Len, Keef Making A Difference
Small-ball lineups are great, but they don’t work without a little versatility backing it up.
Over the last 15 games with Alex Len at starting center, lineups featuring the young center on the rise and the point guard hydra are outscoring opponents by 24.7 points per 100 possessions. Those lineups have only logged 36 minutes together during that span, but once Len proves he can be trusted in late-game situations, those numbers will only increase.
Len’s stunning development might be the biggest reason for advocating that Thomas remains a Sun.
However, the 21-year old Ukrainian is not the only Suns big who benefits from playing with the hydra and vice-versa. In 38 fourth quarter minutes together over the last 15 games, a four-man lineup of the hydra and Markieff Morris has outscored opponents by 28 points. The group represents Hornacek’s second most used four-man lineup in the fourth quarter during that 15-game span.
Tucker and Green should also be acknowledged for their defensive versatility in those small-ball lineups, as should the fact that the Suns are 13-4 in games featuring Hornacek’s new preferred starting five of Bledsoe, Dragic, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Len.
That being said, Phoenix is in no position to get comfortable, even with the small-ball lineups paying dividends. The Suns’ schedule over the last few weeks has been pretty favorable, and it heats up to scorching temperatures by the time March and April roll around.
The remaining opponents of Phoenix’s franchise-record eight-game home stand — Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls — also provide the Suns with possibly the most important stretch of the season.
But none of this is lost on Phoenix and its collection of point guards. So even though the Suns have simply been beating teams they’re supposed to, the point guard hydra is showing signs of life while also keeping its eye on the ultimate goal of the postseason.
"“We’ve been playing better at home lately,” Thomas said. “We just got to be focused each and every game, knowing that we’re playing against the top teams in the NBA the next few games. We just got to bring it each and every night and be ready.”"