Kokoskov aims to simplify things for overthinking Suns

Oct 30, 2018, 9:40 AM | Updated: 2:19 pm
Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game agai...
Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Peeking at the numbers, not everything about the Phoenix Suns has been awful through a 1-5 start.

The Suns rank fourth in assists per 100 possessions, a sign they’re sharing the ball. They’re shooting 46.7 percent, good for 12th in the NBA.

Those trends of decent shooting and high assist numbers haven’t gone away in two games without star Devin Booker, who remains day-to-day with a hamstring strain. But Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov, who Tuesday joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, still has his work cut out for him.

When the Suns aren’t running a clean offensive set and getting their teammates open looks, they’re playing unsure basketball. More than any other team in the league, Phoenix is ending possessions with the disastrous result of a turnover and easy opponent score for a four-point swing.

The fix, Kokoskov said, could be about simplifying his extensive playbook to help his players run the offense more intuitively.

“You build your thoughts, ideas … around your best players. Our best players right now, position two and five,” Kokoskov said Tuesday of Booker and rookie center Deandre Ayton. “A lot of the stuff I’ve been teaching in the past and I was coaching, I have to adjust to the personnel I have. We’re searching what’s best for the team.

“I’m never satisfied. I’m always — that finger’s got to point somewhere. I point it at myself. I’ve got to simplify some stuff and keep it … easier for the guys and this team. It doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what your team knows.”

Overthinking by the Suns has reared its head most obviously in the turnover figures.

Phoenix leads the NBA with the highest turnover rate on 16.7 percent of its possessions, which if it kept up for a season would be the largest such number since a 2002-03 Denver Nuggets team that went 17-65. The last team with a turnover percentage greater than 15 was the 2015-16 Suns, a 23-win team.

Those turnovers unsurprisingly have put the Suns last in the league by allowing opponents to score 23.7 points per game off their lost possessions.

Kokoskov has said his players’ confidence in making the right decisions was to blame. It’s not gotten better without Booker on the court in losses to Memphis and Oklahoma City.

“Without having Book available, without him playing games, we need one of the young point guards on the court to keep us organized,” Kokoskov said. “Elie Okobo, he had a decent game and played well last game. Some other guys have to step up and fill those minutes and production that we expected from Book.”

Okobo scored 18 points and dished seven assists with three turnovers Sunday against the Thunder while earning more minutes after starting point guard Isaiah Canaan went down with an ankle injury.

With or without Canaan and Booker, the Suns have struggled with miscues.

But Kokoskov certainly wouldn’t mind his best player returning by the team’s Wednesday game against the San Antonio Spurs.

“He’s recovering very well,” Kokoskov said. “Each and every day he feels better and better, and shows tremendous progress when it comes to his recovering. We’ll see how he feels today on the court when we practice and we’ll go from there.”

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