Suns' Most Improved Player: All of Them
“We want to get better” is as cliché a phrase as you’ll find, especially in sports.
The Suns turned that cliché into a team-wide trend thanks to
- a roster full of up-and-comers and undervalued cast-offs
- a brand of basketball that valued team results over individual output.
Here were the results:
- Eight players (not including rookies) averaged career-highs in scoring
- Phoenix bettered its previous season’s win total by 23 games
- Goran Dragic won the NBA Most Improved Player Award
- Gerald Green (4th) and Markieff Morris (10th) also finished in the top 10 in Most Improved Player voting
If that seems a bit overwhelming, well, you’re not alone.
“I played on teams where you only got a few guys who’ve gotten better,” seven-team veteran Gerald Green said. “I think we’ve had at least three, four, five players who’ve had career years. You really don’t see that a lot from a lot of teams.”
“That’s kind of scary going into next year because I know everybody’s going to be getting better and the guys who have gotten better are young,” he added.
Green is Exhibit A in the Suns’ “got better” display case. With the Pacers in 2012-13, the 6-8 swingman struggled to maintain a consistent shooting stroke or display his breathtaking athleticism.
Subsequently his value took a premature hit, a fact which Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough was quick to notice. He swung a summer trade to land Green as well as second-year big man Miles Plumlee (who also experienced a breakout season in Phoenix).
Green’s transformation mimicked that of his teammates.
2012-13: 18.0 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 31.4 3FG%
2013-14: 28.4 mpg, 15.8 ppg, 40.0 3FG%
If you want more visual proof just take a look at Goran Dragic’s shooting charts. Here’s the basic breakdown: green = above average, yellow = average, red = below average
Dragic in 2012-13:
Dragic in 2013-14:
Zooming out, it’s worth noting the at-a-glance value of each player has taken a significant step upward. Goran Dragic went from average starter to borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe went from backup to starter. Green, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins and Ish Smith transitioned from bench-warmers to vital role players.
That’s not even counting Channing Frye’s return from no-basketball-allowed to starting all 82 games this season.
Perhaps most importantly, all the individual improvement wasn’t an empty shift, an unavoidable consequence of players being miscast in roles that exceeded their talents. The team results mirrored those of the players, which is the biggest reason so many of them expressed hope the bulk of the team returns next season.
“You look at the big body of work that we’ve done this year and you look at some of the things that we need to work on, I’m very excited about what’s going to happen for the future of this team,” Frye said.