COMMENTARY | The Phoenix Suns have nowhere to go but up. They posted the second-worst record in the 45-year history of their franchise (25-57) in 2012-13. What five key improvements will get them back on the road to respectability in the NBA?
No. 1: Shore Up The Paint
Like a knife through butter, the Suns allowed opposing point guards to shred them by getting deep penetration. While Goran Dragic was impressive offensively, he left a lot to be desired on the defensive end. Per 82games.com, Dragic allowed opposing point guards to post an 18.2 PER and opposing shooting guards to put up a 19.4.
Part of the problem lies with the defensive rotations. The Suns don't have a dominant defender in the paint. Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat and Hamed Haddadi just don't strike fear in the hearts of the offense. They are collectively slow with their lateral movement and can't get from side-to-side to help and then recover.
If roster changes don't make a significant impact, employing a better defensive scheme would go a long way toward improving the league's No. 26 defense.
No. 2: Find a Reliable Shooting Guard
The most glaring hole on the Suns roster, aside from a go-to scorer, is the shooting guard position. As a team, Suns shooting guards accumulated an efficiency rating of 12.0 for the 2012-13 season. To be fair, they only allowed a 14.5 rating to the opposing shooting guards.
Wesley Johnson got the lion's share of the minutes late in the season and had some good moments. He started to gain some confidence in his 3-point shooting late in the year, shooting 33.9 percent over his last 25 games.
Still, Johnson isn't the answer. He can't create his own shot and isn't reliable. The Suns are looking at the draft as their main opportunity to shore up the spot, with Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore as potential targets. Either would be an instant upgrade.
No. 3: Get on the Same Page
It sounds like an obvious goal, but one would be surprised to watch the 2012-13 Suns relate to each other. Timeouts routinely ended early, while opposing coaches used the entire allotted time to coach their players.
Guys like P.J. Carlesimo, Rick Adelman and Kevin McHale commanded the attention of their players. When they spoke, the players would listen. Former Suns coach Lindsey Hunter didn't have that command. Players routinely looked around the arena or even argued instead of paying attention during timeouts.
New coach Jeff Hornacek will need to get the team together. Part of the process is getting their respect, but the players need to take responsibility for their own actions as well. Having pride in one's own work and attitude is something the 2012-13 Suns didn't take seriously.
No. 4: Improve Perimeter Shooting
The Suns ranked No. 28 in the NBA in 3-point percentage, making just 33 percent of their attempts. The team leader was Jared Dudley at 39.1 percent. That placed Dudley at No. 36 in the league.
When the Suns shot better than 40 percent from the 3-point line during the 2012-13 regular season, they won 60 percent of the time (12-8). If they had kept that up for the entire season, they would have made the playoffs.
One of the best parts of Steve Nash's game is the ability to get his teammates open. Dragic doesn't have that skill yet, so the Suns should comb the free-agent market to find 3-point specialists who can create their own shots.
No. 5: Develop Consistent Rotations
One doesn't need to look further than Michael Beasley to see why coach Hunter's system was broken. He played between 20-25 minutes four games in a row in March before playing 8, 18, 10 and 5 over his next four games. Then, in the last four games of his season, he played 32, 15, 4 and 24 minutes.
Players need a routine and need to know what their role is on the team. The fear of having minutes taken away quickly caused Beasley to change his aggression level. He went from being too aggressive in trying to get his shots up, to being too passive for fear of making mistakes and getting benched.
Coach Hornacek will need to develop a consistent rotation so that players know what to expect. That routine and consistency will carry over into their play.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded , HoopsHabit.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Phoenix Suns
- Goran Dragic