By Craig Fields
If anyone would have told me that the Phoenix Suns would be 20-12 and an actual competitive team in the Western Conference, I would have thought that they were crazy and vastly over estimating this team.
However, this team has been very consistent in their approach on the court. Rookie Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has a rag tag team of misfits averaging career highs in points and production. Goran Dragic, Miles Plumlee, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, Eric Bledsoe, and the Morris twins are all averaging career highs in points and it thanks, in large part, to the coaching staff knowing where to put their players that will give them the highest chance for success.
Knowing and understanding your lineup and personnel is the first step to building a successful team. Jeff Hornacek and company seem to have figured out something that is working.
Last year this squad was at the cellar of the conference with a record of 25-57. With more than half the season remaining, they have almost equalled their win amount from last year. Goran Dragic really attributes their success to Coach Hornacek drillling them on fundamentals.
“We’re a really young team,” Dragic said, according to an article by Matt Moore of CBS Sports. “Nobody expects us to play fundamental basketball, sharing the ball all the time. The best thing is all the players have a great relationship with the coaching staff. We really believe in Jeff. Jeff is unbelievable; he played in this league for many years and was one of the best shooting guards. He knows how to play this game.”
Even with the injury to the Sun’s starting point guard, Eric Bledsoe, the Suns have continued to move right along. That is because the backup, Goran Dragic, has starter experience and knows how to run an offense.
Because of how young and inexperienced this team is, they need a coach who would be a calming influence, during the good and bad times. Only the Philadelphia 76ers have less professional experience than the Phoenix Suns.
Following a 21-point comeback victory on the road against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 20, Gerald Green said, “I gotta give coach the credit. He never panicked, he never yelled at us. He kept with it. He told us to stick with the plan, just to keep at it, it’s going to work,” per Moore’s article.
When trading away Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, and Caron Butler, this team is still eighth in the league in points averaging 103.7 a game. Instead of being close to last in points given up per game, they are 15th in the league. That is an 11 spot increase than the dismal 26th position they were in last year.
There is still a long way to go in the season, and to say that this story has been written would be both foolish and inaccurate. However, the arrow is pointing up for this franchise. With a healthy Eric Bledsoe who was averaging, 18 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.3 rebounds a game before his injury, back in the lineup, it is safe to say that the Phoenix Suns are no longer a pushover in the competitive Western Conference.