HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — At the All-Star break, the Phoenix Suns sat in 13th place in the Western Conference, four games out of the playoffs and six games behind the Houston Rockets.
Today, the Suns are in eighth place, tied with the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West and a game ahead of the Rockets. With most of our thoughts regarding the Suns involving Steve Nash‘s long-term future, the 38 year old has led his team to a 19-10 record since the All-Star break, a playoff run few expected.
The Suns, as they always have with Nash at the helm, have been winning with offense. No team has improved more offensively this season than the Suns, who are scoring 7.8 more points per 100 possessions since the break than they were before it.
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
A deeper look at the Suns’ numbers reveals that their offense has improved across the board. They’re shooting better from both inside the arc and beyond it. They’re rebounding better, turning the ball over less, and getting to the line more.
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
While Nash is clearly the Suns’ most important player, one of the biggest keys to the team’s improvement has been its play with Nash on the bench. Before the break, the Suns were pretty awful with Sebastian Telfair running show. Since the break, Telfair hasn’t been too bad.
Suns with Telfair on the floor
Still, Nash has played 400 more minutes than Telfair since the All-Star break. And 806 of those 883 minutes have come with Marcin Gortat on the floor as well.
Of the 160 two-man combinations that have played at least 500 minutes together since the break, only three have had a higher on-court efficiency than Nash and Gortat. The Suns have scored an incredibly efficient 111 points per 100 possessions with the pair on the floor since the break.
Nash to Gortat
For the season, no player has been assisted by a single teammate more than Gortat has been assisted by Nash.
Most assists from a single teammate
|Player||Assisted by||AST||Total FGM||%Tot|
|Marcin Gortat||Steve Nash||210||414||50.7%|
|Blake Griffin||Chris Paul||178||526||33.8%|
|Kevin Durant||Russell Westbrook||161||613||26.3%|
|Kevin Garnett||Rajon Rondo||139||390||35.6%|
|Paul Pierce||Rajon Rondo||132||385||34.3%|
The Suns lead the league in field goal percentage from within five feet of the basket (63.1 percent) and in the paint overall (56.5 percent). Gortat carries them there, shooting 69.8 percent (256-for-367) from within five feet of the basket, with more than twice as many buckets from there than any of his teammates.
Dudley in the corner
Jared Dudley ranks second on the Suns with 110 buckets within five feet of the basket. And Dudley is also the key to the team’s improvement from 3-point range. And he’s done it from the corners.
Before the All-Star break, Dudley shot 12-for-41 (29 percent) on corner 3-pointers. Since the break, he’s 17-for-32 (53 percent) from the corners.
All 17 of those corner threes have been assisted, but only six by Nash. Five other guys have assisted Dudley on those corner threes, which often come as a result of multiple passes along the perimeter.
Best shooter in the league?
At 38 years old, Nash is still playing at an elite level. Not only does he lead the league in assists per minute, but he’s also one of the best shooters in the league, if not the best.
No matter where you put him, Nash can out-shoot most of the NBA. He ranks sixth in free throw percentage (89.0 percent), 22nd in 3-point percentage (40.7 percent), second in mid-range shooting percentage (52.4 percent), and seventh in shooting percentage in the paint (64.3 percent).
His percentages from the paint and from mid-range are the highest of Nash’s career.