Jeff Hornacek’s Phoenix Suns have won three of their first five games. They did so playing the style of basketball reflective of their coach’s playing approach, a combination of team basketball and maximum effort. Much can be seen from the early season games. Eric Bledsoe has all the makings of being an elite guard. The two-headed monster point guard approach of Bledsoe and Dragic may become an NBA innovation for the future, departing from the standard point guard/ shooting (or “two”) guard. The Morris twins are averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounding when their game stats are combined. Miles Plumlee has real upside and the team can nurture the development of Alex Len working behind Plumlee. All of this, combined with the potential for multiple high draft picks in next year’s deep draft, are all cause for great optimism.
Most fans started the season hoping the Suns would win less games than everyone else in the league. This would maximize the Suns’ chances of landing the next “it” guy, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, in next year’s NBA draft. Those same fans are now believing that the Suns will compete for a Western Conference playoff position. But for those fans who treat the bandwagon as a trampoline, jumping on and off depending upon individual game results, I say “not so fast!”
I admit that I am impressed with the Suns’ start. However, I am not surprised. On April 30th, before the Suns named the new GM and Coach, I posted a blog about the future direction of the Suns. I wrote: It must be assumed that a major overhaul is on the horizon for the Suns and toward that end, the names of many present and upcoming free agents will be tossed around as the next potential signings. But the most important signing will not be for the person whose name appears on the back of the jersey. Rather, it shall be through the selection of the GM and head coach. So let’s hope that the Sun’s reach outside the box and develop a management and coaching team with a vision for the future and the foresight to find players who have the ability and heart to embody that vision.
Well, the Suns delivered. The team of McDonough and Hornacek was just what the franchise needed. Gone are the likes of Michael Beasley and the team is now filled with players who have heart and commitment to team. But with all these positives, McDonough and Hornacek need time. We should revel in their early season success as a sign that the franchise has an exciting direction but not set the bar so high that progress will be unrecognized if the wins don’t continue to flow.
So please allow me a shot at being a level-headed prognosticator. Even with the 3-2 start, I am prepared to go on record with my prediction for the team’s record as of January 1, 2014. Following these three victories in the first five games, the Suns will finish the month of November with a record of 10-7 (victories against the Pelicans, two against the Kings, and wins against the Bobcats, Magic, and home games against the Jazz and Trail Blazers; losses against the Nuggets, road game in Portland, Nets, Heat and road game in Utah). In December, the Suns will record victories against the Raptors, Kings and 76ers, but will lose twice to each the Warriors and Lakers, along with losses to the Grizzlies, Rockets, Spurs, Nuggets, Mavs and Clippers. The record for that month will be 3-10. As 2014 is welcomed in, the Suns record will be 13-17, a far cry from their 3-2 start but sufficient for optimism for the future to remain strong. If they fare better than predicted, the growth of the franchise will be advancing ahead of schedule. If they do worse, they will still have shown us what will be in the coming years while also solidifying their chances at a high lottery pick in next year’s draft. As you can see, we can’t lose.
I do make this prediction to belittle the Suns. Quite the contrary, I do this as a tribute to the leadership of the team I have been a fan of since the mid-1970s. They deserve our support but not our overreaching expectations. If we and they keep level heads, the future is bright.