Posted by Dave Dulberg on May 15th, 12:00 pm
PHOENIX — To call Shannon Brown’s seven-year NBA career a journey would be an understatement.
The former Michigan State product has gone from first-round draft pick to D-Leaguer to two-time champion to super sub to late-season starter.
And that was all before the 2012-13 season even began.
Heading into last summer, Brown made it known that he didn’t want a one-year deal because signing that type of offer wouldn’t provide him any sense of job security. However, when he hit the open market the lack of long-term interest from other teams was rather apparent.
In July 2012, Brown ultimately re-signed with the Suns on a two-year deal worth $7 million, and it seemed to make at least some sense from both sides. Lon Babby and Co. failed to acquire bigger names like Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo, and the veteran shooting guard frankly had no better alternatives.
A year later, though, it’s safe to say the $3.5 million devoted to Brown wasn’t exactly well spent.
Coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 11.0 points per game — not to mention 15.8 points per game while starting the final 19 contests — Brown was thought to play a pivotal role offensively for the new-look Suns in 2012-13.
After scoring 11 or more points in eight of the team’s first 11 games, Brown was moved into the starting lineup by head coach Alvin Gentry — a place he stayed for 20 consecutive games (Nov. 21 – Dec. 29).
However, when Gentry was sent out the door on Jan. 20 and replaced by interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, the notion of winning now was replaced by the notion of developing to win later and Brown quickly became a casualty of the ideological shift.
While Brown came off the bench in each of Hunter’s first 12 games at the helm, his minutes slowly dwindled and so too did his production (only two games of 10 points or more). As the focus moved towards jump starting Wesley Johnson’s career in Phoenix, the 27-year-old found himself on the outside looking in on the Suns’ rotation by mid-February.
“Bitching about it ain’t going to do nothing,” Brown told the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro on Feb. 25. “I definitely understand that this is a business. There’s no loyalty nowhere. People are going to play their guy, who they feel their guys are. That’s just the reality of it right now. It’s a tough situation that I have to get through.”
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Tags: lindsey hunter · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Shannon Brown
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 14th, 5:00 pm
Eight hundred and twenty-one minutes.
That’s the amount of floor-time Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi saw with the Memphis Grizzlies through his first four-and-a-half years in the NBA. That amounts to approximately 68 minutes per month, 16 minutes per week and 2.3 minutes per day against the best basketball players in the world. Haddadi didn’t exactly log Kobe Bryant minutes, nor Tom Thibodeau-directed ones.
He probably would take either of those situations over the reality, but he never made excuses about it.
Haddadi’s opportunity came with patience and a lot of chance. His contract was needed as a mathematical inclusion for the Grizzlies’ decision to trade Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Although he never went to Canada because of visa issues, his contract was again a bargaining chip for the Raptors, who brought on backup point guard Sebastian Telfair from the Suns – they wanted to shed his contract and thus make room for Kendall Marshall’s playing time.
The run of luck for Haddadi didn’t end there. Had it not been for a season-ending injury to Marcin Gortat with 21 games remaining and then Jermaine O’Neal’s various leaves, who knows if Haddadi would’ve gotten a chance with Phoenix?
“I was in Memphis for five years and didn’t get a chance to play,” he said after exit interviews. “The past 15 games (Editor’s note: Haddadi actually logged 17 games played with the Suns) they gave me a chance here. I’m happy to get the time, but I’m not happy with the losing. I’m happy I got to show my skills, show that maybe I can play in this league.”
The big man logged 235 with Phoenix, playing more than a fifth of his career minutes – 22 percent to be exact – over the course of a two-month span after spending the first four-and-a-half years with the Grizzlies riding the pine.
And he proved to be more than a big body.
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Tags: Hamed Haddadi
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