Steve Nash in Rise of the Phoenix

Thanks to Ben Pendersen for making sure I gave this story some attention. If you have topics you’d like for us to write about, let us know! We can’t guarantee it will become a post but we’ll do our best!

On February 17th the Suns got blown out by the Lakers to cap a four game losing streak. Halfway into the season the Suns had yet to have a winning record and their window as a playoff team with Nash at the helm once again seemed closed. In the fifteen games since the Suns have surged back with a 11-4 record. They just lost a close game to the Heat, which is a big turn around from getting blown out by the Lakers. So, what happened?

Phoenix Suns from February 19th to March 20th 2012
Player Pos G MP WP48 WP PoP/48 PoP/G
Steve Nash 1.0 14 475.9 0.287 2.85 5.9 4.1
Jared Dudley 2.5 15 514.9 0.251 2.70 4.7 3.4
Marcin Gortat 5.0 15 492.4 0.186 1.91 2.7 1.8
Channing Frye 4.1 15 467.8 0.110 1.07 0.3 0.2
Grant Hill 3.0 14 463.5 0.107 1.03 0.2 0.2
Robin Lopez 5.0 15 199.1 0.166 0.69 2.1 0.6
Sebastian Telfair 1.0 15 231.2 0.061 0.29 -1.2 -0.4
Michael Redd 2.2 13 157.9 0.043 0.14 -1.7 -0.4
Ronnie Price 1.0 2 14.3 0.390 0.12 9.1 1.3
Shannon Brown 2.0 15 306.4 0.013 0.08 -2.7 -1.1
Josh Childress 3.0 2 6.7 0.117 0.02 0.6 0.0
Hakim Warrick 4.0 6 53.4 -0.017 -0.02 -3.6 -0.7
Markieff Morris 4.0 14 216.3 -0.249 -1.12 -10.8 -3.5
TOTAL 3600  0.130  9.76  4.86  4.8 

And for a little perspective, here’s how the Suns were doing before their recent surge:

Phoenix Suns from December 25th to February 17th 2012
Player Pos G MP WP48 WP PoP/48 PoP/G
Steve Nash 1.0 28 895.7 0.288 5.37 5.9 3.9
Marcin Gortat 5.0 31 1025.7 0.172 3.67 2.3 1.6
Jared Dudley 2.4 30 900.6 0.172 3.23 2.3 1.4
Josh Childress 2.6 19 257.3 0.204 1.09 3.3 0.9
Grant Hill 3.0 29 794.2 0.035 0.58 -2.0 -1.1
Markieff Morris 4.0 31 642.6 0.036 0.48 -2.0 -0.8
Ronnie Price 1.4 28 433.2 0.017 0.15 -2.6 -0.8
Channing Frye 4.1 31 729.5 -0.003 -0.04 -3.2 -1.5
Hakim Warrick 3.6 21 324.1 -0.016 -0.11 -3.6 -1.1
Shannon Brown 2.0 24 504.7 -0.034 -0.36 -4.1 -1.8
Michael Redd 2.3 18 266.3 -0.091 -0.51 -5.9 -1.8
Robin Lopez 5.0 29 354.1 -0.078 -0.57 -5.5 -1.4
Sebastian Telfair 1.0 25 312.1 -0.183 -1.19 -8.8 -2.3
TOTAL 7440  0.076 11.80  -3.6  -3.6

Sunrise, Sunset

Before their recent streak of good play a very weird thing was true about the Suns – despite having stars they were losing. Nash, Gortat, Dudley and a limited Childress were playing very well. However, the rest of their team was very bad. As a result the Suns were a bad team because it turns out, enough bad players on a team can outweigh the good.

Since then the great play of Nash, Gortat and Dudley has kept up. More importantly, Grant Hill and Channing Frye have been playing above average in the same time frame. The Suns have also been lucky to finally get some productive play out of Lopez off the bench. Basically, the Suns went from from four very good players and nothing else to three very good players, three average players and not much else. The result has been a good Suns team as it turns out if you surround very good players with average players they can win.

The good

Any Suns fan should be very happy with Dudley and Gortat. The two are both young and are signed to the Suns for very affordable rates for the next several seasons. I’ll keep saying it every year but Nash has to fall apart eventually. That said, John Stockton managed to play till he was 40 and still put up good numbers, so maybe Nash can stick with Dudley and Gortat for a few more seasons.

Not so fast

The big change for the Suns occurred because Frye, Hill and Lopez have been playing decently. When Hill first signed with the Suns he played very well and his career was miraculously renewed (seriously, what is in the water in Phoenix?) That said, he has now gotten older and unlike Nash he has started to age like milk. I’m happy with his current play but I’d be more upset the minutes aren’t going to Childress, who is young, talented and oddly riding the pine.

Channing Frye has never been that great. Maybe he’s turned a corner, maybe he’ll play better for the remainder of his rediculous contract. More than likely though, he’s having a hot streak, which can happen to anyone.

Finally there is the enigma that is Lopez. After a terrible first season, he played well in limited minutes his second season, only to play terrible in his third season. His production and health have been all over the place. Even with his recent productivity, his numbers for the year are still bad. If he has gotten healthy and he can play well then the Suns may be in good shape.

Summing up

It turns out the Suns are in the exact same spot they were to start the year. They are a very odd team in that they have some very good players and some very bad players. Their success will depend on their good players staying good and their bad players not being an anchor that sinks them. This team has hope for this season and going forward. Of course, some of that will depend on management ensuring that the bad players don’t cause another stumble. With players like Childress being benched and players like Warrick and Frye on the roster with long term contracts, that may not happen.

-Dre

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