The Suns were supposed to be the laughing stock of the NBA entering the ’13-’14 season. They were supposed to tanking, obtaining a high draft pick in the deepest draft since 2003. Picked to finish dead last by ESPN with only 22 wins, picked 29th in Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose’s NBA preview, expectations were extremely low for the Suns. Though there was praise for the Suns in their hiring of first year coach Jeff Hornacek, no one in their right mind thought this team would compete for a playoff spot.
21 games into the season, the Phoenix Suns have already exceeded those low expectations. They are currently 12-9 and sitting as the eighth seed in the ultra competitive Western Conference, five and a half games out of first place in the conference, and only a game and a half out of first place in the Pacific Division. The players are buying into Hornacek’s system, they are winning, and they are fun to watch. Yes, you read that right folks, the Phoenix Suns are FUN to watch.
The pairing of Goran Dragic and newcomer Eric Bledsoe, who was obtained via three team deal this summer, has formed one of the more exciting duos in the NBA thus far. Dragic, one of the more underrated point guards in the league, is performing at an all-star level, averaging 18.4 points and 6.3 assists and 3 rebounds per game. Bledsoe, has been showing why he deserves a max contract this summer, when he becomes a restricted free agent, currently averaging 18.6 points, 6.2 assists, 4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
What is even more spectacular is that former castoffs, such as Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, P.J. Tucker and the Morrison twins are thriving in Hornacek’s system. Green, an NBA and D-League journeyman has shown flashes of his potential in the past, but under Hornacek’s system he is undoubtedly playing the best basketball of his career. Plumlee, in his second year out of Duke, struggled during his first season in Indiana playing behind Roy Hibbert, David West and Ian Mahinmi. After being sent to Phoenix in a trade for Luis Scola, Plumlee has shown vast improvement in his second year, averaging near a double-double, 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Though he is still very raw offensively, he has shown to be a valuable presence on the defensive end, ranking 7th in the NBA in defensive impact, via NBA.com. P.J. Tucker, after being away from the NBA for five seasons, is in his second season with the Suns and has proven to be a valuable three-point shooter, making a whopping 48% from long range, being especially dangerous from the corners. The Morris twins have also shown to be quite the tandem, Markieff and Marcus averaging 13 points and 8.5 rebounds, 11 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, respectively.
The Phoenix Suns are very good, fast paced team, who love to get out in transition, currently ranking first in fast break points and 7th in the league in offense, averaging 105.2 points per 100 possessions. They rank 5th in effective field goal percentage at 52.1% and 5th in true shooting percentage at 55.6% via NBA.com. Phoenix is also impressive on the other, being in the top half of the league in opponent field percentage and first in opponent 3P%, also via NBA.com.
The Phoenix Suns have surpassed everyone’s expectations thus far by a landslide. They are a fast paced, fun team to watch and with a very good young core and outstanding first year head coach, the future is bright for the Suns (no pun intended). Whatever it is that Jeff Hornacek is doing in Phoenix with this bunch is obviously working, but at the same time puzzling given the makeup of this team. One might call it, a certain wizardry. Maybe, #HornacekWizardry (kudos to Jacob Padilla of SBNation’s Bright Side of the Sun for the hashtag)?
(Via Tyler Pleiss, Hoops-Nation.com)