Suns Squared: Current Defense Worse than D'Antoni's

BY Fansided and Brooks Ohman/FanSided via Valley of the Suns • December 15, 2016

How the current Suns’ defense compares to the maligned defense during the Mike D’Antoni era.So far this year the Suns are allowing 113.2 points per game (PPG), 29th in the league in points per game allowed. I wanted to look back at the defensive numbers under Mike D’Antoni and see how they compare to this year so far.The D’Antoni era was always criticized for never playing defense. This lack of defense was the cited as the reason the D’Antoni Suns never won a championship. The first point to mention is the difference between PPG and Defensive Rating (Points Per 100 Possessions). Defensive Rating is different in that it accounts for Pace to equalize defensive performance. Pace is the estimated numbers of possessions per game. The Suns, especially under D’Antoni, were known for playing fast. This is important because PPG will make faster teams look worse defensively than they actually are because more possessions per game will equal more points. With all this in mind, I put together a chart with all Suns defensive stats from the first D’Antoni year (04-05) until now. I included Pace, Defensive Rating, and PPG, along with where those numbers ranked in the NBA and the average number for each year. It is important to note that the NBA has on average been getting faster and scoring more points as the years have gone on.Year (*D’Antoni)PPG (Rank) AVGDefensive Rating (Rank) AVGPace (Rank) AVG2016-17113.2 (29th) 104.2109.6 (25th) 107.2101.2 (2) 96.42015-16107.5 (28th) 102.7109 (25th) 106.498.5 (3) 95.82014-15103.3 (26th) 100.0106.2 (17th) 105.696.3 (3) 93.92013-14102.6 (21st) 101.0106.7 (15th) 106.695.8 (8) 93.92012-13101.6 (26th)  98.1108.1 (23rd) 105.893.4 (9) 92.02011-1298.6 (21st) 96.3106.5 (24th) 104.692.6 (8) 91.32010-11105.9 (29th)  99.6110.4 (25th) 107.394.4 (7) 92.12009-10105.3 (26th) 100.4110.2 (23rd) 107.695.3 (4) 92.72008-09107.5 (27th) 100.0111.6 (26th) 108.396.0 (4) 91.72007-08*105.0 (25th)  99.9108.1 (16th) 107.596.7 (4) 92.42006-07*102.9 (23rd)  98.7106.4 (13th) 106.595.6 (3) 91.92005-06*102.8 (28th)  97.0105.8 (16th) 106.295.8 (1) 90.52004-05*103.3 (30th)  97.2107.1 (17th) 106.195.9 (1) 90.9The biggest takeaway that the chart displays  is that the Suns, especially under D’Antoni, were much better defensively than the PPG number displayed. This goes hand in hand with the Pace where the Suns have been in the top ten since 04-05.  The Suns have every year played faster than league average pace and Suns were significantly faster in the D’Antoni years (4.6 more possessions per game than NBA average).As for this year, the Suns’ defense ranks awfully at 25th for defensive rating but the 113.2 number is inflated because the Suns’ pace (101.2 possession per game) is 4.7 more possessions per game than the NBA average.A second way to visualize how the PPG can skew defensive numbers is the graph below. The graph features PPG on the y-axis, relative defensive rating on the x-axis and the size of the bubbles is relative pace. Relative defensive rating is how many more or fewer points the Suns defensive rating is compared to league average and relative pace is how many more possessions per game the Suns have than NBA average, so the bigger the bubble the faster the Suns play. This graph provides, even more visual evidence – if the raw numbers weren’t enough – that the D’Antoni Suns were actually pretty good at defense or at the very least, league average. This is pretty surprising when compared to the narrative that surrounded those teams. Given this info, a return to D’Antoni defense would actually be quite the improvement for the Suns.The graph further illustrates how the 16-17 team is not doing so hot so far, and is actually ranking as one of the worst Suns defenses of the last 13 years. While this breakdown is less positive for the current Suns’ team it does reveal that the old school Suns defenses were not as bad as previously thought.More from Valley of the SunsPhoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs 11/15 Game Preview40m agoThe Suns Need To Move Brandon Knight20h agoUlis and Williams sent to Prescott1 d agoTyson Chandler is Seeing 20/201 d agoPhoenix Suns v New York Knicks 12/13 Game Preview2d agoThis article originally appeared on

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