Think back with me to fall 2008. The summer was ending. The leaves were turning (in places that have leaves) and the previews were overflowing with hope.
Jeff from the great Celticsblog.com (the blog is great, not the Celtics) coordinated a league-wide blogger preview series which solicited input from all of us.
At the time, we were pretty much the only Suns blog so we were the only participant in the preview series. Now it's time to look back at what we said and have our accountability moment.
Btw - next time you see ESPN or Fox Sports or any other main stream analyst go back and evaluate their predictions you let me know. K. Thx.
Key Losses Departures and Key Additions:
We ran through the list of names coming and faces going but predicted the addition of this:
Defense, rebounding, toughness and accountability
Prediction Grade. D
Defense got worse and rebounding stayed about the same. Physical toughness improved somewhat but it was pretty low to begin with and mental toughness certainly declined (and it wasn't exactly a strength of this team either).
Accountability was really the key. We heard Amare the other day complain that Porter wouldn't let him do what he wanted to do on the floor. Barbosa talked about having the team's shot selection monitored. Porter tried to hold the team accountable and the team resisted.
In the end, it was the sheriff that got run out of this western town while the free-wheeling banditos were left standing.
You can argue that's for the best and that you want to see up-tempo high scoring basketball and that's fine. Just remember for every action there is a reaction and in this case that means defense. Or lack of defense to be more specific.
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
Here we looked at each of the new faces and made some specific predictions.
The Dragic...He won't score much but will lead rookies in assists will impress with his passing, vision and general smoothiness with the ball.
Prediction grade: C
Hmmmm, he didn't exactly live up to that hype did he. We won't even look at total assists or assists per game because those numbers reflect playing time. Out of all rookies, he did finish 6th in assists per 48 minutes and 13th in assist/turnover ratio. Not exactly stellar but we did at least see significant improvement as the year progressed.
Rookie Lopez He's a super charged guy who like most young super-charged guys will likely pick up tons of fouls and be wildly inconsistent this year. I do think he will blossom into a very nice NBA center which the Suns desperately need since the other one is kind of...senile
Prediction grade: B
Did a little better on this one. In the fouls per 48 minute category, Robin finished at the #11 spot with 7.6. Mostly of the guys ahead of him though were nobodies like Sun Yue who had lead the stat with an impressive 17.1. The only "named" guys ahead of Robin were Greg Oden with 8.7 and Roy Hibbert with 10.2 per 48 minutes.
Robin languished on the bench most of the season mainly due to the amazingly revitalized play of that senile old guy. No one thought that Shaq's only missed games would be voluntary and that he wouldn't end up missing 20 or so with hip or other frailties that affect the elderly.
With more playing time and stern talking to from The Big Professor, Lopez came on late in the season and showed more intelligent play and signs of improvement. I still think he possess a great package of tools but wonder if he has the desire to put in the work needed to get better. This summer will be very telling for Robin.
Matt Barnes will be back to being Matt Barnes of two years ago. He will start in front Grant Hill (an idea I love because it brings Hill off the bench with Dragic). Barnes is an intense guy that brings another level of tough to Phoenix. He's basically Raja Bell but bigger and with more tattoos. And he can drive and finish too and might even play point guard!?!
Prediction grade: C
He can also show an incredibly poor sense of timing when it comes to jacking up three's. Oh, and that whole Hill of the bench thing didn't turn out so well either.
Alando Tucker is most likely to surprise folk. After four great years as a power forward at Wisconsin he's going to play shooting guard for the Suns. He's great in the lane both on the glass and taking his man to the post and he can shoot well from mid-range and decent from 3. Mostly I am impressed with his on-court maturity. He doesn't look like a guy who barely played in his rookie year. He's going to get some notice this year and he deserves it.
Prediction grade: Incomplete
This one is tough. I still stand behind everything I said but as it turned out, he was battling knee problems all season and never had any kind of consistent opportunity to play.
And then there's that entire new coaching staff thing and the whole ditching of the run-n-gun and something I think they call D Fence?
Prediction grade: F
I think we've said enough on this point.
Notice that Lou Amundson didn't even warrant a prediction and of course no one could have predicted Dudley would ending up here. Just goes to show that an NBA season is very unpredictable.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
With all the drama from Shaq's mouth and Nash's back and Porter's making the guys do defensive slides in practice the reality is that Amare Freaking Stoudemire is the most offensively dominant player in the game.
Now that he will have a full year playing the power forward instead of being mismatched against bigger-assed Centers we will see that the man actually can play defense as well. We will also see eye protection become cool again. It's about time.
And yes, Steve Nash is still alive and kicking and at least the 3rd or 4th best point guard in the West. Older. Wiser. Still the best pure shooter in the game.
Prediction grade: F for Amare. A+ for Nash
Oh, Amare...so often you disappoint. From ditching the goggles to giving up on your promise to be a feared defensive player. Without the holding and hugging you craved from your coach you retreated into a shell of bitter disappointment. And you totally ruined my prediction for you. Thanks
Nash on the other hand was exactly what I said he was.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
The Suns are pretty well balanced at all positions and have a nice mix of vets and youth. They will likely struggle as most teams do getting used to a new style of play that includes a motion oriented offense that milks the clock and an emphasis on defense.
Beyond that, the Achilles heal is at Center. We know the Big Heal will probably only play 40-50 games and leaves leave Rookie Lopez carrying a lot of the load. Behind him you end up having to move Amare or Boris Diaw back to the pivot and neither is a good choice. There are also some signals that Pony Boy Amundson will back up Lopez during Shaq's nap time(s).
Prediction grade: B
I got the details wrong regarding Shaq's playing time and Lopez' role as the back up but the main point here was spot on. The Suns lack of front court depth was a huge hole made worse by the trading of Diaw and the Eye of Amare.
4. What are the goals for this team?
- Limit the number of restraining orders
- Adjust to Porter's new "work the clock" style
- Hold teams to under 44 FG% and about 98 points per game
- Avoid too many foot-in-mouth incidents
- Make it back to the Western Conference Finals (I give this about a 20% chance)
- Make Chad Ford eat his words
Prediction grade: D
- Somewhat true. Chad Ford said the Suns would be "very ordinary". They were much worse then that
5. How many fans will the Suns have after people realize they are playing like the Pistons?
Great question. We've already seen the bandwagon lighten and good riddance. The Suns needed to change and since their old coach wouldn't budge, they pulled the trigger on a new guy.
Some people will mourn the passing of the D'Antoni era and for all the excitement he brought and the credit he earned, it was time to move on. Letting the other team score quickly so that you can run it back on them was a blast. So was disco.
So bandwagon fans - you are always welcome in LA. Or New Orleans. Or Philly for that matter.
Suns fans are looking forward to a season of lowered expectations and back to basics basketball. Call us the Little Hot Fundamental.
Predicted Record: 55-27 (why change a good thing)
Overall Prediction Grade: D+
Uh...well....I guess the disco fans won on this one. Boring just isn't a good fit in Phoenix. And about that 55 win prediction? At least I wasn't as bad as Clipper Steve who predicted 41 wins for his team. Ouch.
For more fun with accountability, be sure to check out this great post on Ball Hype with fancy charts and everything show how each team did realative to their bloggers predictions. The winner goes to 48 Minutes of Hell who accuruately predicted the Spurs would have 54 wins. Damn Spurs. Even their bloggers win everything.