While the Phoenix Suns finishing the 2016-17 season last in the conference at 24-58 was not the result fans hoped for, the franchise’s 49th season in the Valley wasn’t without bright spots.
With several buzzer-beaters, a 70-point outburst and the rise of young surprises like Tyler Ulis and Alan Williams, the Suns laid what could become the foundation for success in the future, Still, the young squad was not the best statistically, finishing in bottom 10 on both offense and defense. Across the stat sheet, the numbers show some good signs but also the need for a lot of growth.
With Ulis, Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Derrick Jones Jr., the Suns roster featured five players 21 years old or younger. The youth movement really culminated on March 23, when the Suns rolled out the youngest starting lineup in NBA history. Not only was this the youngest group of starters, the average age was below that of all but one team playing in the Sweet 16 that day.
The Suns ranked first in the NBA in two-point shots (2,655) made as well as free throws (1,676), improving from 21st and 13th in those categories a season ago. While leading the league in two methods of scoring seems like a recipe for winning, it was not. The Suns fell from 11th in three-pointers per game to 29th (8.5), giving them a rough ride in a league that never stops firing from deep.
Devin Booker scored 70 points in an NBA game, becoming the sixth player in history to do so.
In total, Booker scored 1,726 points in the 2016-17 season, the second-most by any sophomore in Suns’ history. He also dished out 268 assists, eighth-most for any second-year Sun.
The Suns finished second in the NBA in pace this season, behind only the Brooklyn Nets. The quick feet of the young roster continued a long legacy in Phoenix basketball. The Suns have finished top 10 in the NBA in pace every season since 1997-98 (they were 11th). The hustle paid off on the scoreboard as the Suns finished second in the NBA with 22.2 transition points per game. The wild pace led to a very high shot volume, with the Suns taking 7,260 shots, the most by any Suns team since 2000.
Playing at such a frantic pace means the defense is likely to struggle. Struggle it did, as the Suns gave up 113.3 points per game. Not only was this the worst in the NBA this season, it’s the highest average a Suns team has given up since the 1986-87 season. Across the board, the defensive metrics show some work needed on that end. Phoenix finished 28th in defensive efficiency despite being sixth in steals and 13th in blocks.
Tyson Chandler collected 545 rebounds during the season. Given that he played in 47 games, this was enough to put him eighth in rebounds per game in the league. His average of 11.5 rebounds also ranks 11th in Suns history for a single season. As a team, the Suns ranked sixth in the NBA in rebounds per game, a slight improvement from seventh last season.
Eric Bledsoe finished the season averaging 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists. It’s the second season he’s averaged at least 20 points, four rebounds and six assists for the Suns. This is the sixth time in franchise history a player has posted those averages, and Gail Goodrich is the only other player to do so multiple times. The last player to do it before Bledsoe was Kevin Johnson in 1988-89.
Chriss also became the first Suns rookie to play in all 82 games since Markieff Morris in 2012-13. Among all rookies this season, Chriss led the class with 75 starts and was one of three not to miss a game. The Washington product finished fifth in points (753) second in blocks (70) and third in steals (67) among his class.
Bledsoe (21.1) and Booker (22.1) became the first pair of Suns teammates to average 20 points per game each since Stephon Marbury and Amar’e Stoudemire in the 2003-04 season. Bledsoe also became one of 14 Suns players to post multiple 20-point seasons with the team.
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