Stephen’s Study: Shamet’s Rise, AD dominance and Suns foul play

Losing games that were surely meant to be taken is a rarity for this interpretation of the game. phoenix suns, even allowing for the multitude of injuries they come forward with. However, a 113-110 loss to the washington wizards it leaves something to be desired, not unlike what the marker suggests. There was a lack of execution in the “clutch”, at both ends of the floor, and they had fallen short.

1.) Awesome Shamet Shots

Landry Shamet has been a high-variance guy in the Suns’ rotation since the Suns acquired him before last season.

Last night was the template for exactly what you want to see from him sustainably. No, not necessarily the best 31-point average of his career (although obviously he would be well received). Rather, the process and method of approach to it.

Shamet has the potential, as demonstrated last night, to be a moving target for the Suns’ offense. He moves at a pace that wreaks havoc with swift-footedness maneuvering off screens, dribbling trades and intercepting all the same.

In any of those scenarios, he has the ability and is a threat to get up suddenly. The ability to combine shots both on the move and off screens, plus being able to start pick-and-rolls or off-dribble transfers is a unique skill set that is in short supply for his type of player throughout the league.

He also combines a quick shot with a quick first step, allowing him to punish long clasps as defenses get him off the 3-point line. To which he then has amazing athleticism and audacity to attack the cup as well.

We saw it all on the line last night, as he flew out of a series of staggered screens, passes and blocks, plus general off-the-ball movement independent of screens (lift and dunk), or even staying hidden a pass away and ready to shoot.

He was a dead eye, and the impact a motion shooter can have on an offense and an opponent is immense. That archetypal rolling shot is a prize in the league, and every team wishes they had a handful of those.

However, the problem with Shamet is consistency. He has a lot of dynamics around him, as well as being able to defend at an average level and being reliable to compete.

If he could skewer what the last stanza highlights with some consistency on offense, he’d be a staple in the rotation and exist as an inherent threat outside of their dynamic.

However, his career-highs in points (31) and deep marks (9) don’t happen by accident. Especially in a game where he demanded it while others struggled, particularly in the second half.

Kudos to Shamet for delivering when the team badly needed him to have a chance at the end.

2.) Pick-and-roll game

The Suns had their problems in this pick-and-roll execution, which becomes a bit more their base when operating without Devin Booker.

Even before talking about the scheme, the Washington Wizards displayed great activity and detailed intensity in defending against those scenarios.

That effort made the scheme an “add-on” to his attack, which is how it should align.

That being said, they were very solid with their “ice” and “weak” coverage against Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.

Operating with that as their base, they were able to stifle one of the best tandems in the league, crushing the Suns’ offensive attack in the process.

The Suns would adjust to the Wizards pressure from further afield by relocating the point of their screens, allowing Bridges/Lee/Shamet to start, and Paul to elbow his Horns action, with Ayton.

Doing it, from the middle of the floor, is *almost* schematic-proof. It allowed the Suns a cleaner look at this scenario and allowed them to dictate as they rallied around the seven-minute mark of the third quarter.

Paul (11) and Ayton (12) would add 23 of the team’s 30 points in the third set, with a good majority coming out of this scenario.

This put them two head first in the fourth, after being down five at the half and eventually down 17 in the third.

They would then continue to reverse their offense with Paul and Ayton (or eventually Biyombo) from the elbows, and then go into their many counterattacks that flow into action with passes, slips, and double screens.

3.) One Ayton Ton

Deandre Ayton had one game last night, posting a season high usage of 35.53.

That number marks the third-highest as a professional, including the playoffs.

He found himself with constant activity between Gafford and Gibson, but he had a very solid performance (30 points and 13 rebounds).

Catching (!!!) and finishing on the roll, the short shot decision, going fast in isolation, the variety of soft touch finishes, the hook and even the spins were on full display.

He was a constant pressure point and lead for the Suns, and he did it in a very quiet way.

He showed great patience in his touches, and they came in a consistent way that kept him directly involved, even though Chris Paul found ways to feed him, which again was very reassuring.

4.) Frequent soiling

You can say there has been questionable whistling in many a Suns game, and you may be right, though that’s up for debate. What isn’t is the number of games in which they are above the league average.

The average is 20.4 fouls per game. The Suns currently rank 21st with the worst foul rate, at 21.2 per game.

What’s more, they’re 29th in free throw rate. They allow 23.7, the league average is 20.8.

In games where they fouled out more than 20 times, they are 8-10. It’s 18 of their 32 games in which they’ve had astronomical foul rates.

In games where they finish with 21 fouls or fewer, they are dominant 12-3.

Obviously, it’s not the end of everything, however, when they defend solidly, they are the best they can get in the league.

Many of his fouls come from slightly late positioning or a lack of discipline. Both are things firmly under his control.

Your foul totals are a number to watch moving forward, as your hits align with how low (or high) these numbers are at the final buzzer.

For reference, last season they finished in 19th place with 19.9 fouls per game, and in 2020-21 they were 14th with 19.1 per game.

Getting their discipline back and positioning themselves on the defensive end again would be very solid for this team in their current build.

Then: Ranked second in the Western Conference, the frenetic memphis grizzlies stop by the Footprint Center on Friday. They have the second best efficiency differential, the ninth best offensive efficiency (116.6) and the best defensive efficiency (100.2).

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