COMMENTARY | A quick look at the 2012-13 stat sheet for the Phoenix Suns doesn't elicit many positives. They were rated in the bottom third of the league in points scored, points allowed, offensive rating and defensive rating. Obviously, there is a lot of room to improve.
Let's look at five key stats to improve upon for the 2013-14 season:
This rating is defined by how many points a team scores over 100 possessions. It's a better indicator of good/bad offense, because it eliminates some of the pace-related influences.
Points per game is a stat that can be easily manipulated, largely by pace. The 2012-13 Suns were No. 9 in pace, which allowed them to creep up to No. 21 in points per game (95.2). However, their offensive rating was a horrid 101.2, which was No. 29 in the league.
There are a lot of stats that imply the Suns weren't the most conditioned team in the NBA. They faltered in the clutch (more on that later), they were horrid on the road (next topic), and they got considerably worse as the game carried on. They shot 45.9 percent in the first half, 42.8 in the second and 23.1 (!) in overtime.
When the Suns had two days or more rest, they were a respectable 7-8. On back-to-backs, they were a terrible 5-14. They shot just 43 percent from the field and just 29.9 percent from the 3-point line.
They stopped moving the ball as well (21.2 assists per game) and allowed 48.3-percent shooting from the field and 42.6 percent from 3. Those numbers point toward a tired team that just didn't have the energy to compete.
Every team has tough road trips and every team (barring catastrophes) will play 41 games on the road. Nobody expects the Suns to play .500 ball on the road, but their 2012-13 record of just 8-33 has to improve.
Only the lowly Charlotte Bobcats (6-35) and the young Washington Wizards (7-34) had worse road records. In a stat that surprises nobody, neither team made the playoffs.
For some reason, the Suns' defense completely disintegrates on the road. They actually shoot 1.3 percent better from the field and score 1.2 more points on the road. However, they allow an astounding 105.5 points per game on the road, as opposed to just 97.8 at home.
LIVE BY THE 3
The 3-pointer continues to change how the game of basketball is played. Teams have been falling in love with it more and more each season. The Suns are no exception, but they really found themselves depending on those makes. For a team that shot just 33 percent (No. 28 in NBA), that's not a good thing.
They shot a respectable 36.8 percent from the corners, but just 31.9 percent from above the break. The team was very consistent in their attempts, taking 17.7 in wins and 17.8 in losses, but their percentages were much different.
In wins, the Suns shot 38.4 percent from 3. In losses, they plummeted to 30.6 percent. The old adage of dying by the 3 applies here. Losing Jared Dudley, their leading 3-point shooter, certainly won't help.
PUT IN A NEW CLUTCH
To be fair, defenses tighten up considerably during crunch time. The focus of both teams grows considerably and as we already know, an equal match between defense and offense will more often result in a missed shot or turnover.
Now, does that mean the Suns should get a pass for their remarkably bad clutch numbers? Nope. In the last 30 seconds when the score is within three points, the Suns shot just 29.6 percent from the field and 65.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Good teams put opponents away in these moments, while the Suns have shown that they fold up like a lawn chair. If they expect to be more competitive in 2013-14, they'll need to shore up the clutch before the whole thing just falls apart.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded, HoopsHabit.com.Follow @DunlapNBA on Twitter!
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