Choice and Opportunity Fueling the Suns

It has been theorized that choice and opportunity go hand in hand.

Some players tolerantly wait for opportunities; others make them happen.

That is to say, those who choose a more proactive approach take common occurrences and make them better.

Success and prominence are never accidents. Indeed, a conscious choice to personify the word is the prerequisite to greatness.

The 2013-14 Phoenix Suns are a quintessential example of the symbiotic relationship between choice and opportunity.

Rather, greatness doesn’t just happen; it’s the result of taking an opportunity and making a choice to run with it through heartfelt effort and sincere intention.

It’s one of the central reasons why the Suns (26 wins) have already surpassed last season’s win total (25).

Case in point: seven different Suns players (not including rookies) have career-highs in points per game this season:

Better said, 10 of the team’s 14 players on the roster (including rookies) are averaging career-highs in points per game (and Ish Smith is close to making that 11).

Though he’s sidelined for the time being, Eric Bledsoe is the perfect illustration of what happens when opportunity and choice collide. After making 38 starts in three seasons with the L.A. Clippers, Bledsoe’s career-high for points per game for a season is 8.5 in 2012-13.

However, this season he is a threat to average over 20 points. The last NBA veteran to average at least 20 points for a season after never before having averaged at least 10 points was Zach Randolph who averaged 20.1 points for Portland in 2003-04, his third season in the league. Entering 2003-04, Randolph’s previous best average for a season was 8.4 points per game in 2002-03 (Source: Suns Media Guide).

Gerald Green further emphasizes this point. Green has scored 20+ points 11 times this season, already his second-most games with 20+ points in a season (he had 15 such games in 2006-07). With his 30 points against Philadelphia (in 28 minutes, mind you) the Suns have now won eight straight games when Green scores 20 or more.

Though he’s been in the league for many years, Goran Dragic has assumed a greater leadership role on the team this season and the numbers speak for themselves. Along with Lebron James and Kevin Durant, Dragic is one of just three players in the NBA this season to be averaging at least 19 points and 5 assists while shooting at least .480 FG%. In the 16 full seasons dating back to 1997-98, there have been just 23 times a player has posted these minimums over the course of an entire season; in all 23 instances, the player doing so played in the All-Star Game that season.

While Bledsoe, Green and Dragic are having stellar seasons, there’s an argument to be made that no player in the league has taken an opportunity and ran with it further than Miles Plumlee.

To date, Plumlee is averaging 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. If Plumlee can sustain this pace over the course of his sophomore NBA season, he would join Amar’e Stoudemire (2003-04) and Larry Nance (1982-83) as the only players in Suns history to average at least 10 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in either their first or second season in the NBA. Plumlee’s ten double-doubles are the most by a Suns sophomore since Stoudemire (19).

It’s even more impressive considering how collectively young this team is. The Suns enter opening night with the second fewest average games of NBA experience in the league. The average amount of career NBA games played by the Suns’ opening night roster is 171.6 and the average Suns player is in his 3.93rd season in the NBA. If Emeka Okafor is excluded, these averages drop to 139.4 career NBA games played and 3.46th season in the NBA.

Again, these results are not merely accidental.

It’s the culmination of a reciprocal relationship between the players, coaching staff and management.

Simply put, the future has been ignited.