The new-look Phoenix Suns demonstrate new habits on the defensive end and that’s the most surprising element of their 4-2 record. The Suns are playing a new brand of basketball on both sides of the floor under head coach Monty Williams.
They played against some truly tough opponents in their first six games of the season. Namely, they faced the Sacramento Kings in the opening night and won by 29 points,the took the win against title contending Los Angeles Clippers, while the lost by one point margin in the games with the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. Lastly, they “destroyed” the Golden State Warriors starting with an impressive 43-12 in the first quarter and won easily against the young and enthusiastic Memphis Grizzlies.
The Phoenix Suns had the second worst defensive rating in the league averaging 116.8 points per 100 possessions and -8.9 net rating last season, while their opponents were scoring 53 points per game in the paint
The Suns needed a change, after a series of unfortunate “rebuilds” ,with James Jones being named the new General Manager. The newly-appointed GM took responsibility for the complete overhaul of the roster this summer. He signed more experienced players like Ricky Rubio, while he traded for Dario Saric and Aaron Baynes.
He tried to put that new combination of players in use with Devin Booker’s offensive talent and DeAndre Ayton two-way potential having an one year-experience on their “back”. Suns started to decimate opponents in the defensive end . It is well-known that Ricky Rubio is a great on-ball defender, but the emergence of Jevon Carter helped the perimeter defense of the Phoenix Suns go the “extra”mile. When the sophomore guard is on the floor, the Suns are having a +8.9 net rating, while they are conceding about 92 points per 100 possesions.
The presence of both, Rubio and Carter, elevates the play of Devin Booker covering his defensive liabilities. The superstar of Phoenix Suns is ferocious in the first 6 games of the season averaging 23.4 points, 5.3 assist and 3.5 rebounds per game. Moreover, his shooting a career-high 49% on field goal percentage, while also averaging a career-high from the three point line(47%) on +8.5 net rating.
The 25-game suspension for Ayton(after just the opening game of the season) seemed to be a serious setback, but Aaron Baynes came in as his replacement with some strong performances. In 25 minutes per game, the Australian is averaging 16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 blocks shooting 38.9% from beyond the arc.
Moreover, Phoenix is limiting its opponents on 42.6% in FG%, while the perimeter defense made some great strides from the previous season(37.2% OPP 3P%) holding the opposing teams on a poor 31.4% from the arc. Lastly, the Suns were conceding about 53.0 points per game in the “paint” the 2018-2019 season, but, in the first six games of the regular season, that number got down to 45.7 points per contest.
For now, the Suns are enjoying their new-born identity and it remains to be seen, if that change will bring them closer to the Playoffs. The only thing that can be said for sure is that Phoenix is not 20-wins type of team anymore.