About this time a year ago, I wrote about the Toronto Raptors’ quest to finish the season as both the league’s best offensive team and worst defense. The Raptors got the second part right, but their offense slipped after a fast start; they finished sixth in Offensive Rating.
The new season brings us another first and worst contender: the Phoenix Suns, whose candidacy got a shot in the arm today with the news that Robin Lopez is out “several weeks” (according to the Arizona Republic) after he sprained both the MCL and the PCL in his left knee. Already, Phoenix ranked second in the league in Offensive Rating after last night’s explosion in L.A. and 29th in Defensive Rating. Now, the Suns will be without their best defensive player and most traditional big man.
Paul Coro reports in the article linked above that Phoenix will likely sign another big man, since the in-house option (rookie Garret Siler) can’t be trusted for extended minutes. Even with a newcomer, Lopez’s absence will surely mean more minutes for perimeter sharpshooter Channing Frye. Phoenix also went to small lineups with Hakim Warrick in the middle last night; those kind of lineups will be difficult to defend but will offer little resistance at the other end of the floor. Based on that, it’s easy to see the Suns improving on offense over the next couple of weeks but struggling even more on defense.
Also worth watching: Will Alvin Gentry push the pace? Playing against type, the Suns are 14th in the league in possessions per game thus far. A faster tempo might help paper over the team’s weaknesses in terms of defense and rebounding.