One Team, One Stat: Two steps backward for Suns

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Phoenix Suns, who fell off on both ends of the floor.


Last season, the Phoenix Suns were 7.2 points per 100 possessions worse than they were the year before. That was the worst regression in the league.


The Suns were 3.6 points per 100 possessions worse on both ends of the floor, dropping from 14th to 28th in offensive efficiency and from 17th to 26th in defensive efficiency. The offensive drop-off has been particularly hard for a team that ranked seventh on that end of the floor before trading Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas at the 2015 deadline.

Offensively, the Suns improved in 3-point shooting, free throw rate and offensive rebounding percentage last season. But they saw the league’s biggest increase in turnover rate, from 15.2 per 100 possessions (20th in the league) in ’14-15 to 16.9 (30th).They also shot much worse inside the arc, going from the top 10 to the bottom five in 2-point percentage.

The Suns were a better rebounding team on defense, too. But they forced fewer turnovers, allowed their opponents to shoot better from almost every area of the floor, and put them on the line more often.

Injuries to Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight were a factor, but the pair has yet to play particularly well together and the Suns were a below-average team on both ends of the floor even before Bledsoe got hurt in late December. Through Christmas, with Bledsoe having played 30 of their 31 games (and Knight having played in all of them), the Suns ranked 22nd on offense and 19th on defense.

A late-season experiment with Tyson Chandler and Alex Len playing together didn’t work on either end of the floor. The Suns got outscored by 14.1 points per 100 possessions in 486 minutes with the two on the court together. Devin Booker showed a world of potential, but had one of the league’s biggest drop-offs in effective field goal percentage after the All-Star break.

Though the Suns didn’t show any improvement when Earl Watson took over for Jeff Hornacek in February, Watson is back as coach. The Suns didn’t make any significant upgrades to the roster this summer, but added a couple of Lottery picks to their young core and could see a big leap from Booker.

With better health, they should take a step forward. But they probably can’t make up for the two steps back they took last season.


The Suns were the only team that didn’t beat the Sixers last season. They were 17-35 against the West and just 6-24 against the East.

Phoenix ranked 29th in offensive efficiency in the first half of games, scoring just 94.9 points per 100 possessions, but 18th in the second half, scoring 103.9. That half-to-half increase (9.0) was the biggest in the league.

According to SportVU, the Suns were the worst shooting team (effective field goal percentage of 37.0 percent) in the last six seconds of the shot clock.

Phoenix allowed its opponents to get 16.3 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the highest rate in the league.

Went 12-7 (0.632) with a NetRtg of plus-2.8 when their opponent was on the second night of a back-to-back, but were 11-52 (0.175) with a NetRtg of minus-10.8 when their opponent had at least one day of rest. Both the winning percentage differential and the NetRtg differential were the largest in the league.

Their three most-used lineups were a plus-15 in 504 minutes. All other lineups were outscored by 561 points.

Bledsoe had an effective field goal percentage of 48.9 percent on pull-up jumpers, the fifth best mark among 84 players who took at least 200. Booker (35.3 percent) had the fifth worst mark.

Ranked eighth with 743 post-up possessions, but scored a league-low 0.75 points per possession on them. Alex Len scored just 0.69 points per possession in post-ups, the lowest mark among players with at least 200 post-up possessions.

Among 218 players who took at least 400 shots last season, Jared Dudley ranked 11th in effective field goal percentage at 58.1 percent, his highest mark since his first full season in Phoenix (2009-10).

Among 213 players who took at least 200 shots from outside the paint, only Julius Randle (26.2 percent) had a worse effective field goal percentage than Len (32.3 percent) on those shots.

NBA TV’s Suns preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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