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NBA Preview: Phoenix Suns


Record:  61-21, 1st in Pacific Division, 2nd in Western Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


1st in scoring (110.2 ppg)
2nd in ppg differential (+7.3 ppg)
1st in field goal %  
1st in three-point %  
1st in assists
26th in steals


23rd in opponent scoring (102.9 ppg)
14th in opponent field goal %
14th in blocks
10th in turnovers
13th in opponent turnovers
Very Poor offensive rebounding team
Average defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Grant Hill, Alando Tucker (R), D.J. Strawberry (R)

Significant Subtractions:
James Jones, Kurt Thomas

Mike D'Antoni

Key Players

PG:  Steve Nash, Marcus Banks
SG:   Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa
SF:  Boris Diaw, Grant Hill
PF:  Shawn Marion
C:  Amare Stoudemire

Comments:  The Phoenix offense needs no introduction.  They have found the holy grail:  a running game that also limits turnovers.  On top of that they've developed an average defense.  That sounds like damning with faint praise but when your offense is that overpowering you don't need to be all-world stoppers.  First in scoring, field goal percentage, and three point percentage will win you a lot of games even if you just hold other teams to being their normal selves.  That's what Phoenix does, and it works.  Their second-in-the-league point differential and phenomenal record attest to that.

Here's a scary stat that says it all:  only one of their significant players shot less than 47.6% from the field last year.   Much of the NBA would kill for that percentage.  They're like, "Hey, could you bring that up a little bit?  Under 50% makes us look bad."  They shoot 40% as a team from the three-point line and 81% from the foul line.  It's like they're playing NBA Live on easy.  Not fair.

Phoenix's weaknesses have little to do with their actual on-court play.  They play their main guys more minutes than anyone in the league.  Their running style is hard on the body.  They do a surprisingly good job of compensating for injuries, mostly due to Steve Nash making everyone he plays with look like a star.  But they needed to get more support in the off-season and I'm not sure they did.  They wanted Kevin Garnett and couldn't get him.  Grant Hill is a nice all-around pick-up but he's not exactly a paragon of health himself.  With the roster putting more and more miles on you wonder how long it will be before breaking down becomes routine.

This team cannot be judged against mere mortal teams.  The only thing that matters is whether they can outlast and overcome the conference elite, which definitely includes San Antonio and Dallas and possibly could include Houston and/or Denver this year.  It's a championship or bust for the Suns.  On the positive side they always have a chance.  You can't discount a team this prolific in any given game.  But in two months of seven-game series there always seems to be at least one of the more traditional teams (Deeper?  More balanced?) that figures out a way to solve the Suns.  I'm sure they belong in the hunt (it's plain stupid to bet against them) I'm just not sure they can hit the big trophy.  We'll find out next spring.  If they don't make it this year look for the muttering to begin in the Valley of the Sun.

--Dave (