Well-run NBA franchises establish an identity.
I’m not talking about welcoming back old players, being media friendly or any other off-the-court nonsense. Good teams understand what they are trying to accomplish on the court and this permeates from the top of the front office all the way to the lowest part of the coaching staff.
Creating this environment is the most important task for new Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough.
“When we did win big in Boston, when we won the championship, we were good on both ends,” said the former Celtics assistant general manager. “The defense was historically good, but the offense was pretty good as well. I think you need a balance.
“The best teams are usually good on both ends, the teams that are championship winners. If you’re exceptional in one area you don’t have to be quite as good in the others. It depends on who is available in the draft and free agency. I think there are different ways to do it. We are going to try to field a team that is good on both ends of the floor.”
It’s good to hear the Suns GM discuss the idea of being flexible. One of the worst things you can do in sports is be stubborn. McDonough sounds like he is open to building an identity from a couple different perspectives and isn’t locked into one concept.
From a big picture standpoint, when the goal is to win an NBA Championship, McDonough is right about having to be effective offensively and defensively. Only three teams since 2000-2001 have won a title without being both top 10 in offensive rating and defensive rating (a measurement of offense and defense evened per 100 possessions).
In the last 10 years, on average, only 3.8 teams per season have ranked in the top 10 in both, with a high of six in 2007-2008 and a low of three in four different seasons.
This is a difficult goal to accomplish that involves having players with broad skill sets who can help in a variety of areas. The Suns aren’t close to being at this point.
Phoenix last year was rated 29th offensively and 23rd defensively.
From the offensive side, one of McDonough’s jobs will be to acquire players to help them take shots from more optimal places on the court. The Suns took the second-most shots in the NBA from midrange (least efficient shot in the NBA), 17th in shots at the rim, 17th in corner threes and 23rd in threes above the break (I use shots attempted and not percentage of makes because there is a higher correlation between where you attempt shots and offensive success than percentage.)
This comes down to having only one player, Goran Dragic, who can create shots for himself and others on a consistent basis.
On the defensive end, despite allowing the fourth-most shots at the rim and ranking 21st in the midrange category, the Suns did limit teams to the 25th-least corner threes attempted and 25th above the break threes. The problem was they defended these poorly; opposing teams shot the third-highest percentage from the corner and second from above the break.
What made the Suns job ideal for an up-and-coming, young basketball mind like McDonough is the roster flexibility Phoenix has. If he is allowed to fully control the basketball operations, it won’t be hard to shape the roster how he wants in the near future.
Dragic is the only Suns player who is under contract for the 2015-2016 season, and that is a player option. Every other deal either expires or has an out if he doesn’t want to keep the player around.
The Suns also have six first round picks and four second round picks in the next three years to flush the organization with young talent on rookie contracts.
Ryan McDonough has given the Suns a new look in the front office. Very soon, the team might be unrecognizable from what you saw on the court in 2012-2013.
I think everyone agrees there isn’t anything wrong with that.
Credit to NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com for the statistics used in this piece.