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Bad results on good shots from deep for Suns; Melton to G League

Phoenix Suns guard De'Anthony Melton (14) in the first half during an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have a good problem right now when it comes to their three-point shooting.

Prior to Saturday’s NBA action, they were attempting 9.7 percent of their shots on the floor from the corner, per Cleaning the Glass. That’s the second-highest number in the league.

It’s the most efficient three-point shot to take on the floor, and one the Suns only took with 6.7 percent of their field goal attempts the past three seasons, making this quite a sizable improvement.

The problem is, the conversion rate this year is an awful 27.7 percent, over 10 percent lower than the league average last year and the second-worst mark this season.

Head coach Igor Kokoskov discussed the trend after practice on Saturday.

“Stock markets. Stock’s a little bit low, but we’re not panicking. Just run to the corner in transition — that’s huge,” he said. “And in the half-court, same thing. We need good spacing, ball’s gotta move and when you’re open just shoot it with confidence.”

When you take a deeper look, all of this adds up to a small sample size.

Small forward Trevor Ariza is known for being a specialist from the corner. Last season in Houston, he hit 81 of his 188 attempts from the corners for a very solid 43.1 percent number.

This season, he is an inexplicable 3-of-15.

“Trevor is a great shooter and he’s going to shoot it with confidence,” Kokoskov said.

It continues. Ryan Anderson is 0-for-3, Elie Okobo is 1-for-5, Josh Jackson is 1-for-6 and Mikal Bridges is 1-for-7.

Even T.J. Warren, who is shooting 46.2 percent from deep this year, is 4-for-11 from that range.

Bridges, most notably, shot an absurd 44-of-77 (57.1 percent) on corner threes in his last two seasons at Villanova, per The Stepien.

What Kokoskov is also seeing is a different way teams are defending the Suns.

“They’re staying below the roller, they stay below Deandre and they protect the three-point line,” he said. “So that shot is not open as much as it used to be. The guys are closer, they’re not shifting, they’re not leaving corner threes that much open.”

You can see some of that here against Memphis.

There’s a strong closeout on Bridges, and while the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley is tagging Deandre Ayton on the right block, he’s locked in on the ball and the most obvious next pass to Ariza in the corner. He performs a strong closeout and makes it a tougher look than normal for Ariza.

Some of these, though, are just missed opportunities where the defense does allow the easy look, like this goof by Stephen Curry.

The shot is going to go down eventually — the Suns just need to keep taking it at this clip.

“Run in the corner, and when you’re open, just knock them down and that’s gonna go in,” Kokoskov said.

MELTON TO G LEAGUE

Prior to Saturday’s practice availability, the Suns announced they had assigned rookie guard De’Anthony Melton to the NAZ Suns.

With the Suns fully healthy for Friday night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, Melton was inactive along with Troy Daniels and George King, who is already in Prescott Valley.

At guard, the Suns have Isaiah Canaan and Devin Booker starting. Beyond that, rookie Elie Okobo was Canaan’s backup on Friday and Josh Jackson was the substitution for Booker. With veteran Jamal Crawford holding the fifth guard spot, there was no room for Melton.

“I think it’s great,” Kokoskov said of the move. “Great opportunity for a young guy to play all [these] minutes. It’s hard to get better, to grow if you just practice.”

NOTES

— Center Tyson Chandler is being bought out by the Suns, as first reported by the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

Chandler, 36, was moving noticeably slower this season. His impact wasn’t felt on either end, leading to third-string center and the younger Richaun Holmes moving up in the rotation in Friday’s loss.

Chandler is in the fourth year of a $52 million deal, a signing designed to help lure then-free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to Phoenix. Aldridge chose San Antonio, but Chandler was still at the time seen as a quality center on the court and one of the most respected veterans in the league.

His play on the court, however, largely disappointed for how much he was being paid. There was also the question of the usefulness of a seasoned role player on a rebuilding team, which quickly became the Suns’ reality after one year of Chandler’s contract ran out.

Holmes is now Deandre Ayton’s backup in an established role for the foreseeable future.

When Chandler is officially off the roster, the Suns will have an open roster spot.

— The Suns announced T.J. Warren is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies due to low back spasms. Warren took a couple falls on Friday, including a transition layup where he landed on his back.


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