Not the lineup we predicted in the preseason. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Last fall, the BSotS staff put together a series of Season Preview articles, culminating with my "Summary and Forecast" article. Overall, the preview was written with a Bright-Side optimistic bent, drizzled with a healthy does of doom and gloom forecasting.
(scroll down the left-hand bar on BSotS home page to check out each article. Or, click on the Summary and Forecast link above. The first paragraph of that article has links to the others.)
Back then, a number of us were anticipating the season through purple-and-orange colored lenses. Hedo manning the PF spot. Robin Lopez producing a near All-Star season. Hakim Warrick giving us an Amare-lite. Josh Childress and the wings improving on the Suns' perimeter defense.
But of course the Suns rotation consisted of 2 Centers, 2 Point Guards and 6 Wings. That might not have been the season's death nell. Just look at Denver Nuggets. After the Carmelo Anthony trade, that's exactly the makeup of their rotation and it's producing incredible results.
But the Suns' version fell flat on its face.
At its best, this team may be well-oiled, supremely maintained and able to hit 60 in less than 6 seconds, but ultimately it's a cobbled-together pile of spare parts built around a 240,000 mile engine.
Reasons the Suns will suck
- No lowpost scoring, unless Lopez is playing (and that's iffy still)
- No interior defense at PF. Turk is more likely to be injury-prone due to excessive banging.
- Health - aging Nash and Hill and Turkoglu, plus injury-prone Lopez
- Lack of all-star quality closer on the court alongside Nash
- J-Rich's expiring contract will not be as valuable as hoped
- Inevitable regression to the mean. Frye, Dudley, Lopez, Dragic, Hill. All exceeded expectations last year to surprise the opposition. Logic says at least one will regress, if not a few of these guys.
That was my preseason list of things that could go wrong, and they all seemingly did. I forget what lowpost scoring even looks like. Defense, health, dearth of closers and regression to the mean all bit the Suns in the butts themselves.
Here's a good laugh:
Reasons the Suns will prosper
- Smarter basketball. Hedo and Childress are smart players.
- 4-out offense is tough to defend. Just ask Orlando. You can't double the post because the Suns will have 4 guys hanging on the outer perimeter until someone slashes to the basket.
- Aggressive, disruptive perimeter defense
- Amare's remaining 5.7 million TPE and movable assets, along with Suns still 8 million under lux tax. Reinforcements can be had for little to nothing, if necessary (ie. lots of injuries)
- Depth at wing positions and playmakers
- Alvin Gentry will get the most out of this rotation
#2 kinda came true, as the Suns produced some nice offensive numbers with Hedo and JRich in the fold. But their defense was the worst the NBA has seen in many years. The worst.
Otherwise, none of those actually helped the Suns "prosper".
Hindsight is 20/20
Prescience, in the form of BSotS and SBNation writers:
Jose Romero (SBNation AZ):
(most disappointing player)
"Goran Dragic. Regresses after decent 2009-2010. His shooting will be there but the Suns will be looking for a more true point guard when they see that Dragic is struggling to run the team and grasp offense/defense."
"This season I think the Suns will be battling for the final 2 Playoff seeds with San Antonio, Memphis, Houston and the Clippers. I think Memphis makes the leap (with Mayo, Gasol and Gay all maturing and carrying them) into the 8th seed and San Antonio wraps up the 7th leaving the Suns, Rockets and Clippers as the odd teams out."
Trevor Paxton (BSotS):
"The Suns are going to be a bubble team this year. The teams we will be fighting out for the 7 or 8 seed will be San Antonio, Memphis, New Orleans, and the Clippers. I think San Antonio has enough veteran gusto to snatch the 7 seed, so that leaves the Grizz, the Hornets and the Clips. Of those three (four including us), I think the Grizzlies will take the cake, leaving us out to dry. We will finish 10th in the Conference, missing the playoffs."
Of course, Trevor wasn't perfect though. He next predicted the Suns' non-Nash MVP:
"Josh Childress. While his averages prior to leaving the NBA were already pretty solid, he is going to have a monster year. Playing in a wide open style where he is (mostly) free to wander the court, Childress will find himself with more offensive opportunities than he's ever had. On top of that, I think he has the potential to be the team's leading rebounder - whether that's a good thing or not. Overall, I feel Chilly is going to have a great season, and who knows - maybe even pick up 6th Man of the Year honors?"
Of course, there were other terrible predictions as well...
Wil Cantrell (BSotS):
(regarding biggest storyline of a positive nature)
"Alvin Gentry coaches his squad through front office and locker room changes to a winning season. The season starts slow as the second unit has trouble establishing their roles. However, they recover to win 12 straight games down the stretch to gain the 8th seed and knock out the stupid Spurs. The new acquisitions: Turk, Chill, and Warrick learn the system and fit in like Suns jigsaw puzzle pieces."
(predicting the season's most disappointing player)
"Channing Frye. Cannot find his touch and proves more worthless defensively than a year ago when asked to play PF and hit the rack."
Alex Laugan (BSotS):
I personally see the Suns hitting 50+ wins and a top-6 playoff seed. Why so optimistic? Because except for the Porter/Shaq season, 54 wins and 6 seed are the low water marks for the modern Nashian Age. The team's style is going to be so different from everyone else's that the regular season should be pretty successful, simply because the opponent will be unfamiliar with their offense.
And I wouldn't put it past Gentry to come up with equally unexpected defensive schemes. The zone was surprisingly effective against the Lakers in the WCF. Maybe they'll use it again this year. Other teams are working on the zone in preseason, citing the Suns as a successful example. Even moreso, the Suns are going to be aggressive in the passing lanes. Disruption is the key word going about lately.
Good thing Wil and I aren't the only ones on BSotS making predictions.
Over the next few weeks, you'll see player recaps as well as coach and front office evaluations from the 2010-2011 season. Before we start, I thought we ought to take a trip down memory lane to remind ourselves that hindsight is MUCH MUCH easier than foresight.
What was YOUR preseason prediction for the Suns?
I knew this team would miss the playoffs all along (87 votes)
I really thought Hedo would work out better (145 votes)
I figured Nash would carry the team to 50+ wins regardless (137 votes)
I can't believe the Suns are not a Top 4 seed! (22 votes)
391 total votes