OK, so the Shaq and Terry Porter experiment failed and now the Phoenix Suns are back to runnin’ and gunnin’ full time. Over the summer, Steve Kerr re-signed the quarterback behind the seven-seconds-or-less offense Steve Nash, re-upped with Grant Hill and acquired two slim and athletic big men in Channing Frye and lottery-pick Earl Clark. Under coach Alvin Gentry (who was one of D’Antoni’s assistants in Phoenix), the team will try to trying to rewind time back to the 2004-’05 season and attempt to put up 115 or more points per game.
The problem is, this isn’t the same Suns squad from five years back that had Nash, Amar’e, Leandro Barbosa, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Quentin Richardson. This year’s team has an aging Nash and Hill, an unmotivated Jason Richardson and a bunch of space fillers. Yeah the Suns will rack up triple digit points nightly, but they are a nothing but a possible eighth seed at best this year because they are horrible defensively.
Last year, Phoenix led the league in points at 109.4 ppg, but their opponents weren’t far behind. Despite reverting back to a high-octane offense after Porter was fired in February, the Suns still missed the playoffs with a 46-36 record. In fairness, Stoudemire got hurt and the Suns finished respectable under Gentry. In 2008-’09 the Suns gave up the third most points in the league at 107.51 ppg – and that was with Shaq on the team.
The Suns have not had one capable perimeter defender ever since Raja Bell and Boris Diaw left the team. Jason Richardson, Stoudemire and Barbosa are all great athletes but do not commit themselves on that end. Both Nash and Hill are aging and have never been known for shutting people down. Despite being nearly seven-feet, Channing Frye is a terrible rebounder and shot-blocker. Louis Amundson is the one solid defender on the team. He’s got that Mark Madsen and Eduardo Najara hustle to him. Second-year center Robin Lopez has the size to be a good defender one day but is far from it right now.
Even with O’Neal, the Suns were just an average rebounding team and had a defensive rating of 111.6 (26th in the league). Now that he’s in Cleveland and Amar’e or Lopez will start at the center, teams will now be able to get transition buckets, second chance points and plenty of dribble penetration off of the Suns this season. While the Suns have the fire power to outscore a lot of teams, they don’t stand a chance against the leagues better teams like the Spurs, Lakers, Magic, Cavs and Celtics.
Are the Suns the worst defensive team in the NBA?
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