Blazer Banter

The Scouting Report: Phoenix Suns 11/13

In an attempt to help you get to know the Blazers opponent each night, we are going to post a little bit of a scouting report of each team on the blog before each game. Tonight, it’s the not tanking surprising Phoenix Suns (5-2) at the Moda Center at 7 P.M. The game will be shown on CSNNW and it can be heard on the radio on 620 AM.

Ladies and gentlemen, the defensive, highlight making and against all odds fun Phoenix Suns.

Projected Starting Line-up: Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee.

As we said in Wednesday’s Columbian, the Suns didn’t get the memo that they are going to playing for a chance to draft one of the three guys showcased last night in Chicago.

They pounced on the Blazers with ferocious defending from Eric Bledsoe, who also ran the show beautifully with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists as well as a breakout game by second-year center Miles Plumlee. Not to mention the fact that the Suns shot over 50 percent from midrange which is well above average and Goran Dragic scored 26 points and dished nine assists.

They come into the Moda Center with the fifth most efficient defense and Gerald Green is shooting 47 percent (!) from three on 5.6 (!!) attempts per game.

For what we hope we will become a recurring feature of future “Scouting Reports” is we want to have a guest writer who will tell us something that we who do not watch the Suns regularly, or the team the Blazers are playing, might not know.

For today’s report, we’re happy to be joined by Andrew Lynch, host of ESPN’s Daily Dime Live, writer for Hardwood Paroxysm and Suns fan.

Here’s Lynch on the unheralded brilliance of Phoenix’s PJ Tucker:

At this point, the Suns aren’t going to surprise anybody. They’ve come out of the gate on fire to start the season, and most of the players responsible are getting their due on both the local and national levels. You know Eric Bledsoe, the streaking blur around whom the entire offense operates. You know Markieff Morris, who’s having a career year so far and was recently named Player of the Week in the Western Conference. You probably even know Miles Plumlee, whose emergence as a pick-and-roll partner for Bledsoe on offense and a rim protector on the other end has been an extremely pleasant surprise.

But few seem to be familiar with the man who ties it all together: P.J. Tucker. Tucker’s the quintessential energy player; his game is predicated on extraordinary effort and hustle, and his physical exertion is matched by a quick, sharp basketball mind. Last year, his tenacity often was for naught, as Phoenix didn’t have the schemes necessary to make the most of his determination. Under new coach Jeff Hornacek, however, along with defensive guru Mike Longabardi, Tucker’s prowess has fully blossomed. With a defensive system that depends on players being in the right place at the right time, Tucker has shined as a ball stopper and off-ball menace who fights for every inch to prevent opposing wings from ever getting their hands on the ball.
And on offense, Tucker has made the most of Hornacek’s spread/flex hybrid system. He’s shot poorly on mid-range twos, but his bread and butter this year has been the corner 3. When Bledsoe makes his way into the paint, he knows that he can count on Tucker being stationed on the wing, ready to knock down an uncontested triple. All 18 of his attempts from deep have been from the corners this year; he’s hit half of them.
Tucker was one of the only players to make the transition from the abysmal performance of the Suns last year to their surprising renaissance in 2013. But just as Phoenix has turned the corner and become a whole greater than the sum of its parts, so too has Tucker grown. He might be the same person in the same town, but he’s far from the same player. Get to know P.J. Tucker. He’ll never be the best player on the court, but if you appreciate smart, hard-nosed basketball, he very well might become your favorite Sun.

Follow Andrew on twitter: @AndrewLynch

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