Since last Spring, I have written a few times about the past, present and future of the Phoenix Suns. As 2013 is winding down, I want to acknowledge where I was wrong but also note when I was right. It will make it easier for Santa to know when I have been naughty or nice.
I WAS WRONG: On November 3, 2013 (“Hey Suns Fans: Not So Fast”), I predicted that the Suns would finish the month of December with a season record of 13-17, and would be heading south for the winter. When a team’s prospects are low, it is often said “wait until next year.” Well, for these Suns, “wait till next year” begins on January 1, 2014 (and not October of next year when the team would be preparing for the 2014-15 season) as the Suns’ performance and success continue to defy all experts. Just before Christmas, they are 16-10 and are beating teams that challenge even the front runners in the NBA.
I WAS RIGHT: On April 30, 2013 (“Will The Suns Be Rising Or Setting?”), I provided my thoughts about the future direction of the franchise. I wrote: It must be assumed that a major overhaul is on the horizon for the Suns… 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.
The Suns met my challenge and did hire guys that thought outside the box. Jeff Hornacek has taken the roster and found what each player does best. Perhaps his most novel move was his creation of the two-headed monster in the Suns’ backcourt of Bledsoe and Dragic, two point guards whose play together defies traditional team protocols.
In October, Hoops.com came up with their top 5 backcourts in the NBA. In mid-November, a writer for the Huffington Post revealed his list of the top 9 backcourts in the NBA. The lists included the likes of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the Warriors, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson of the Nets, John Wall and Bradley Beal of the Wizards, and Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews of the Trail Blazers. None of these and other lists included Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. In fact, if you polled NBA fans from around the country even today, I doubt that the Suns’ backcourt duo would even be part of the conversation. Yet one thing is certain; teams in the NBA are sitting up and taking notice that when you play against Phoenix, you better come ready to play because of Jeff Hornacek’s decision to start two point guards (rather than point and shooting guards) in the Valley of the Sun.
The numbers don’t lie. This dynamic duo of the Suns backcourt have a combined scoring average of 37.8 points per game, which is third in the NBA behind Curry/Thompson (45.4 PPG) and Wall/Beal (39.9 PPG). The combo of Dragic and Bledsoe is also third in the league in assists, averaging 12.2 per game. This places them ahead of the preseason picks for top backcourt tandems of the Wizards (12.0 assists per game), Warriors (11.7 assists per game), Nets (9.9 assists per game) and the Trail Blazers (7.9 assists per game).
I WAS WRONG: On November 7, 2013 (“Hey Suns Fans: Not So Fast”) I predicted that by the All-Star Break, the Suns would be out of the playoffs. I would like to revise that: By the All-Star break, the Suns may be out of next year’s NBA Draft Lottery.
I WAS RIGHT: On October 31, 2013 (“Hey Suns’ Fans! It’s Not Too Early To Root For the Wizards, Pacers and Timberwolves”), I commended Suns GM Ryan McDonough for having bid farewell to the likes of Michael Beasley. I noted that McDonough had built a team of athletic, competitive and hard-working team players. It is clear that this year’s roster has a collective heart and team commitment that exceeds their individual talent on the Court.
I WAS WRONG: In that same October 31, 2013 posting, I wrote about the possibility of the Suns being in competition for NCAA talents like Jabari Parker of Duke, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, Julius Randle of Kentucky and Aaron Gordon of the U of A in next year’s draft. These guys won’t be on the draft board by the time the Suns’ pick is called but given the depth of next year’s draft, there remain other treasures out there for the Suns to pluck.
I WAS RIGHT (MAYBE): Another prediction from “Hey Suns’ Fans! It’s Not Too Early To Root For the Wizards, Pacers and Timberwolves” was that the Suns might enter Barclay Center in Brooklyn for the 2014 NBA Draft next June with up to four first round picks. For that to happen, the Pacers, Wizards and Timberwolves all had to be at or close to playoff eligible. As of late December, the Pacers are among the best in the league (and would be a number one seed in the playoffs), the Wizards would be in the playoffs (seeded #5 ) if the season ended today and the T-Wolves are only two games out of the last playoff berth in the West, soon to overtake the drowning Lakers. If current trends continue, there will be four first round picks for McDonough and Hornacek to go shopping with, whether allowing them to grab four new high-caliber players or packaging picks to move way up in the draft to nab the upper echelon players.
I WAS WRONG (HAPPILY): I wrote that the Lakers would be vying for one of the last two playoff spots in the NBA Western Conference. More likely, the Lakers will be competing for one of the top lottery picks by the time this season comes to an end. Frankly, as would be true for any self-respecting Suns fan, it feels good to have been wrong about this one.
I WAS RIGHT (BUT A BIT WRONG): On October 31, 2013, I noted in my analysis of the other 29 teams in the league that the Toronto Raptors would create interest, but more likely as mid-season trade bait for the likes of Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. I was right because the Raptors have traded away its top player in Rudy Gay, now a Sacramento King, but was wrong because they didn’t wait anywhere near mid-season to do so. I know this has nothing to do with the Suns but I love being right.
I WAS RIGHT (EVEN WHEN WRONG): In “Hey Suns Fans: Not So Fast!”, I closed by saying the “future is bright.” Where I was wrong about the Suns, it was because that bright future has come much sooner than expected. But where I was right, it was because of the work done by McDonough and Hornacek, who have allowed us all to get excited once again about “our” Phoenix Suns.