How expectations changed after this night in October... Opening night in what will be remembered as one of the most fulfilling seasons of basketball in Arizona in a long while.
This morning as you are rubbing the sleep off your face and getting your morning coffee brewing, take a moment to appreciate what has happened this season. This year was supposed to be the bog of eternal stench for the Phoenix Suns coming off of the worst season in franchise history since the first season in franchise history.
By now you are awake enough to remember that last night the Suns were eliminated from playoff contention. While it is disappointing that the Suns fell short of the playoffs and will be back in the lottery for the fourth year in a row this season was a resounding success.
On all fronts.
Last season the team was leaderless after the leadership cut Alvin Gentry off at the knees and made him a lame duck coach before letting him go mid-season. It was a virtually impossible situation for Gentry being asked to win, groom the young players, and also not look over his shoulder at Lindsey Hunter and Lance Blanks laughing about something in the distance.
The team cleaned house removing nearly all the dead weight from last season and starting a new with a fresh face at General Manager in Ryan McDonough and hiring a dynamic first year Head Coach in Jeff Hornacek.
Both are in the running if not the favorites for Executive of the Year and Coach of the Year. Gerald Green is a candidate for 6th Man of the Year. Goran Dragic is as well for Most Improved and Channing Frye for Comeback Player of the year. While those are all individual awards and do not change the playoff fortunes it is symbolic of how this team really turned things around this season.
Excitement was there for a potential future... Maybe two or three years down the line.
Instead the team surprised everyone in a very positive manner going from 25 wins to to 47 with one more game to add to that total. Slide them into the Eastern Conference and they would have been battling for the the three seed every night. They did that with an exciting brand of basketball and a roster reminiscent of the island of misfit toys. Just call Gerald Green "Charlie in a Box" on any other team, but in Phoenix he is Green Lightning in a Bottle. Miles Plumlee and Ish Smith are buried on any other bench, but contributors in this system.
Hindsight allows us to go back and remember the over/under of 19.5 wins for the Suns that Vegas had. It allows for us to remember the Suns being picked no higher than 29th Overall in the NBA in pre-season Power Rankings across all affiliate networks. The disparity from last year to this year will end being no worse than the third biggest turnaround year-over-year in Phoenix Suns franchise history. In 1988-1989 the Suns won 27 more games than the previous season and in 2004-2005 they won an astounding 33 more games.
This year the Suns will win 22 (or 23) more games than last year.
Lottery or playoffs, pour a shot of perspective in your coffee with your breakfast and enjoy what the team is doing and has done this year.
Of all the teams in the lottery the Suns would willing trade places (situations) with right about zero of them. No team in the lottery has a brighter near future than they do and every team at the bottom is there for a reason. Those teams will be down there looking for an Eric Bledsoe talent while the Suns have one and need to find more P.J. Tucker types or Channing Frye types to sprinkle around him.
Obviously they are not in a position to draft an Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker type with the 14th Overall Pick, but they can add another piece. No team has moved up even one slot in the NBA Draft Lottery from the No. 14 position, but there is a chance... Not to win, but to add another piece to this puzzle.
There is no doubt that missing the playoffs after the team re-wrote the book on who they really were back in December, but have some perspective on how "disappointed" you really are. Would you have rather watched 82 games of the quality of the Milwaukee Bucks or Philadelphia 76ers?
Coach Hornacek and McDonough will take the 14th Overall Pick, turn nothing into something, and aim for the playoffs next year. If nothing else they have proven they can do that already.
The Island of Misfit Toys found a home in the Valley... We all enjoyed the ride and knew that this was a potential final destination. The team made it through the bog of eternal stench and the future looks bright. As you finish your coffee take a moment to appreciate exactly what this Suns team did and represents going forward.