The Phoenix Suns have gotten off to a pretty abysmal start to this 2011-12 NBA season and their lack of early success may, surprisingly, almost hinge entirely on their inability to make wide-open spot up shots.
Coming into their early Monday afternoon affair with the Golden State Warriors, the usually ultra-efficient perimeter shooting Suns are knocking down just 40.3% of their attempts from the field and only 25.9% of their shots from three-point distance – early season numbers that are good for 24th and 27th place in the league, respectively.
Many of these shots are of the wide-open, in the gym by yourself variety.
So what gives?
We are talking about a group that ranked 4th in the NBA last year in 3-point percentage at 37.7% while connecting on 8.5 three-point makes per game which was good for 3rd overall.
For one thing the usual suspects in Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Grant Hill have been just woeful in spot up and catch-and-shoot opportunities this early season.
Digging a little deeper we find that Dudley, who shot an impressive 41.5% from three a season ago, is shooting just 30.8% from deep this year.
Even more telling…according to Synergy Sports Technology’s database Jared Dudley, in catch-and-shoot opportunities through four games, is hitting just 25% on a putrid 3-of-12 shooting from the floor.
Channing Frye, who ranked 4th in the league last year with an incredible 171 three-point makes, is knocking down just 12.5% from three this season on an awful 2-of-16 shooting.
Frye’s numbers in catch-and-shoot tries are not much better with the perimeter-oriented big man hitting only 3 of his 19 attempts for an abysmal 15.8%.
Grant Hill, to his credit more of an off the dribble jump shooter than a spot up guy, has fared even worse than his aforementioned teammates not connecting on a single catch-and-shoot jumper this season at all, he comes into Monday’s game against GSW 0-of-9 from the floor in that all-important floor spacing category on the year.
If you happen to be counting at home, Frye, Dudley and Hill are a combined 6-of-40 in catch-and-shoot attempts for 15% shooting from the floor this season.
And the two-time MVP Steve Nash is as much to blame as any Suns’ teammate right now.
Incredibly Nash, known for his uncanny efficiency from all angles of the perimeter throughout his storied career, is suffering through one of his roughest stretches to date connecting on only 30% of his catch-and-shoot chances. His field goal percentage is at a strangely low 30.8% while from three he is shooting 31.3%.
That simply won’t get it done. Not at this level.
The Suns are going to have to find a way to make open shots or their season will be over before they know it.
With the revamped Clippers, the moody Lakers, the consistent Trail Blazers, the fast-paced Denver Nuggets and a host of other notable Western Conference foes I purposely omitted, the Suns have absolutely zero time in this David Stern infused shortened season to just let things work themselves out.
For a team that gets a whopping 24.6% of their offense via the spot up shot, their spot up shooting is clearly letting them down early on.
And for Steve Nash, a floor general whose success is heavily predicated on his guys hitting those type shots, the season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start.
To give you an idea of just how bad it’s been for the 37-year old, 15-year vet, in four games this year Nash has set the table brilliantly for his jump shooting teammates 34 times for wide-open spot up shots.
And they have in turn rewarded the pass-first point guard with just six converted spot up buckets off of those 34 Nash-generated attempts. That’s good for 17.6% shooting. So as it stands today when Nash has penetrated – which he has done fairly well this season regardless of what his subpar numbers may show – his shooters are knocking down just under 18% of those shots.
Incredibly Nash is still spoon-feeding his teammates with easy looks. The numbers won’t show it, but Nash is still quick and, obviously, crafty enough to manipulate any defense via pick and roll basketball. The simple and plain fact is guys just aren’t knocking down shots – which makes winning in this league extremely difficult.
What is the old NBA adage? – It’s a make or miss league.
Well, yes indeed it is…and the Suns right now are missing everything.
If you’re looking for a silver lining in all of this early season gloominess, Suns’ fans can take great comfort in the fact that one of their most efficient shooters spotting up has been rookie Markieff Morris who is currently burying 55.6% of his catch-and-shoot tries connecting on 5-of-9 from three-point land.
Center Robin Lopez has been even better than Morris, albeit from a much shorter distance, knocking down 5-of-7 catch-and-shoot attempts for a 71.4% shooting clip early.
Then again that only highlights the obvious lack of production the team is getting from their starting group.
However, it is early. And for a group of veterans the first few weeks of this season in particular will, by default, need to be used to get their legs back and work themselves into regular season shape.
If you are a Suns’ fan you just hope it’s not too late when they finally get there and those shots start to fall.