Scouting Report: Phoenix Suns
The Hawks start a grueling West Coast road trip against perhaps the most surprising team in the NBA – the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns are coming off an important 116-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night that kept them a game up on the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the loaded West. Point guard Goran Dragic had a career-high 40 points in the win, and his season average is up to more than 20 a game. Dragic is terrorizing opponents with his shooting (51% overall, 42% from three), so Jeff Teague can’t afford to give him any space. The Hawks are going to have to do a good job in pick-and-roll defense and chasing him off screens away from the ball, as he’s become one of the most dangerous point guards in the league.
Phoenix was dealt a big blow with the injury to newly-acquired Eric Bledsoe earlier this season, but the team has hardly missed a beat with Gerald Green at the other guard spot. Green is one of nine Suns players averaging at least 7.8 points. He shoots 37 percent from deep, which is respectable enough that you have to cover him because he’s fired a team-high 359 three balls this season. He’s explosive and athletic, and while not a household name yet, is certainly another guy who’s on his way.
Unlike the Hawks, who have been decimated with injuries to the frontcourt, Phoenix has been blessed with superb health up front as the trio of P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee have started all 58 games. Plumlee anchors down the center spot and is having a terrific second season. He does all the dirty work in the middle, grabbing a team-high 8.3 rebounds, and his length allows him to protect the rim well, as he averages better than a block per game.
Frye is the true definition of a stretch four. At 6’11”, he’s able to step behind the three-point line and make them at a 40 percent rate, and he’s not shy about shooting it. This is the position where Phoenix will have a true size advantage, so we’ll see how Coach Bud handles the Plumlee-Frye combination without Paul Millsap or Pero Antic available.
One thing the Suns don’t do well is move the ball. They’re dead last in the NBA assists, and that’s largely due to Dragic’s score-first mindset. Teague will need to make Dragic give up the ball, and Atlanta can play defense from there. If they can get it out of Dragic’s hands, they might be able to bait Phoenix in to some isolation situations, which would be one way to slow down the league’s sixth best offense.
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