The Phoenix Suns had a disappointing week, going 1-3 with the only win coming at home against a Sacramento Kings team sans DeMarcus Cousins, but there are plenty of teams out West with a similar tale of woe after the season's first two weeks.
The West is still rife with loaded contenders such as the Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, and of course the Warriors, who should really be in a separate conference consisting of Godlike teams from past lore. One could probably include the Jazz in this discussion, who are at 4-2 and picking up right where they left off after last season's All-Star break, leading the NBA with a 92.8 Defensive Rating.
That leaves the Trail Blazers (4-3) and Timberwolves (3-2) as the only other West teams with a record above .500, and both teams have an obvious "let's wait till Christmas" feel about them, as they were expected -- for good reason -- to fall well short of the playoff picture.
Then there is the trio of 2015 playoff teams that have displayed some serious red flags.
New Orleans, widely expected to make an encore playoff appearance on the heels of an MVP-level season from Anthony Davis, has yet to win a game. Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, Norris Cole, Quincy Pondexter and even Kendrick Perkins are all out with injuries, and Jrue Holiday is currently being held out from playing the second game of back-to-backs. Ish Smith started in their most recent defeat, and Toney Douglas has been playing almost 20 minutes per game.
The Grizzlies are currently at 3-4 -- certainly not a disastrous start -- but have looked quite terrible on multiple occasions during their first seven games. They are currently 29th in Offensive Rating and 23rd in Defensive Rating -- leading to a handful of embarrassing defeats, including a 30-point loss to Cleveland on opening night, a 50-point loss in Oakland and a 19-point loss in Portland. Their only wins have come against the Pacers, the Boogie-less Kings, and the winless Nets.
Dallas has looked pedestrian since humiliating the Suns on opening night, suffering an average margin of defeat of 13.6 in their three losses, including a 14-point loss at home to the Hornets. Their second-leading scorer behind Dirk is currently Deron Williams, whose current 3P% (.389) would be his best since the 2007/08 season, and they're giving regular minutes to Dwight Powell and Jeremy Evans. It's only natural to wonder if maybe they are overachieving at 3-3.
If the Suns can figure out a way to improve their broken halfcourt sets (currently ranked 5th in pace but 22nd in ORtg) and string together a few wins, they might suddenly find themselves in a situation where they can shoot beyond the eighth seed. The West is still a fiercely talented conference, but the early signs indicate that it won't be as exclusive as the Suns have found it to be during the last number of years.
Monday, November 2 @ LA Clippers: L 96-102
Wednesday, November 4 vs Sacramento: W 118-97
Friday, November 6 vs Detroit: L 92-100
Sunday, November 8 @ Oklahoma City: L 103-124
The week got off to a promising start after a hard-fought loss to the hated Clippers at the Staples Center. The Suns made a close game out of it despite a combined 10-39 shooting night from Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. They took out their frustrations on the Kings at home, going 14-23 from deep to make a laugher out of it.
Then the wheels began to slowly fall off. First the Pistons slowed down the Suns' attack, lulling them into a snoozer of a loss in Phoenix, then the Thunder simply blew the doors off. A stellar performance by Bledsoe was flushed away, in large part thanks to 23 Suns turnovers.
Stat Lines of the Week
The Good: Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe looks more comfortable leading the charge with each passing game. It's just a shame that his teammates so often neglect to join him.
He went off for 20 points in the first half, finishing the game with 28 points on 15 field goal attempts, adding 11 assists. Something about going up against the Thunder really gets Eric fired up.
Durant on what was going on between him and Bledsoe in the fourth: "E-Bled talks a lot of sh--. And I'm a major sh--talker myself."— Royce Young (@royceyoung) November 9, 2015
The Bad: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
You really gotta keep KCP under 80% shooting to win.
The Ugly: Markieff Morris
You know it was a bad week when Brandon Knight's turnover octuplets didn't even make the cut here. Kieff's game against the Clippers perfectly encapsulates the chasmic disconnect between his .416 TS% and 28.1 USG%.
On the horizon...
Thursday, November 12 vs LA Clippers
Saturday, November 14 vs Denver Nuggets
The Suns get three days off to reflect on their poor showing during the last few days, as they won't tip off again until Thursday against those lovable Clippers, which kicks off a four-game homestand. If they can't get right against the Clips, hopefully a home game on the weekend versus a rather bad Nuggets team will do the trick.
Surely the 676 children that Bright Side of the Sun readers and contributors are sending to the game will be appropriate motivation for our boys in orange.