After yet another loss, this time at the hands of Cleveland, it's time to put this season in perspective and admit that the shine is starting to wear off. Gone are the thoughts of 50 wins, the playoffs, numerous awards. Creeping in are doubt, disappointment and reality. After seeing this team begin to wither, I felt inclined to start looking toward next season, which is really what we should have been doing all along. To help start the grieving process, here are 10 facts, yes FACTS, about the Phoenix Suns:
1. Jeff Hornacek will NOT win Coach of the Year - blame Bledsoe's injury, blame a tough 2nd half schedule, blame Robert Horry if you want to. The reality is that a lackluster 2nd half performance will do him in. This team has seen a steady decline in defensive effort, which is what earned them wins and respect early on. They're starting to look more like the Mike D'Antoni Suns as of late, allowing 30+ point quarters like they're going out of style.
2. Miles Plumlee will NOT start for this team next year - After a surprising start that took much of the league by surprise, Miles has been figured out. He's not great defensively or on the boards and he's extremely limited offensively. Having Bledsoe back will help, but Miles has hit the wall and the reality is he's better suited as a backup center for a good team, which the Suns will be next year.
3. The Suns WILL re-sign Eric Bledsoe - with lots of cap space and draft picks galore, the Suns CAN afford to match any offer he gets and CAN'T afford to let him go and possibly become the star they've been hoping he would be. It's just too risky to let him go, even though he has proven very little other than he knows how to get hurt. The reality is that Bledsoe and Dragic are one of the top 3 backcourts in the NBA when healthy.
4. Goran Dragic will be an All-Star next season - because he should have been one this season and he's pissed about it. If he can become a better leader and cut back on the whining he'll have a chance at becoming a great leader. The reality is that Dragic might actually be quite a bit better than Bledsoe, but both benefit from one another. It's a symbiotic relationship. Much like the Morris brothers.
5. The Morrii will BOTH play for the Suns next season - Markieff and Marcus should play on the same team for the rest of their NBA careers. Any GM worth squat should be able to tell that these two need each other to be successful. If you're the Suns, you have to keep them both. Trading one would make the other useless, and trading both would rid you of a really fun pair that continue to improve. The reality is that these guys could switch jerseys and confuse the hell out of defenses without anybody knowing.
6. Gerald Green will NOT win Most Improved Player - the return of Eric Bledsoe immediately puts his chances in jeopardy. He'll probably come off the bench as long as Bledsoe stays healthy, and this will not only reduce his minutes, but it will impact his level of intensity. The reality is that Gerald Green played his ass off while Bledsoe was out, but the last stretch of the season will be quiet for G. Green, which will ultimately kill his chances of winning this award.
7. Channing Frye WILL be traded in the offseason - after an encouraging start to the season, Frye has regressed tremendously. His season is a microcosm of the Suns' season. Didn't expect much, got off to a great start, exceeded expectations, tailed off a bit, now looks like the Frye/Suns of old. Can't get a rebound, can't guard anybody, and now can't hit shots. The reality is that it's time to move Channing Frye while we can still get something for him. A contending team could use him to stretch the floor and knock down some 3s in a bench role, but his days as a starter are over in the NBA after this season.
8. Alex Len will NEVER live up to being a #5 pick - after not seeing him for much of the season, I've seen enough. I didn't like the pick from day one and I haven't seen one thing that makes me feel differently. Big, lanky white guys rarely succeed in this league, especially when they start their career with bad wheels. The reality is that if he was 100% healthy and/or good enough to help this team make the playoffs, he'd be playing more. If he's not healthy yet it's a long-term problem. If he's not good enough yet to at least split minutes with Plumlee, it's a problem for a top 5 pick. I would not be surprised if the Suns find a way to deal him, possibly as part of a Kevin Love deal.
9. Archie Goodwin will end up being better than Len and Plumlee - after an up and down rookie campaign Archie will improve dramatically in the offseason. He has a fire in his eyes that the Suns need. He goes hard, even if it leads to mistakes. With a season under his belt and an offseason to work on his jumpshot I expect to see a substantial increase in minutes for Archie next season, and ultimately the departure of Ish Smith and Leandro Barbosa because of it. The reality is this kid is only 19 and has a ton of raw talent. He just needs some polishing.
10. The Phoenix Suns WILL NOT make the playoffs this year - in case my opening paragraph wasn't clear, let me reiterate. Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? Not gonna happen. Experience and talent (Dallas and Memphis) will win out over youthful exuberance and spotty defense. The reality is that this team has already exceeded so many expectations that we shouldn't be disappointed about this, but we will be. (See my previous post, Welcome Back, Phoenix Suns). It was a great ride, and maybe I'm jumping off a little early, but allowing hope to linger any longer will only make each loss sting that much more. Time to start planning for season 2 of the re-emergence of the real Phoenix Suns. Season 1 was fun and an overwhelming success, even if it's ends up being a massive bummer.