Suns’ Kokoskov keeping close eye on assist, turnover numbers

Oct 2, 2018, 3:58 PM | Updated: 6:35 pm

Phoenix Suns' head coach Igor Kokoskov speaks during media day at the NBA basketball team's practic...

Phoenix Suns' head coach Igor Kokoskov speaks during media day at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Phoenix, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

PHOENIX — There are plenty of different dynamics in the offensive system Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov is implementing.

The ball needs to move and players need to keep moving. Multiple ball-handlers need to initiate the actions and be able to make the right plays. There are sets designed to look similar when, in fact, there’s at least a decoy or two sprinkled in.

There’s a complexity to it, but sometimes that doesn’t have to be the case. In Monday night’s 106-102 loss to the Sacramento Kings, Kokoskov wasn’t pleased with how the team took care of the ball in the preseason opener.

“Regardless (of) who was (the) playmaker tonight, we almost had (an) equal number of assists and turnovers, so that’s significant,” he said Monday. “It’s hard to win that way.”

The Suns finished with 19 assists and 17 turnovers, good for a 1.12 assist-to-turnover ratio. Last season, Phoenix finished with a 1.35 assist-to-turnover ratio, far and away the worst number in the league. For reference, the top 15 teams in the statistic last year had above a 1.63.

At practice Tuesday, Kokoskov elaborated on what he saw, emphasizing this is another quirk of his system that can go both right and wrong.

“When you have multiple ball-handlers and everybody touches the ball, that also brings some risk because [there are] more opportunities for (the) defense to deflect the ball, to touch the ball,” he said.

Kokoskov recited his past Utah Jazz offenses were the leaders in passes per possession for three years but were near the bottom in the league to assist-to-turnover ratio.

“If you want to play collectively as a team — everybody touches the ball, everybody is involved — it brings a lot of that randomness,” he said.

One can’t help but notice in Monday’s box score that starting point guard Shaquille Harrison finished with six turnovers and only one assist.

“He’s learning how to play,” Kokoskov said of Harrison.

The coach makes a sound point, as Harrison has under half-a-season of NBA point guard experience and didn’t have a defined position as a prospect.

“Just a year ago, we’re talking, ‘(is) he (a) combo (guard) or a point guard,’ but he’s a point guard,” Kokoskov said.

Within the system, Harrison is asked to do less as a creator offensively, but he still has to be precise when picking his spots.

“Being efficient as a point guard, as a player, it’s important — especially for us right now with the way we are playing,” Kokoskov said.


— Kokoskov said nothing has changed on the status of point guard Isaiah Canaan. Canaan has a minor thumb injury and did not play Monday.

“We’ll talk with the training staff,” he said. “If we think it’s too risky for him to play tomorrow then so be it.”

— Shooting guard Devin Booker entered the practice gym roughly 20 minutes after practice had ended. Booker worked with the team during the non-contact portion of practice and then went to work on conditioning when the contact began.

When Booker entered the gym, he got a handful of shots up with his right hand before Wednesday’s opponent, the New Zealand Breakers, started their practice. Booker still had the splint on his right hand, but it was the second straight day he was seen shooting with this right hand after working exclusively with his left in Flagstaff.

— Tuesday was Tyson Chandler’s birthday and the team sang him a song while also delivering him a cake.

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