Suns Squared: Suns vs League Average

With the new year on the way, here is a look at each Sun compared to the average NBA player.

As 2016 draws to close and the season progresses, the Suns will have many tough decisions going forward. The season has not played out well for the Suns who are a half a game out of last place in the West. Moving forward the Suns will have some tough decisions with P.J. Tucker and Alex Len both have expiring contracts. Additionally Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight have long-term deals the Suns might look to move, and the General Manager Ryan McDonough must decide who will be a part of the long-term plan.

With that in mind, I put together two different methods of comparing each Suns player to the average NBA player at their position. For ease, I grouped the positions into Guard, Forward, and Center, and the players are classified according to the position they primarily play.

The first method I used was to take all players, qualified for the minutes per game leaderboard, and averaged their PER, Offensive Win Shares (OWS), and Defensive Win Shares (DWS). I then extrapolated those numbers to see how the Suns’ players compared to them. The graph below places DWS on the x-axis and OWS on the y-axis. The best players would be at the top right of the graph. Each Suns player is on the graph, along with a point for the average center, guard, and forward respectively. Each Suns player is labeled with their primary position according to basketball-reference.com.

SunsCompare

(One clarification is that Alan Williams and Devin Booker both have 0.2 for OWS and DWS.)

The one clear takeaway here is that Eric Bledsoe is far and away the Suns’ best player. He is also the only Suns player that is above the average player at both of the metrics. Tyson Chandler has been above average offensively, however, he has been below average defensively. Jared Dudley is the only other player to be average or better as his OWS (0.8) is almost exactly average for all forwards (0.81). All other Suns players are below the average NBA player when it comes to win score.

Yet these numbers are a bit inconclusive as many times win score is tied to how well the team performs and so good players on bad teams have bad numbers and bad players on good teams can put up high numbers.

The second method was to take each Suns player’s PER and subtract the league average PER at their position from it to see how the Suns’ players are performing comparatively. The average NBA player is said to have a PER of 15, but when I did the calculations, the average for each position is 17.12 for centers, 14.46 for forwards, and 13.74 for guards. The table below shows how Suns players compare.

Player

Position

PER compared to AVG

Alex Len

Center

-1.66

 Tyson Chandler

Center

 -2.36

Alan Williams

Forward

7.04

TJ Warren

Forward

1.24

 Jared Dudley

Forward

 -2.76

Marquese Chriss

Forward

 -4.76

PJ Tucker

Forward

-4.96

Dragan Bender

Forward

-8.46

Eric Bledsoe

Guard

6.66

Leandro Barbosa

Guard

0.46

Brandon Knight

Guard

0.06

 Devin Booker

Guard

-0.64

Tyler Ulis

Guard

-0.74

The PER are slightly better than the win scores, but still not great. Five Suns perform better than the average player at their position. Alan Williams leads with 7.04 better than average but his limited playing time means that his numbers are inflated. Bledsoe leads players with heavy minutes with 6.66 better than average. Warren, Barbosa, and Knight all perform better than average as well.

The opposite side of the coin tells a story the Suns might want to pay attention too. The bottom 3 are inhabited by Bender, Chriss, and PJ Tucker. Bender and Chriss are rookies and so poor numbers are usually expected as they adjust but a career veteran like PJ Tucker having such low numbers is worrisome. This could be a sign that Tucker might be a player the Suns look to move or at least decrease his minutes so the rookies and younger players get to play more.

The best position for the Suns is the guard spot with 5.8 above average PER for all the players. Thus with trade season coming fast, the Suns would want to deal from their especially with Brandon Knight trade rumors popping up consistently.

Overall, these numbers are definitely concerning for the Suns. The poor season is reflected in the poor play of the majority of the roster. One thing is more than clear, Eric Bledsoe is a player to hold on to and build around, but also a player the Suns have to keep happy as he will want to be one a competitive team sooner rather than later.

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