Phoenix Suns: Monty Williams’ fast start in Phoenix shouldn’t be surprising

NBA Phoenix Suns Monty Williams (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NBA Phoenix Suns Monty Williams (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Monty Williams has had a successful first season before with the 2010-11 New Orleans Hornets. Should we be surprised about his hot start with the Phoenix Suns?

The Phoenix Suns have been one of the early media darlings of the 2019-20 NBA season. Coming into the year with little to no buzz surrounding their team, they have proceeded to rack up seven wins in 11 games and have been knocking off high-quality opponents when doing so, such as the Philadelphia 76ers and the LA Clippers.

One of the biggest reasons for the Suns’ success has been the hire of new coach Monty Williams in the offseason. We have seen Monty Williams as a head coach before during his stint with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans. Williams spent five seasons with New Orleans and was fired after getting swept by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 2015. However, Williams did have some success during his time in New Orleans.

Williams made the postseason twice during his five years coaching the Hornets/Pelicans. He proved to be a coach that players respected and he made the most out of rosters that were not particularly deep. He did an especially impressive job during his first season with New Orleans, winning eight straight to start the season, including an upset over the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh-led Miami Heat.

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They ultimately started the season 12-3 before running into some trouble in late November.

Those Hornets finished that season 46-36 and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers. However, they showed a lot of fight in that series and was competitive all season against many of the top contenders in the West.

Williams appears to have done a similar job so far with the Suns. While there are certainly differences between Williams’ tenure with New Orleans and his current situation, there are plenty of comparisons to be made between the 2010-11 Hornets and the 2019-20 Suns.

Looking at the offseason transactions of both teams, there was a lot of turnover on the roster. Key players were traded away or waived from both teams and replaced by players that better fit Williams’ system. Both teams traded away veteran sharpshooters who were liabilities on the defensive end. For the Hornets, it was Peja Stojakovic and for the Suns, it was Kyle Korver. Both teams explored the international talent pool to steady the offense, the Hornets bringing in Marco Belinelli and the Suns signing Ricky Rubio.

Both teams centered primarily around the guard position, albeit for different reasons. The 2010-11 Hornets relied on star point guard Chris Paul (15.9 points and 9.8 assists per game) to distribute the ball and run the offense, while the current Suns offense revolves around the scoring ability of Devin Booker (25.3 points per game).

Monty Williams seems to also like big men who can both defend and provide scoring opportunities in the pick and roll. He had Emeka Okafor in that role with the Hornets, and Aron Baynes has been that part of the offense this year. David West provided a nice complement to Paul at the forward position, while the Suns have Kelly Oubre Jr. who has surprised many with a nice start to the season offensively.

It is clear that these two teams have some similarities, but they are very different in terms of how they win games. The Hornets were a team that won low-scoring contests primarily on the back of their defense, while the current Suns are very efficient offensively and can outgun many of their opponents.

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The latter fits much better into today’s NBA and should give hope to Suns fans that their team may not meet the same fate as the 2010-11 Hornets.