The Suns' streaks, by the numbers

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The Phoenix Suns have had a bit of an odd season. First they were unstoppable, going 14-3 to start the season. Then they weren’t very good at all, going 12-18 over the course of two months. Since January 28th, the Suns are 13-3. 

Bright Side of the Sun’s Seth Pollack has a post up today that takes a look at the numbers behind the Suns’ streaky ways. There’s a bar graph and a fancy chart and all sorts of fun stuff. Here are a few choice excerpts from Seth’s bullet points on the streaks:
“The Suns pace has dropped during this latest win streak from about 98.5 down to 95.7”
“The Suns opponent FG% has improved steadily throughout the season from 46% during the 1st win streak, to 45.6% during the slump to 45.1% during the current streak”
“During the 1st winning streak the Suns were taking ~7% more of their total shots from behind the arc. Now they are taking about 5% more of their shots withing 10 feet. This the Robin Lopez effect.”

Looking at the numbers from the second streak, it looks like the Suns have started to play a slightly more disciplined brand of basketball. Nobody’s going to confuse them with a grind-it-out team any time soon, but it looks like they’re starting to play a little more defense and get a little more deliberate on offense. Also, I love the phrase “Robin Lopez effect,” and feel it should be applied to all walks of life. 

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.