This is the first installment of two (look for Part Two in the coming days) previewing the upcoming season based on the significance of the numbers. To get started I kept it simple looking at the context of the numbers 0-9. Ten basic numbers that give signs, omens, and other perspectives on the upcoming season for the Phoenix Suns.
Men lie. Women lie... But numbers do not. Because they are numbers.
Zero Former All-Stars On The Current Roster
The Phoenix Suns are one of six teams this season to enter the year without at least one current or former All-Star on the roster. They join the Charlotte Bobcats, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and the Washington Wizards with that distinction.
Health and trades are the reason why a few teams do not have a current All-Star, but nonetheless the Suns are in this dubious category entering the season.
It takes talent to get to the playoffs and win as we have seen with the last six NBA Champions donning a minimum of two Hall of Fame caliber talents and every other team in contention having similar models. The years of making a run behind one star and depth of quality seems to be history so for those teams, like the Suns, without a dearth of talent, are left so far behind they don't even get the luxury of seeing the dust.
1st Time In Franchise History The Team Has Had Back-to-Back 50 Loss Seasons...
One thing is for certain about the Suns as a franchise; they have been the model of consistency. In the teams 45 year history they have had 30 winning seasons, 29 trips to the playoffs, and two shots at the Championship. There was however a dark period for the Suns back in the 1970's.
Back in 1973-1974 & 1974-1975 the team finished with back-to-back 50+ loss seasons. That was the only stretch of that kind in the franchises history. There were some positive returns from that low point as the team made their first trip to the NBA Finals the following year after losing 102 games and came up just short against the Boston Celtics, but nonetheless they made the jump relatively quickly after being that bad. Sign for the future?
2nd Most Turnover Prone Team In The NBA Last Year...
Last year the team turned the ball over at an alarming rate and the most as a team since Terry Porter tried to grind down the team to a halt in the half-court with Shaquille O'Neal as the teams "center" piece. That is particularly ironic after the team invested in a large free-agent contract with Goran Dragic and drafted Kendall Marshall in the lottery. Both point guards.
This year they continue adding new ball-handlers with Eric Bledsoe (career 3.5 turnovers per 36) and Archie Goodwin (3.6 turnovers per 36 in college) to remedy that.
Three Years Since The Team Last Made The Playoffs...
And oh what a trip to the playoffs that became... The team turned things on at the end winning 14 of their final 16 games cruising into the playoffs as hot as any team in the NBA at that point. That hot streak continued winning eight of their first 10 games including a dramatic sweep of the often ruler holding San Antonio Spurs who, for the first time, saw the shoe on the other foot against the Suns.
The team came away a tip-in away from a Game 7 and the chance at making another trip to the NBA Finals. It was not in the cards, but that memory is the last the Suns have given their fans of positive, winning basketball. As tough as that loss was, I was in a bar filled with Lakers and Suns fans that night, trust me, it was EMOTIONAL for everyone in there, the game itself was the last positive moment the team has displayed on the court in three years.
Four Games In A Row Was The Longest Winning Streak Last Year...
That is tied for the shortest winning streak since Frank Johnson was the head coach in 2003-2004, another 50+ loss season.
Five Times The Suns Won More Than Two Games In A Row Last Year...
That was nearly a league low, but thankfully the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, and the Bobcats played a more consistent brand of inconsistent basketball. The league average was 9.26 times per team of winning at least 2+ games in a row putting the Suns noticeably below the average. Then again the average for non-playoff teams was 6.78 burying the Suns below the playoff line and even further than that, under most of the bad teams in the league.
Six Former Suns Players As Coaches Including Jeff Hornacek This Year...
That list includes Frank Johnson (two seasons with the Suns as a player), John Wetzel (3), Danny Ainge (3), Paul Westpaul (6), and Dick van Arsdale (9) that transitioned from being a player to being the coach.
In the past that has not been a successful pattern as all five of those coaches lasted less than four full seasons on the sideline. Coach Hornacek played for the Suns for six seasons and recently signed a three year to coach the team that drafted him. Omen of the future?
If The Suns Lose Seven More Games Than The Blazers This Season Then...
...they fall another notch down to having the 19th most losses in NBA history. For the team with the team with the 10 most wins and 4th highest winning percentage in league history they are moving up (down) the loss column as well. They have been around for 45 years coming into this season and have accomplished a lot in that time frame, but equal to their previous successes, this current stretch has brought the team back down to earth historically. Ironically the Suns have 70 more wins than the Blazers and have only been in existence for two more years than they have.
This period in Suns basketball will have a lot of negative historical ramifications, but that is required in most cases to get back on track. Very few franchises lose all-time historically great players and seamlessly move into the next phase of winning without a transitional period. This is that period.
Eight Players 24 Or Younger...
(Disclaimer: If you are looking at ESPN then the Suns have nine, but Diante Garrett is no longer on the roster)
Another disclaimer should read: Nearly every team will reduce its roster in the next month waiving some of the younger players signed as Training Camp Invites. Happens every year. This year, for the Suns, they will likely keep most of their young talent because they drafted, traded for, or acquired all of them with a purpose. There will be casualties like Malcolm Lee (too many point guards) or Alex Oriakhi (signed in Europe) shaving off some of the young talent, but regardless of that Bledsoe, Alex Len, Goodwin, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, and Marshall are all a part of the fabric of this rebuilding process.
Nine New Players On The Roster, Counting Channing Frye...
If we include the front office and coaching staff there are too many new faces to count. Basically only Robert Sarver, Lon Babby, Mark West, the training staff, and seven players total are familiar faces. This is a completely new look franchise. That has been the norm for the past 5-6 years with the team changing coaches, front offices, players, and personalities like John Cusack in Identity.