Many of the Phoenix Suns players set personal milestones in a year they might finish with the most wins by a non-playoff team in league history, since instituting a 16-team playoff format.
Before we start rosterbating, let's review a few milestones the Suns reached this season, courtesy of the Suns stats guys who get to spend oodles of time finding this stuff.
- If the Suns beat Sacramento on Wednesday, they would tie the Golden State Warriors (2007-08) for most wins by a non-playoff team (48) since the 16-team format was introduced in the 70s.
- Overall, the Phoenix Suns have 4 of the top 6 all-time NBA seasons of most wins by a non-playoff team, including 46 in 2009, 48 in 1971 and 49 in 1972. Only two other teams make the "best of the bridesmaids" list at 46+ wins for non-playoff team: Seattle Supersonics (47 in 1972) and the Warriors.
- Before you complain too much about the East being terrible, if they only picked the "top 16" teams to make the playoffs, rather than 8 per conference, the balance would tip only to the Suns and drop out the Hawks. The conference break out would be 9 in the West vs. 7 in the East, though the Suns would be at least a 12-seed in the 16 team bracket.
- Goran Dragic will become only the FOURTH NBA player EVER to put up a 20/5/50/40 season.
Goran Dragic had 14 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists tonight. His five steals tied a career-high (fourth time doing so) and also tie a Suns' season-high. Dragic would need 12 assists in the finale at Sacramento on Wednesday to reach 6.0 assists per game for the season, and thus join LeBron James (2012-13-MVP) and Larry Bird (1984-85-MVP, 1986-87, 1987-88) as the only players to post at least 20 points, 6 assists and 50% field goal percentage and 40% three-point percentage in a season. As it stands, by exceeding 20/5/50/40 for the season, Dragic joins James, Bird and his head coach Jeff Hornacek (20.1 points, 5.1 assists, .512 FG%, .439 3FG% with the Suns in 1991-92) as the only four players in NBA history to post at least 20 points, 5 assists, 50% field goal percentage and 40% three-point percentage.
- The Suns may have found their long-term answer in the back court despite the unorthodox lineup. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are 23-11 as a starting duo, despite not being flanked by any big men All-Stars and despite losing their last 2 contests together.
- Even better, they are 16-0 when both reach 16+ points in the same game. Goran Dragic did not reach 16 points in either of his last two games as he battled an ankle injury that would have sidelined him any other time of year.
- Markieff Morris has scored 1100 points off the bench, which is the MOST in the NBA, and has become only third player in Suns history to score that much off the bench. Only Dan Majerle (1,143 points in 1991-92) and Eddie Johnson (1,339 in 1988-89) have topped that mark.
- Markieff Morris also leads all NBA reserves in rebounds (479), double digit scoring games (58) and double-doubles (11) off the bench.
- P.J. Tucker, winner of the Majerle Hustle Award for the second year in a row, is one of only 4 NBA players 6'6" or under to average at least 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in an NBA season. Only Jason Kidd, Steve Francis and Kobe Bryant have done it.
- Gerald Green scored so much, the points he scored this year already represents 58% his career TOTAL points coming into this year, over 6 NBA seasons. His points per game (just under 16) have nearly doubled his career average.
- Besides Dragic, none of those guys above makes more than $3 million per year, and only P.J. Tucker is a (restricted) free agent this summer
Those are just a few of the milestones reached this year by Suns players, not even mentioning Channing Frye's amazing comeback from a heart ailment and the fact that every player has had career years under the tutelage of Jeff Hornacek and his staff.
Coach Hornacek, after the loss on Monday night:
"Obviously we are out of the playoffs now, so we just told them that they had a great year. They proved a lot to us as coaches, the organization, and they probably proved a lot to themselves of what kind of players they are. We basically told them that we were proud to coach them because they listened, they tried to do everything we asked, they came in and worked hard the whole year and that's a great sign and a great foundation that we put together for going forward."
Big cheers for the 2013-14 Suns!