The 2016-17 season has not been good to Phoenix. Despite having Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight healthy again, the team only has a record of 5-16 after their 112-105 loss in Utah on Tuesday night.
Gordon Hayward led the way for Utah, filling up the stat sheet with 28 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Rudy Gobert also played a big role in the Jazz victory by putting up a career-high 22 points to go with 11 boards and four blocks.
The Suns just didn’t seem to have an answer for the Jazz and never held a lead in the game. Utah got off to a hot start, leading Phoenix 33-19 after the first quarter and eventually increasing their lead to 20 at halftime. The Suns scored 60 points in the second half to give the loss the appearance of a close game, but the Jazz had control every step of the way.
While Phoenix did manage to out-rebound Utah, they shot an abysmal 33% on three pointers and only managed 14 assists with 17 turnovers. The Suns went without blocking a shot and allowed the Jazz to shoot 49% from the field.
Devin Booker led the Suns in scoring with 21 points on 9-13 shooting, but also turned the ball over a team-high 4 times. Phoenix had six players in double figures in the game, but that’s about as far as the bright spots go for the Suns.
Tomorrow night the Suns will look to bounce back at home against the Pacers, meanwhile the Jazz will hope to carry momentum into Thursday when the Warriors come to Salt Lake City.
With an average age of 24.6 years old, the Phoenix Suns are among the youngest rosters in the NBA and that youth is showing in some statistics. One of those statistics is that as of November 17th the Suns are last in the league in personal fouls this season. They’re fouling their opponents an average of 26.6 times per game. While this isn’t the worst category to be last in, it can end up making seemingly winnable games anything but. Like the other night in Denver. The Nuggets are a team that the Suns can beat – not when they go to the free throw line 24 times and make 22 of those attempts. It’s worth noting that Phoenix went to the line 29 times and only capitalized on 18 of those opportunities, turned the ball over more than Denver, were out-rebounded by 14, and let Denver shoot nearly 50% from three point land. The Suns are also among the 10 worst free throw shooting teams in the league, which certainly doesn’t help. The good thing is that with time a lot of their younger players will become better with discipline and hopefully begin fouling less. As far as their shooting percentage from the charity stripe is concerned, that will just take a lot of dedication in practice.
Another category the Suns are currently near the basement of the NBA in is three point field goal percentage. They are second to last and shooting only 30.5% from beyond the arc. Brandon Knight has not been able to successfully find his footing coming off the bench early on here and is shooting well below his career average of about 40% on threes. As the season goes on I would expect that to change and for his shooting to improve. Adding Dudley and Barbosa in the offseason should have had the opposite effect on the team’s three point shooting, but as everybody gets used to their new roles in this offense I anticipate the shooting percentages to go up. Along with their absentee three point shooting, Phoenix is currently last in the league in blocks per game – they’re averaging just over 3 blocks per contest. This is something the team should look to change moving forward that is completely possible with Tyson Chandler in their front court. Chandler’s veteran presence has already begun to rub off on fellow center Alex Len, the 23 year old former lottery pick is getting one of those 3 blocks each game for Phoenix. With the energy that rookie Marquese Chriss plays with, and fellow rookie Dragan Bender standing a staggering 7 foot 1 inch tall, there’s room for growth in that blocks per game category.
A couple good signs moving forward is that the Suns are 4th in rebounds per game and 6th in points per game through their first 12 games. As long as they can keep their pieces healthy moving forward, there’s still enough time for this young squad to turn it around and surprise the league again like they did in 2013-14 when they won 48 in a highly competitive Western Conference. With some of their foes in the West ailing from injuries (think New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz) and other teams with rosters much older and more fragile than theirs, the Suns may look to make a climb and fight for a playoff spot by the time spring rolls around. This year probably won’t be the year for that; but with the young talent Phoenix has accumulated, that time may be coming sooner than many expect.