Jam, there’s little doubt the 12th-man did himself some good to build himself into an NBA-caliber player in his rookie season.
Like P.J. Tucker, Garrett was never a serious thought to be anything but a Summer League roster fill-in. By summertime, he might’ve carved out a spot in the NBA by his performances this season, and the averages of 2.1 points and 1.6 assists per game with the Suns are far from important to understanding Garrett’s potential.
Stuck behind Goran Dragic and fellow rookie Kendall Marshall, Garrett acted as a hybrid guard who projects as a potential NBA backup once he develops his body strength. The Suns envisioned his length as helping him to become an elite defender at point guard and capable enough to slide to the 2-guard slot. The numbers back that thought in his 19 NBA contests played and 149 minutes of time on the court.
Though it was mostly in garbage minutes, Garrett averaged 2.4 steals per 36 minutes, or 13th in the league considering players regardless of minutes, according to HoopData.com.
It’s raw around the edges, but there are things to like.
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Tags: Diante Garrett
Posted by Ryan Weisert on May 13th, 10:00 am
Luis Scola’s first season in the desert didn’t go the way he or the Phoenix Suns had hoped. Throughout the year, Luis did everything he was asked and more, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Suns competitive. The team stumbled to one of the worst records in franchise history. Scola had his lowest scoring season in four years. However, despite fluctuating minutes and a coaching change, Scola provided veteran leadership, rebounding and paint scoring to a team sorely in need of all those things. His many contributions failed to help Phoenix in the win column though. Knowing the type of competitor that Scola is, he is probably the person most disappointed with his own performance this season. But he has absolutely nothing to be upset about. He gave this team everything he had. The Suns’ season was doomed from the start.
Scola landed in Phoenix seemingly out of nowhere last summer. In mid-July, the Suns were firmly in rebuilding mode, just a few days away from signing Goran Dragic to replace Steve Nash. The Houston Rockets were looking to make room on their roster and salary cap to steal Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin from Chicago and New York respectively. The Rockets, for whom Scola had played five years, were not unhappy with his production. They just needed to go in a new direction as a franchise and thus, Scola was amnestied. Phoenix’s winning bid was the coup which sparked a summer of optimism in the desert. Scola was only one season removed from averaging 18 and 8. He was set to star for Argentina in London at the Summer Olympics. By all appearances, the Suns had miraculously found a frontcourt partner for Marcin Gortat and solidified their power forward spot. When Dragic signed on a few days later, everything was looking great in the Valley of the Sun.
But all that optimism was misplaced. Aside from Scola and Dragic, none of the new faces really panned out, and the Suns struggled mightily all season. Constant lineup shuffles and a mid-season coaching change ensured the Suns never really developed any chemistry. The team’s poor performance and failure to improve as the season went along led to questions of toughness up and down the roster. When asked, interim head coach Lindsey Hunter was quick to identify Scola, along with P.J. Tucker and Goran Dragic, as the players he’d “climb in a foxhole” with. Scola, being the oldest and most experienced of that group, did his best to be a leader on this team, but his voice failed to rise above the din of all the on and off-court distractions facing the Suns during their miserable year. Despite his obvious frustration, Scola never mailed in a single game and was a key part of the Suns’ offense.
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Tags: Luis Scola · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Dave Dulberg on May 12th, 12:05 pm
PHOENIX — In the guard-dominated league that is the NBA these days, the center position is a coveted one.
There are very few currently playing the position who would be considered elite in any other era, let alone this era.
Before the 2012-13 season, Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat wanted anyone who would listen to believe that there wasn’t a whole lot separating him from the league’s few top-line centers (Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez). He wanted to make it known that his success in Phoenix was not a product of the system or playing with a distributor like Steve Nash, but rather a testament to his ability and growth as a full-time starter.
But for all the talking and self-induced hype, Gortat in many ways regressed this season. In fact, he often made more noise off the court than on it.
Without a deft partner to work the pick-and-roll like he previously had in Nash, the Polish Hammer often looked lost at the offensive end. The Suns center’s skill set has always been predicated on easy buckets near the rim, post-up opportunities five to seven feet from the basket or jump shots from the free throw line extended, but those looks were few and far between in 2012-13.
According to NBAstuffer.com, when Gortat was on the floor this season his usage percentage (measure of how much control an individual has over his team’s offense) was just 17.3. Acclimating to a lack of touches, nine new players on the roster and a different starting point guard clearly affected his production, as the sixth-year veteran noticeably dropped in points per game (15.4 to 11.1), rebounds per game (10.0 to 8.5), field-goal percentage (55.5 to 52.1) and shot attempts (11.7 to 9.3).
After Lindsey Hunter took over on Jan. 20, Gortat’s numbers did picked up a bit – he scored in double digits in nine of his last 18 games – but a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Suns’ March 6 game against the Toronto Raptors ended his season six weeks early.
“It was tough,” Gortat said during the team’s exit interviews. “The final two or three weeks before the injury, I finally started figuring out what I was supposed to do and how I could help the team and then the injury happened.”
The good news for Gortat at least is that it doesn’t seem like the injury will linger well into the off-season.
“I feel great,” said Gortat. “My foot is 99 percent right now. I still need the strength in my leg, but basically I feel good. I’ve been cleared to go home and rest basically. I’m still going to work on it and try to get 100 percent flexibility in my foot and fix my range of motion. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to go.”
Even if Gortat is healthy though, one major question remains. What kind of long-term future does he have in the Valley after a 61-game season marred by inconsistency and injury?
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Tags: Marcin Gortat · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Ryan Weisert on May 11th, 3:00 pm
Heading into the 2012-13 season, Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic were supposed to be the focal points of the Phoenix Suns’ offense. It was assumed by many that Goran Dragic would seamlessly fill Steve Nash’s shoes, especially when it came to running the pick and roll with Gortat. Here’s a fun exercise: close your eyes and try to recall any memorable play involving the two of them. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
I find it difficult to think of a single one – a revelation that perfectly sums up Phoenix’s best laid plans for this season. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that Gortat was injured for the last six weeks of the season. But part of it has to with the lack of chemistry between the Marcin and Goran.
As partners in pick and roll crime, Dragic and Gortat were never very successful. Their lack of success could be blamed on any number of things including Dragic’s speed, ability to get to the rim, or left handedness. Even though he studied under Nash for some time, Dragic is a very different player and Gortat never seemed to adjust to his new point guard. Now that the season is over, the only thing that’s clear about the Suns’ roster is that Dragic is someone the team will build around. He may have started slowly as he adjusted to new teammates and a full-time starter’s minutes, but he got better and better as the year went on. In fact, he was actually at his best after Gortat got hurt.
Take a look at the following stats chart. The first row is Dragic’s stats with Gortat on the floor. The second shows his production with Gortat on the bench. The third row captures Dragic’s stats after Gortat went down with injury.
The first thing that stands out is how bad Dragic was with Gortat on the bench over the first two thirds of the season. He shot under 40%, he dished out less than 10 assists per 100 possessions, and his effective field goal %, true shooting %, and points per shot were all lower. The only slight increase was the pace at which the Suns played. These stats make sense because most of the minutes Dragic played with Gortat on the bench were played alongside Phoenix’s second unit players. That means defenses could key on Dragic and make scoring harder for him. Likewise, his assist numbers dropped because he was playing alongside the less-talented members of the Suns’ roster.
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Tags: Goran Dragic · Marcin Gortat · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 11th, 10:20 am
PHOENIX – Nobody was ever asking for Goran Dragic to be Steve Nash, but the two-time MVP’s time in Phoenix still hangs as an impossible measuring stick. Dragic is doing his best to vault his way over the exhaust of expectations left behind. If the symbolism of handing over the keys as the Phoenix Suns’ point guard wasn’t enough, consider what kind of car Nash handed over.
To no fault of his own, Nash had run what was once a pristine racecar into the ground. Oil was leaking out of the old SSOL’s engine block, the radiator was leaking too. Hell, the rubber was cracking and peeling off the tires. The roster had been neglected that much.
Despite the decrepit situation, Dragic still navigated the the machine home.
“It was when I came here, Jay (Gaspar) the equipment guy, he told me Steve wished that I have his locker and of course I texted him, ‘Thank you, Steve,’ ” Dragic said when Nash made his first return to Phoenix as a Laker. “And he said, ‘No problem, buddy, you deserve it.’ That was really something special.”
“It means a lot,” the Suns new point guard added. “Especially, basically he was saying, ‘I gave you the keys, you can take over the team.’ ”
No, a 25-57 record would surely have been different had Nash stuck around. Arguably, his health would have been enough to keep him trucking under Phoenix’s training staff, and his leadership isn’t something replicated easily. But 2012-13 was Dragic’s free year to grow into a starting NBA point guard. As it progressed, he made it clear he could handle the rigors of a whole season. Dragic played 77 games and averaged 14.7 points and 7.4 assists in 33.7 minutes per game.
He only got better as the year progressed.
Numbers were the proof that Phoenix’s offseason signing of the Slovenian to a four-year, $30 contract was a sound deal. The lefty was described through the season as a point guard version of Manu Ginobili by Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter and Golden State coach Mark Jackson. Rather than riding out Nash until his retirement, Phoenix used the down-year to watch a new point guard grow.
Dragic developed into a pick-and-roll passer a la Nash, although it took a while. He and Marcin Gortat struggled to gel – the coaching turmoil didn’t help – but showed promise just before Gortat went down with a foot sprain for the final 21 games of the year.
As an aggressive, attacking point guard, Dragic proved to be capable finishing at the cup and using his footwork to open up enough of his own opportunities via step-back jumpers and jump-stops, all without Channing Frye spacing the floor or another true ball-handling playmaker to take opponents’ focus away. He shot a not-too-shabby 44 percent overall and 32 percent from three-point range.
Most of all, Dragic proved he could take a beating. He missed one game due to illness and another after taking a hard fall on a fastbreak layup attempt. The Suns held him out for three games when tanking appeared to be the obvious route, but it was his refusal to acknowledge that it was absolutely necessary rest that hinted toward his leadership.
“Rocky is back in the building,” coach Lindsey Hunter said on March 30 as Dragic returned from sitting out a game to rest two days earlier. “Bruise under his eye is healed a little bit, hopefully his rib cage is a little (better) … like I said, the kid looks like he’s boxing. If you can look at him after the game, it’s like, ‘There’s no way this kid is getting up tomorrow to practice.’ But you love that about him.
“He’ll kill himself if you let him.”
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Tags: Phoenix Suns
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 10th, 1:04 pm
PHOENIX – Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby labeled this the “Summer of Analytics” and by doing so provided a direction for the franchise. But where last summer’s goal was to enhance the training staff’s operations in attempts to make it not only ahead of the NBA curve but world class, this one wasn’t clear until Phoenix brought in someone to lead their endeavors.
Ryan McDonough is in as general manager.
Welcome to the “Summer of Analytics.”
Phoenix has the tools, including the $10,000 data-tracking cameras Zach Lowe detailed for Grantland earlier this year. Now, it’s up to the scouting and the to-be-hired coaching staffs to utilize them.
“We’re going to try to be at the cutting edge of all that,” McDonough said at his introductory press conference on Thursday. “We’re always trying to find the next big thing.
“On the NBA personnel level, I’ve have just started to meet with our staff here but I know there are some smart guys in place here and they have a very good reputation,” he added. “But yeah we need to embrace all the new trends that the good teams in the league are embracing.”
McDonough cited the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets’ three-point shooting this season as an example of where the game is trending. He also mentioned adjusted plus-minus, corner threes and two-for-one opportunities as examples of how analytics have become valuable. All that will be a key part in the interviewing process as the team continues its coaching search, McDonough said.
Building through the draft
Based on his history, McDonough’s own strengths lie in identifying talent and star-potential, and it’s also obvious that drafting is the biggest part of building a franchise in his eyes – he called it the “lifeblood” of a team.
“That’s how you have sustainable success over the years,” McDonough said.
McDonough has drafted prospects whose talent wasn’t the reason they dropped to the winning Celtics. Rajon Rondo had subpar basic statistics and wasn’t on the winningest of teams coming out of Kentucky after two seasons, and Jared Sullinger’s back problems helped the Celtics land him – while he underwent back surgery during his rookie season, Boston had prepared for that possibility heading into the draft.
So what does the Suns’ new GM look for in players?
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Tags: Phoenix Suns Analysis