Thursday, December 30, 2010
The Suns are even worse on defense than you think
By Matt McHale
Last night, the Phoenix Suns lost at home to the Andre Iguodala-less Philadelphia 76ers. The 123-110 defeat was the Suns' fourth in a row and the eighth in their last 10 games. Phoenix is now 13-17 on the season.
It's reasonably safe to say Steve Nash is getting frustrated.
There has been talk about how losing Amar'e Stoudemire has affected the Phoenix offense. And it has. To a point. But the Suns still light it up enough to rank second in PPG (107.5), second in Effective Field Goal Percentage (52.9) and third in Offensive Rating (111.5). As good as Stoudemire has been in New York -- and he has indeed been very, very good -- scoring really isn't an issue in The Grand Canyon State.
No, the real problem is this: The Suns -- currently ranked dead last in both Opponents PPG (110.0) and Defensive Rating (114.1) -- are absolutely melting down on defense.
As Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic put it:
The Suns (13-17) are so bad defensively that they allowed the 76ers to score 27 more than their season average. The 76ers were a 4-13 road team that had not won in the 11 previous times it allowed 100 points. The 76ersshot 61 percent in the first half and put six scorers in double figures even though they did not have their star, Andre Iguodala, who sat out because right Achilles' tendinitis, and Jason Kapono. That came after the Suns had worked on defense for two days in practice. Instead, Iguodala's replacement, Andres Nocioni, posted a double-double with season highs for points (22) and rebounds (12). 76ers rookie Evan Turner added a season-high 23 points. He made nine of 12 shots even though he entered the game shooting 38 percent and averaging 6.8 points.
Strong words, right? Well, Marcin Gortat had some stronger ones. Gortat is known as The Polish Hammer for his ability to throw down a nasty dunk. But after his new team surrendered 100+ points for the 25th time in 30 games, Gortat hammered the Suns for their lackadaisical D.
"It's just a little bit frustrating when you come in the locker room and people are talking about the offense," Gortat began. "That's not the way you're going to win NBA games. I don't know if it's just me, or maybe I'm just different, but I came from a team where everybody's competing and trying to do the stuff that coach is saying. We're just totally changing our rotations, changing our stuff that we set before the game. We're not playing hard enough and I've just got to tell you, there's a lot, a lot of work in front of us. The positive thing is? It can't be worse."
"I just think we have to be at the gym every day for three hours," Gortat continued. "Learn the rotations, learn everything from the beginning. I mean, there are so many things we're doing bad, I just can't find an explanation. I'm trying to get some rebounds and stops, but unfortunately there's not too many opportunities for me to rebound because the team is scoring 120-something points.
"It's just frustrating; frustrating as hell. I'm not going to lie."
Now, Gortat has been a Sun for exactly three games, but even Sherlock Holmes couldn't have made a more accurate deduction. Phoenix is baaaaaad on defense. In fact, they're historically bad.
Because the Suns have a long and storied history as a defenseless team, I'm not sure people truly understand just how awful they've been this season. According to Basketball-Reference, the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns are currently the sixth-worst team of all time in terms of Defensive Rating (which, again, is 114.1).
For perspective, the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks have an all-time worst D-Rating of 114.7. In other words, this year's Suns team is a mere seven-tenths of one point per 100 possessions away from being the worst defensive team ever.
Here's another ugly fact: The five teams that rank behind the Suns in Defensive Rating averaged 20 wins.
Look, the Suns have shown over the past several seasons that a team can compete without being an elite defensive squad. But no amount of scoring is going to overcome a potentially worst-ever defense. If the Suns are going to turn their season around, they need to start getting their hands in some faces. And fast.