Welcome to the final part of the Suns Preview Series for the 2011-2012 season! Previously, you reveled in riveting prose about the Suns' Wings (mmm...wings!), Forwards/Centers and Point Guards. Let's give these writers a round of applause! Tap the keys on your keyboard a few times with your fingertips and be "heard".
Interestingly, the longest conversation centered around the discussion of our Wings. Maybe that's because the Centers on the team are old news. At the least, people are running out of new things to say until watching Gortat, Lopez and Siler actually play this season. And maybe the Power Forwards are boring because they lack a story-maker like Amare, or even Hedo. At point guard, Nash is Nash. And his backup, <fill in the blank>, is a disaster. Yawn.
Whatever the reason, the preview on the Wings generated more comments than any story not called a 'gamethread' in the past 8 months. Why? Because wing positions are the Suns' biggest flaw. And quite possibly the reason the Suns won't make the playoffs this season.
Which is a nice segue into the focus of today's article...
How will the Suns do, in the shortened 2011-2012 season? And, will they be playing competitive basketball in May?
The Suns are an enigma - but only in the sense that there is no sure-fire reason the Suns will win many (or any) games on their schedule. In the old days, you could chalk up a couple dozen wins on superior talent alone. But alas, these are not the old days. No game is a "sure thing". Lose a key player or two, or simply fail to show enough emotion to carry the day, and BAM. You're looking at a loss, on any and every night.
But that's the Dark Side of the Moon. And that's NOT the name of this blog. Nor is it in the best interest of sane Suns fans to wallow in self(or team)-pity, especially on a holiday.
So hit the jump for some positivity, and a plethora of seasonal predictions from the BSotS staff!
Let's start with some assumptions. The key to any justifiable conclusion is to agree to your basic assumptions. That puts everyone on the same playing field, and only engenders discussion on those conclusions that the author made on their own.
Though I've hinted as much throughout the offseason, there's no value to predicting a long-term Nash or Hill injury. That's just bad karma. So I won't do it.
Assumption #1: Nash and Hill will stay relatively healthy this season!
Another woe-is-me mantra that provides no value - and only bad karma - before the season even starts is to predict zero improvement from our younger (ie. under-30) players. Sure it's possible that some will take a step backwards, or simply remain stagnant, but where does that leave us as fans to openly predict such heinous things? In the depths of self-pitying hell, that's where.
This is the Bright Side of the Sun, for darn sakes!
Lopez, Gortat, Siler, Frye, Warrick, Childress, Dudley... all guys who could improve with more comfort in the system, offseason training and/or better health. Gortat, Siler and Lopez each took pointers from Hakeem the Dream this offseason. Dudley worked tirelessly on his game skills in Vegas and San Diego. Warrick and Chilly... well, they know the system better.
Assumption #2: Some measurable level of growth from the under-30s!
Are there any other assumptions we need to make, as Bright Siders? How about effort? The first preseason game aside, we have to assume the team will play their butts off in every game. To assume otherwise, despite what we've seen in the two preseason games, is just more wallowing in the doom and gloom.
Assumption #3: Consistent Effort from everyone on the team!
Great, so now we have 3 basic assumptions built into my BSotS crystal ball.
(1) Health, (2) natural improvement and (3) effort
If the Suns keep their best players healthy, show incremental improvement in their individual games, and put out the necessary effort every single night, how many games will they win?
I'd say somewhere between 30 to 36 wins out of 66.
Why so low?
Talent. Or, lack thereof.
Sure there's enough talent to win games. Nash is still a borderline all-star who will be top-3 in assists. Gortat has a well-rounded game. Morris has potential, at least the preseason showings. Grant Hill is a BAMF. The Suns offense will still be more efficient than most of its peers.
But, the Suns don't boast a dangerous "go-to" 20-point scorer at any position. They don't boast a defensive system that can shut down opponents when their own offense sputters. And, they don't boast a "closer". Some say Nash is a closer, but I don't agree. He's a great passer, and will generate many open looks throughout the game, but he's not a closer who actually scores the ball when points are needed. He needs someone else to make the basket, be it an open 3-pointer or driving pick-and-roll finish.
For these reasons, I see the Suns going through ups and downs all year long. And, I see the Suns being able to count on at least 2 hands how many games they "coulda shoulda" won but didn't.
In other words, I see a happier team but hardly more success than last year. All we can hope is that health, growth and effort will produce slightly better than average results over the course of the season.
Final Alex Laugan prediction:
34 wins (against 32 losses) and an 8th seed in the playoffs, assuming (1) health, (2) growth and (3) effort.
Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris will be enforcers by the end of the season together, while JD and Grant Hill will ride the wings for the most part around Nash. The Suns' young players (Morris, Gortat, Lopez and Dudley) will provide a glimpse of hope to a future that includes aging Nash and Hill, along with a solid draft pick and a big-spending free agent period.
And now let's hear what a couple of newer BSotS writers have to say...
East Bay Ray's fearless prediction:
36-30 and 8th seed.
Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley will be solid in their first full season as starters, Markieff Morris will shut the silly "lesser brother" criticisms and the Suns will go as far as Steve Nash's back, legs and pubic area will take them. If Nash misses any significant amount of time, this win forecast adjusts way down, but with him the offense will still be above average. The Suns have some quality individual defenders who will mold into an improved defensive team as the season goes on. Gortat, Frye, Morris and Lopez make up a frontcourt that has a chance to be a real team strength. Steve Nash and Grant Hill won't go out with a whimper.
7footer's prediction of doom:
28-38, and out of the playoffs
This may seem a little pessimistic, and honestly I tried to look for reasons that we could win more games...But going through the schedule and looking at what teams we play against, and where we play them, this was my best guess. The two games against the Nuggets in preseason helped to further lend credence to a sneaking suspicion I've had going into the season...that the Suns would not far well against young, athletic teams, even those who are without legit stars to solidify them. Teams like the Nuggets, Grizzlies, Thunder, Clippers, Kings and even the Timbervolves are all the types of teams that I think we will struggle the most against. Oddly enough, I think we will actually fair better playing teams like the Lakers and the Spurs who are more our speed. That's a crazy thing to say for a team whose best legacy was the 7SOL...but we are no longer in that mold.
There you have it, folks. Wins ranging from 28-36 wins, and that's with a healthy team! Simply, the Suns don't seem to have the guns to be a contender, and will need a major team effort just to make the playoffs.
Let's just hope in March we're spending more time talking Suns playoff odds than lottery odds.