Fratello’s Fun Stats

As of today, there are two sets of teammates who rank among the top 5 in NBA scoring for the 2010-2011 season: James & Wade in Miami and Anthony & Stoudemire in New York. If both dynamic duos finish in the top 5 at the end of 82 this April, it will be just the second time in NBA history that this has happened. So far the first and last such occurrence was when Warriors Johnston & Arizin and Hawks Selvy & Petit all finished the 1954-1955 regular season among the top 5 scoring leaders.

However, one set of teammates has ranked in the top 5 multiple times: Iverson & Anthony (2008 Nuggets); Bryant & O’Neal (2003 Lakers); Bryant & O’Neal (2001 Lakers); Vandeweghe & English (1984 Nuggets); Vandeweghe & English (1983 Nuggets); Hudson & Maravich (1973 Hawks); West & Baylor (1967 Lakers); West & Baylor (1965 Lakers); Robertson & Twyman (1961 Royals); Petit & Hagan (1960 Hawks); Petit & Hagan (1959 Hawks); Arizin & Johnston (1957 Warriors); Arizin & Johnston (1956 Warriors).

Czar Asks You

New York hasn’t made a playoff appearance since 2003-04, when they were swiftly swept out of the first round by the New Jersey Nets. But since the addition of Stoudemire to their roster this season, the Knicks have climbed to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings and have gone 12-8 on the road. Is Amar’e Stoudemire the best thing to happen to the Knicks since Patrick Ewing? How far will he take his team?

Mike’s Take: Rising Suns

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein-NBAE via Getty Images

For much of the season, the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks have been considered the only teams capable of dethroning the Lakers in the West. But there may be another team ready to throw its hat in the ring – the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns have been up and down all season, and their recent hot streak (11-4 in February and March) may simply be nothing more than that. There are reasons other than Steve Nash, however, why this may be the sign of a stronger push:

1) Amar’e Stoudemire:  Since the trade deadline, Amar’e has stepped up his level of play. His points are up and, more importantly, he seems to have a renewed commitment to rebounding on both ends of the floor. Free of the rumors surrounding his future (and perhaps realizing that he will be a free agent after the season) Stoudemire has been a dominant force on the inside.

2) Robin Lopez:  The insertion of Lopez into the starting lineup has not only added an interior defender and shot blocker to the mix, but it has also allowed Stoudemire to move to his natural power forward position. Overall team speed has not been sacrificed as it was at times with Shaq.

3) Bench play:  Led by Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic and Louis Amundson, Phoenix’s bench has provided a significant energy boost and has allowed Coach Alvin Gentry to get his veteran starters much needed rest. The bench should be bolstered by the expected return of Leandro Barbosa.

Photo by Christian Petersen-Getty Images

4) Jason Richardson/Grant Hill: Both Richardson and Hill have the ability to shoot from the perimeter and post-up smaller defenders, giving the Suns additional inside-out capabilities. Both players are also solid defenders against opposing swingmen and good finishers on the break.

As always, defense is going to be the real key for the Suns come playoff time. While this team is still not a great defensive team, it is much improved from previous Suns teams, and the offense is clicking on all cylinders. Steve Nash is, as expected, playing his role as catalyst to perfection and is still capable of stepping up his scoring responsibilities if required. The Suns, especially Nash, are having a lot of fun playing ball right now, and it is reflected in their overall play.

The Suns host the Pacers tonight at 9 PM ET.