In a wide-ranging interview with new Phoenix coach Jeff Hornaceck, Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun got the new main man in the desert to actually say how many points per game he wants the team to target next year.
Here's where I really tried to pin Jeff down. My lead in was that last season there were five teams (Denver, Houston, OKC, SA and Miami) that scored at least 102.9 points per game. Given that, I asked for a one word response on whether the Suns scoring average for the 2013-14 season would be higher or lower than 102.9 points per game...
Coach Hornacek's one word reply:
"What did we average last year? (It was 95.2 by the way) Over 102.9, we would hope we can get there. If we can get there I think that's a good start for us in our first year. So, hopefully, I would say yes."
You heard it here first, folks. I think that absolutely qualifies as "higher." Maybe that also qualifies as Hornacek's first official prediction as coach of the Phoenix Suns.
That's a pretty insane jump, even using a flawed metric like points per game. Scoring over 102.9 for a team with limited talent like the rebuilding Suns is going to be hard enough, but they also can't do much better in the easiest way to do it.
The Suns were ninth in pace last year, meaning they averaged the ninth most possessions per game. They also had the 29th worst offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) in the league, far worse than their 21st-ranked points-per-game mark. The Nets, for example, finished 17th in points per game at 96.9, but eighth in offensive efficiency at 108.2.
It's not just about how fast you play, because the Suns play pretty fast. You have to make those shots, and to do that, you need efficient scorers, something the Suns are drastically short on. They drafted project Alex Len, added offensively inconsistent (but hyper-athletic) Eric Bledsoe and aging Carong Butler in trade, and sent out Luis Scola. In Scola and Jared Dudley, the Suns sent out two of their more efficient scorers.
Unless Goran Dragic or Bledsoe makes some sort of massive evolution into elite playmakers that turn guys like the Morris twins or Micheal Beasley into efficient scorers, or Alex Len is really Godzilla in disguise, hitting that mark is going to be tough sledding. But the only way to even approach that mark is to up the pace. The only team of the five BSotS mentiond without a top-ten pace last season was Miami. And I'm pretty sure LeBron James isn't walking through that door for Phoenix.
If nothing else, the interview reveals Hornacek's commitment to offense. He says it starts with defense, the same way George Karl says the same. But if nothing else, expect to see some different sets for Phoenix next season, even if they're forced to keep things mostly simple or a young and developing roster.
Moving past that 102.9 per game mark, regardless of efficiency, would certainly bolster how fun the Suns are, even as they focus on the future in what is likely a tank season.