One Major Adjustment Phoenix Suns Must Make in Season's Second Half
With an 18-36 record, there are probably a lot of adjustments the Phoenix Suns could make to their game.
Right now, the Suns are 22nd in the NBA in points per game. They are 22nd in points allowed per game. They are 18th in total rebounds, 18th in turnovers and 18th in field-goal percentage. Overall, this team looks like a complete mess.
However, one problem stands out among all others that clearly needs to be fixed, and that is bad shot selection.
The interesting thing is, the Suns haven't abandoned the fast-paced offensive style that Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash ran years ago. In fact, the Suns are 10th in the NBA in pace, and they are eighth in the league in total shot attempts.
But despite that quick pace, the Suns are still a below-average offensive team. They are 27th in offensive rating, 18th in field-goal percentage and 29th in three-point percentage.
How is that possible? Well, turnovers and poor spacing or ball movement is a major contributor, but poor shot selection has been the most severe plague to Phoenix offensively this season.
Right now, only a few Suns players are actually shooting well in comparison to other players at their position across the league. In fact, Jared Dudley, P.J Tucker and Marcin Gortat are the only players who are shooting above the league average in field-goal percentage for their position.
Part of the problem is that the Suns just aren't getting to the rim. The Suns take 24.6 shots per game under the rim at point-blank range, which is 16th in the NBA. While that may not be awful or even below-average, it's a bad sign for Phoenix.
The Suns are 29th in three-point percentage, yet they continue to rely on jump shots and three-pointers rather than attacking the basket more often or at least finding a shot closer to the rim.
For almost everyone on the team, poor shooting has become a common sight, and those players continue to heave up mid-range or three-point shots that rarely go in. Let's start with the three most common offenders.
First, there is Michael Beasley. Beasley is the team's sixth-leading scorer, despite taking the third-most shots, and he shoots just 40 percent from the field. What is so concerning is that he insists on shooting threes even in the middle of a cold shooting slump.
On three-point shot attempts, Beasley has an effective field-goal percentage of 49.5 percent. The league average for small forwards is 53.9 percent. Even so, Beasley averages 3.3 three-point shot attempts per 36 minutes, which is more than Jeff Teague, Jarrett Jack, LeBron James and several other players who shoot above 40 percent from deep.
Behind the arc isn't the only place Beasley struggles. He is also below the league average for small forwards from 16-23 feet, and he shoots just 28 percent from the field from three to nine feet, even though the league average for small forwards is 37 percent.
Here is a graph with Beasley's shooting percentages compared to other league small forwards. The red line is Beasley.
Beasley needs to be more aggressive. He has the size, speed and athleticism to drive the lane and attack, and yet, he takes more than double the amount of shots from further than 16 feet than he does at the rim. In the second half of the season, that has to change.
Of course, Beasley is not the only "chucker" on the team. Enter Shannon Brown, who has been absolutely awful in recent months and continues to take long-range shots, despite his reputation as an insane vertical leaper and a vicious dunker.
Brown shoots 33 percent from 10-15 feet, 33 percent from 16-23 feet and 27 percent from beyond the arc. The average shooting guard shoots 44 percent from 10-15 feet, 38 percent from 16-23 feet and 37 percent from downtown. But even though the average shooting guard is much more efficient, Brown takes the same number of shots from at least 16 feet.
Finally, there is Markieff Morris. Morris has earned a reputation as a stretch 4, but that may be more because of the fact that he only takes jump shots than it is because he actually makes them. Because by comparison, Morris has been awful.
From three to nine feet, Morris is shooting 21 percent from the field, which is almost 20 percentage points below the average for a power forward. From 10-15 feet, his 28 percent clip is still 13 percentage points lower than the average. His shot from 16-23 feet is right at about the average mark, but his three-point shot is once again well below normal.
Morris is a power forward, and yet, he really hasn't developed much of an inside game. He only takes two shot attempts at the rim per game, and he continues to rely on a jump shot that he can't consistently or efficiently make. As a result, we're seeing little progress from him in his sophomore season.
Even Goran Dragic, the go-to scorer of the Suns is struggling from the field. Dragic is well below the average for his position at three to nine feet, 10-15 feet and from three-point range, and he has been struggling with his mid-range shot over the last month.
He isn't quite as bad as some other players, but 72 percent of his shot attempts are coming from a jump shot that just isn't going in. And in clutch situations this season in the fourth quarter, Dragic has had even less success with his shot.
So, with so many players struggling, what do the Suns do? Well, they obviously need to space the floor better and commit fewer turnovers, but the answer is more complicated than that.
Something crucial to the team's success is that these players know their limitations. If Brown misses five threes in a row, he needs to know to stop forcing shots and trying to shoot his way out of a slump.
If Morris isn't connecting on an open shot in the corner, he needs to realize that he has to step in a few feet. If Beasley has an open path to the lane, he needs to take that route rather than settling for a jump shot.
Most importantly, these players need to stop trying to take over games or be go-to scorers and understand what they realistically are and are not capable of.
That is not meant to be harsh, but let's face it, this Suns team is mediocre at best. They have no go-to scorer, and that is not going to change without a major acquisition. With that being said, there is no way to establish a go-to scorer on this team, and doing so only adds extra pressure to a player and makes them force shots on offense.
Don't make players like Dragic, Beasley and Brown compete for fame and glory. Simply find the open man and move the ball around on offense, be aggressive, and should a game come down to the final seconds, give the ball to the player who deserves it on that given night.
Really, there is nothing else you can do with a team that lacks superstar talent. Just because the Suns don't have anyone who scores 20 points per game doesn't mean that that void needs to be filled immediately.
That will only encourage Beasley and Brown to take 20 shots a night, which clearly isn't working. Stop worrying about the player roles or the paycheck or fame and start playing smart, team-oriented basketball.
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