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ESPN’s Bobby Marks: Phoenix Suns’ Monty Williams hire is underrated

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams instructs his team during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Not at all trades, free agent acquisitions and draft picks are created equal.

The same can be said for head coach hirings as well.

Back in May, Monty Williams was hired to be the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns and his presence has been felt from the get-go.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks even included Williams among his list of underrated moves that are having the biggest impact this far through the 2019-20 NBA season.

We normally don’t reserve a section for coaching hires when it comes to underrated transactions. However, hiring the right coach can be just as important as decisions in trades, the draft and free agency. [Williams deserves] recognition for what [he has] accomplished so far. For starters, [the Suns] were projected to finish outside the top eight in the Western Conference before the season started. The [Suns are 7-6] and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (yes, we have a long way to go).

It’s no secret the Suns have struggled to even be competitive over the last four seasons.

The team has failed to win 25 games in a single season since 2014-15 and hasn’t played postseason basketball since the Alvin Gentry days during the 2009-10 campaign.

In Phoenix, Williams took what was known to be the graveyard of coaching jobs in the NBA. Since the 2015-16 season, the Suns have had five head coaches. They went 87-241 in that span and were best known for the dysfunction in their front office. A revamped front office should get credit for the veteran additions, but Williams has helped this team shape an identity on the offensive end. The Suns rank No. 6 in offensive rating, No. 5 in fast-break points, No. 1 in assist rate, No. 5 in assist-to-turnover ratio and No. 5 in eFG%.

In the aforementioned span prior to Williams’ arrival, the Suns had an average offensive rating of 27th, with the highest being 22nd in 2016-17 and the lowest being dead last in 2017-18.

Phoenix was also toward the bottom of the barrel when it comes to effective field goal percentage in the span.

On average, the Suns were the NBA’s fourth-worst team in the category from 2015-19 (49.7%). Phoenix came in at No. 30 with a 49.5 eFG% in 2017-18.

Perhaps the most remarkable statistic is the team’s 51.4 eFG% last year (24th), the only season since 2015-16 to have an effective field goal percentage over .500. But despite that, Phoenix still finished with a record of 19-63, the second-worst in franchise history.

The 7-6 Suns currently sit just above .500 at the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference standings. Through 13 games this season, Phoenix is on pace for a 44-38 record, which would be the team’s first season over .500 since 2013-14.

And let’s not forget, center and 2018 No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton has only played in one game this year due to his 25-game suspension for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug policy. Ayton is at the halfway mark of his ban and is expected back in mid-December.

But even if this 2019-20 edition of the Suns doesn’t reach the 43-win mark, William’s impact has been immediate, as an energy has started to build around the Valley for a fan base that has been starving for something to cheer for.

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