Calling the Phoenix Suns overachievers for the 2013-14 season is about as big an understatement as “LeBron James is good” or “Nick Young‘s reverse 360 layup was the greatest shot in the history of basketball.” With a 16-10 record, the streaking Suns are sitting (somewhat) pretty in the sixth spot of the uber-competitive Western Conference standings. If the season ended today, Phoenix would “enjoy” a first-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs.
This was not what Suns fans had in mind entering the season. The line of thinking was more like, “Would Phoenix be better off taking Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle with their top three pick?” The only problem is, everyone’s been doing a wonderful job so far. General manger Ryan McDonough assembled a competitive team in one summer. Jeff Hornacek turned out to be one of two phenomenal rookie head coaches. Eric Bledsoe immediately proved the hype was well deserved. The list goes on and on.
But one underrated aspect of the Suns’ success so far this season has been 3-point shooting. Plenty has been made of Miles Plumlee emerging as a viable starting center, Goran Dragic‘s career year or Channing Frye‘s return, but a huge element in Phoenix winning seven of their last eight games has been their prowess from behind the arc. The Suns are sixth in the league in 3-point percentage (38.1 percent), third in 3-point attempts per game (25.3) and second in made 3s per game (9.7). Only Houston and New York take more 3-point shots on a nightly basis than the Suns.
Part of that has to do with Bledsoe and Dragic’s playmaking abilities out of the pick and roll. Neither of the Suns’ impressive backcourt is afraid to launch from distance, but Phoenix’s best looks on the perimeter come from pick and pops with Frye or the Morris twins, and if those immediate options aren’t open, corner snipers like P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green reap the benefit of quick ball movement.
Most recently, Phoenix buried the Dallas Mavericks in a 123-108 home win with 15 3s, which means more than one-third of the Suns’ offense came from the long ball. This wasn’t an anomaly either, since Phoenix has made at least seven 3-pointers in 18 consecutive games. They made another 12 3s to bury the Denver Nuggets in an impressive 21-point comeback on the road a few nights earlier. Tucker is shooting 47 percent from downtown, a mark good enough for fifth best in the NBA. Frye isn’t far behind at 44.1 percent, which puts him at 11th. Green is sixth in the league in 3-point attempts (he’s taking 6.4 per game) and ninth in made 3s.
Simply put, nobody on this roster other than Plumlee is afraid to take an open look on the perimeter. This team is constructed to play at a fast pace and jack up as many threes as possible. Since the Suns are making 38 percent of those shots, the payoff has been pretty sweet so far. Whether Phoenix can keep this up over the course of the whole season like a team like the Portland Trail Blazers remains to be seen. But for now, the Suns’ hot shooting has them looking like a playoff team, for better or worse.