For the past three seasons the Phoenix Suns have been searching. That is broad strokes because there are numerous things they have been searching for, but one important element in particular that has been escaping them is a consistent presence in the paint.
More specifically at the four (power forward) position.
Last night was a prime example as Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors dominated the paint to a tune of 50 points combined. The Utah Jazz as a team scored 60 points in the paint.
Three years ago the position was filled by Amare Stoudemire (26.1 points per game from the four position per 82games data) and he gave the team an advantage nightly at the position scoring effectively. What Stoudemire brought to the table was an elite athlete, a consistent scorer, and threat nightly that teams had to prepare for.
Since then the Suns have steadily declined at the position going from 26.1 points per game at the four in 2009-2010, to 20.4 per game in 2010-2011, then 19.0 in 2011-2012, and finally to 20.8 per so far this season.
That threat is now gone as the team has assembled a patchwork of different players to fill the void from Hedu Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, Markieff Morris, Luis Scola and the most adroit; Channing Frye. That group averaged 20.06 points per game at the position, which is six full points less than what Stoudemire brought to the table. The scoring is down, but the defense overall seems to have remained the same.
Stoudemire's insistence that he was never taught defense might be true as the Suns defensively are the same team the past three years as they were in the former All-Stars last season here in the valley.
Defensively the Stoudemire led teams that gave up 22.6 points per game to opposing fours. Not a great number, but over the last three years the team has on averaged 22.93 per game, virtually the same, but peaking at 23.0 per game this season.
The defense has been the concern this season. To compare the other four positions from a defensive standpoint the one is a +0.4, the two -2.0, the three +0.6, and the five a -0.2 on the season. A net of -1.2 from the four positions combined.
This team is negative defensively overall, no suger coating here, but the difference in a win here and there could be those 2.3 points left on the table by the teams four men.