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Phoenix Suns: Started at the Bottom, Now the Whole Team’s Here

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COMMENTARY | What a difference a year makes.

The transition from Alvin Gentry to Lindsey Hunter went poorly. The transition from Hunter to Jeff Hornacek has been a thing of beauty. If the playoffs started today, the Phoenix Suns could -- gasp -- host a playoff game.

So what's the biggest difference? Is Hornacek the greatest coach in the history of basketball? No, but he has done the one thing neither coach could do last season -- reach the team.

One of the biggest differences between Hunter and Hornacek has been the way the team relates to him. Hornacek can teach the team while not coming off as if he's yelling at it. The players are buying in to the new system and the results have been tremendous.

The Suns don't have a group of stars like the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Clippers have. Although they've relied heavily upon Eric Bledsoe so far, they're also playing a terrific brand of team defense. Their trapping on the perimeter has been an issue for every team they've faced so far.

Would it surprise you to learn the Suns are the No. 4 team in the NBA in points allowed (94.0)? How about the fact that they're No. 6 in defensive rating (99.0)?

Hornacek understands that his team isn't going to be the most talented on the court for most games. He also understands that he can use his team's athleticism and quickness to overcome a lot of those shortfalls.

The Suns have been doing a great job of moving laterally on and near the perimeter. Because of that, they're forcing the opposition into tough shots and for the most part, the other team isn't making them. The Suns allow opponents a paltry .408 shooting percentage from the field, good for No. 5 in the league.

It's a shock to anyone who's been following the Suns for the last decade to see a team predicated on defensive pressure leading to the transition offense. The previous regime would rather pull the ball out of the net and run.

Bledsoe has been the catalyst, as his defensive rating of 97 would be near the league lead by the end of the season. He's averaging 2.3 steals per game and is altering the way his opponent has to play. His tough man-to-man defense takes away driving lanes that could lead to open shots from the corner.

The Suns are tough, they believe in themselves and they're being coached in the perfect fashion. Hornacek is the right fit for this team. Could they go worst-to-first? I'm not going that far, but you do realize they're a fourth-quarter collapse away from being 4-0, right?

Michael Dunlap is the author of the " Daily NBA Fix ", an all-encompassing daily column that covers the NBA. He is an NBA credentialed writer who is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the NBA site He also covers high school sports for The Arizona Republic.

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