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A season to defend
THE SECOND SEASON OF THE JOHN MacCLOUD ERA saw more steps taken towards a team that would put defense and rebounding as top priorities.

The season was preceded by one of the largest transactions in Suns history with center Neal Walk and a second-round draft pick going to New Orleans in exchange for Curtis Perry, Dennis Awtrey, Nate Hawthorne and a first-round pick in 1976.

The 1974-75 Phoenix Suns

T he reputations of Perry, Awtrey and Hawthorne all had one constant: great defenders. The Suns plan worked as they cut the average points allowed per game by eight compared to the year before. Rebounding improved too as the Suns went from a minus 50 In total rebounds the season before to plus 120.

The MacLeod system was rooted in patience on offense and physical play on defense. Of the Suns' 82 games that season, 17 were played without either team scoring 100 points. Included in that was a record performance on March 6, when the Suns held the Chicago Bulls to only 65 points.

Also new to the team was rookie John Shumate, a 6-8 forward from Notre Dame who was the fourth pick in the 1974 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, Shumate had to sit out his rookie season so he could receive treatment for blood clots.

Perry had his best season as a pro averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds per game, winning both the Suns' Most Outstanding and Most Popular Player awards.

Once again, the Suns saved their best performances for the league's toughest opponents. Phoenix split four home games with eventual champion Golden State including a 14-point win in Oakland on February 25. In addition, the Suns posted a 14-point home win over the defending champion Boston Celtics on Christmas Day and edged the eventual Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets by two in a February 4 home win.

Charlie Scott, who finished the season as the Suns' scoring leader (24.3), was the club's lone All-Star representative. Sort of. On February 14, 1975, Phoenix became the "Professional Basketball Capital of the World." The 25th annual All-Star Game was the first one ever played in the Valley. NBA Commissioner J. Walter Kennedy was presiding over his final midseason classic before retiring and the New York Knicks' Walt Frazier was the game's Most Valuable Player, as the East defeated the West, 108-102.

In late February, the Suns had a shot at the NBA Playoffs, but injuries to Dick Van Arsdale and Keith Erickson knocked them from contention. The Suns finished fourth in the Pacific Division with a 32-50 mark. Partially due to injuries, and partially due to the fact that MacLeod wanted to look at as many combinations as possible, every player on the 12-man roster had at least one start during the year.

In early March, a 10-game losing streak ended the Suns hopes for that season. Still, the seeds had been planted and they were about to bloom in a way no one could have imagined.

Record: 32-50

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