Suns Know Better Execution Will Make Life Easier
Though the Suns’ lackluster effort in Wednesday night’s loss to the Kings was disconcerting, there is a sense that the team knows it was an aberration, perhaps even a temporary consequence of the three one-possession defeats before this one.
"Candidly I think our spirit was a little bit broken last night," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby told Arizona Sports 620 on Thursday morning.
While energy can be rebooted between games, the more long-term concern is the Suns’ half-court offense. Phoenix stayed within striking distance Wednesday night thanks mostly to the hot shooting of Gerald Green (23 points, 8-of-13 FG) and Goran Dragic (31 points). Their production, however, was a forced affair, a fallback after the initial offensive set failed to generate easier opportunities.
Green has been on fire while vacillating between a starting and reserve role due to injuries to Dragic and now Eric Bledsoe (shin), but he was adamant in his preference to see teammates get easier looks over playing the hero at the end of the shot clock.
“Honestly I think we need to just execute more,” Green said. “I think we’re making one pass and settling for the first option, instead of letting it go to the second, third or fourth option, running the play through the whole shot clock. Sometimes we get a good shot, but sometimes I think if we let the play form in itself, we might get a better shot.”
It’s impossible to ignore the team’s collective youth factor. Phoenix sports the second-least amount of NBA experience in the league, an issue that only time and trial and error can solve.
The latter has reared its ugly head in recent losses, though such moments provide instruction that can be more valuable than a win’s elation.
“We can look at [Tuesday] night’s last play,” Hornacek said. “Marcus takes a three, he really didn’t have the shot. We had five seconds to go. He could’ve taken a dribble to the left. There was a big opening right there. If he would’ve driven the ball, Cousins would’ve had to help a little bit and maybe Miles gets behind for a dunk. If they crack down on him, then we pass it out to somebody. Gerald was on the weak side.”
The play Hornacek described was a potentially game-winning example of the thought process each Suns player is learning how to master, much like what Green described. It’s a lot to take in, especially for younger players who aren’t used to being responsible or even on the floor for such decisions. Goran Dragic and Channing Frye are the only Suns players to have averaged more than 30 minutes per game for an entire season in their respective careers.
Dragic empathizes, remembering how he, too, would overthink decisions early in his first stint in Phoenix. After having played on that Western Conference Finals team in 2009-10, he learned that sometimes the best decision is the one that doesn’t require much thought in the first place.
“Our execution is a problem, but sometimes you’re thinking too much,” he said. “We were just standing there trying to make that pass. If you cannot make the pass, then just go to the other options and play some different options. That’s how we get into trouble, because we’re trying to force [the first] option, we’re going to the second and third options and just move the ball and get somewhere else.”
In the end, effort within execution has been the deciding factor when it comes to Phoenix’s success in the half-court. They admit that cuts need to be faster. Picks need to be harder. With the Suns still exploring their talents both individually and collectively, active executing is, for now, the best way to generate easy points.
“We have to lay it out there. With the team we have, we have to go at every play like it’s the last,” Hornacek said. “We have to play as a team and we have to do all the little things for us to win.”