The Suns are shooting threes at historic rates, and it’s working
Forward Cameron Johnson finished off the Phoenix Suns’ three-point barrage on Thursday with a 26-footer in the final 2:06 against the Atlanta Hawks.
It was the 15th three that the Suns made in the game as they shot 15-for-39 (38.5%).
It marked the third straight game in which Phoenix made 15 or more threes, the longest streak in team history.
That could be chalked up to a hot shooting stretch, but more likely, it is a product of the new style of play in the Valley.
The Suns have more outside threats than in recent years and are shooting a lot more from deep. They average 35.2 shots from beyond the arc per game this year.
Never before had the Suns taken even 30.
Eight Suns players attempt at least three three-pointers per game. Five attempt four.
Add in a point guard who is great at commanding the offense and finding the open shooter in Ricky Rubio, plus a good passing center like Aron Baynes who can also shoot, and the Suns have an ideal roster to succeed beyond the arc.
Phoenix is shooting a stellar 38.8% from deep as a team, third-best in the NBA.
It is taking the second-most wide-open threes in the NBA (nearest defender at least six feet away) at 22.4 per game.
There is constant movement and a buy in to working to get others open for catch-and-shoot chances.
Guard Devin Booker has scored well off of cuts and screens.
Forward Dario Saric finds his spots and is one of the better catch-and-shoot scorers in the NBA.
Passing has been great too, as they lead the league in assists by a wide margin (they have 317, next best team has 296).
A major help is that they have lineups where every player can knock down a three, which is incredibly hard to defend.
Especially since there are guys like Booker or Kelly Oubre Jr. who can shoot and attack the basket. If the defense collapses, then there’s an open forward in the corner. If it doesn’t, then the driver can score at the rim.
General manager James Jones took some heat for how he managed the NBA Draft last summer, but he assembled a team full of players with the most important skill in today’s NBA: shooting.
Plus, Johnson, who many pundits believed was selected too early, is hitting 41.7% of threes and was placed on NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder as an honorable mention (top-10 rookie thus far).
The results of this renaissance have been more scoring and higher efficiency. The Suns are putting up 117.6 points per game, which is the fourth-best mark in the NBA.
The last time they scored over 110 points per contest was 2009-2010 with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire leading the charge.
Per 100 possessions, the Suns are third in the league in scoring. That is an unreal jump from last year when they were third-to-last.
There have only been five seasons in team history in which the Suns shot a better percentage from deep. All of those came with Nash running the point at the height of Phoenix’s offensive powers.
Although the personnel of this year’s team and that era is different, they both had strong playmaking point guards with solid shooting around the perimeter and they work quickly.
It is very early in the season, but the ways that Phoenix has created three-point opportunities with ball movement and hard work to get open is the best sign that this level of scoring can continue.
When Deandre Ayton returns from suspension, he’ll add another element, which will be an opportunity and a challenge for head coach Monty Williams to work with.