The Phoenix Suns will indeed play 82 games next season in the National Basketball Association, as confirmed by the NBA schedule makers who published a game-by-game schedule and everything.
Check out the whole schedule here.
Let’s break down some of the most notable details and analysis of the Suns schedule.
Opening season at home October 26 against Kings
Devin Booker will play against his former Kentucky teammate, Willie Cauley-Stein, in the Suns home opener. Oh, and Boogie will be there too.
In all, the Kings and Suns will field eight - EIGHT - former Kentucky Wildcats. The Kings got all the big men: DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere. The Suns got all the guards: Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyler Ulis and Archie Goodwin.
Speaking of Trill, just off his rookie year, the Suns will field six players younger than the 23 year old center/forward on opening night: Booker, Ulis, Goodwin, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and T.J. Warren.
Three teens at once
Speaking of young, I don’t know if even having three teenagers on a roster is a record or anything, but the Phoenix Suns will likely become the first team in NBA history to play three teenagers in the same game on October 26 against the Kings (knocking on wood for good luck against injuries).
Booker will be 19 until October 30, Chriss will be 19 all season, and Bender won’t even turn 19 until mid-November.
I did a very scientific, exhaustive search using brute force with the basketball-reference.com play index and could not find any NBA team that has ever had more than two teenagers at once. The Wolves have had a pair of teens for two years in a row (Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, then Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones), while the Bucks recently had Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Other two-teen pairings have happened in the past (including Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler way back when), but no one has played three at once. In fact, some teams have never even had three teens, period.
Road heavy start
Despite opening the season at home, the Suns will play 11 of their first 16 games on the road. Their only home games before Thanksgiving are against the Kings, Warriors, Blazers, Pistons and Nets. Three of those teams made the playoffs last year.
Frankly, this sets up nicely to make sure the young Suns don’t get off to a hot start and feel pressure to play the old guys as many minutes as possible all season.
Toughest post-break schedule in league
If you were hoping the Suns would surprise the league and fight for a playoff spot in the second half of the season, your hopes could be dashed by the league’s toughest post-All-Star schedule.
Strength of schedule rankings for all 30 NBA teams: Overall, Pre/Post-ASG (with differential), and by month. pic.twitter.com/s0wZSBhvrw— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) August 12, 2016
Great work by Jared Dubin here. This strength of schedule is, of course, based on 2014-15 records and we all know teams change year over year, but at this point it appears the Suns have the 4th toughest schedule on the whole, and the very toughest after the break.
Now let’s look closer
The Suns have one of the easier schedules before the All-Star break, but the second-half schedule is SO daunting the overall season’s SOS is 4th toughest in the league.
Here’s month to month.
The Suns have an incredibly tough December, January and April. If you factor in one of their easier months - November - is almost exclusively loaded with road games, the Suns schedule gets even tougher than this.
You might recall that Devin Booker scored 30+ points in more than a handful of games last year. That puts him in very rare company. Only Kevin Durant (7), Carmelo Anthony (10) and LeBron James (20) have ever had more than Booker’s six 30-point games as a teenager.
Book has two more chances - October 26 against the Kings and October 28 against the Thunder - to pass or tie Durant on that list before he turns 20 years old.
New Year’s Eve in Utah?!
This one’s for you, Scott Howard.
Only thing I care about with the NBA schedule is making sure the Suns spend another New Years Eve in Oklahoma City with their best friends— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) August 11, 2016
Welp. A weird tradition appears to be over. The Suns will play the Utah Jazz on December 31, the first time in five years the Suns won’t be in Oklahoma City.
It’s a good thing almost half the roster isn’t old enough to buy alcohol, so they won’t be disappointed about bar choices in Salt Lake City on NYE after the game.
Scott seems to be taking the disappointment well.
The Suns schedule is best summed up as follows: They open with the Kings. They close with the Kings. They play 80 times in-between.— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) August 11, 2016
National TV? We don’t need no stinkin’ national TV!
Don’t hold your breath for lots of free Suns games if you don’t live in the Phoenix area. The Suns are currently scheduled to appear on ESPN only two times all year (December 9 vs. Lakers and February 10 vs. Bulls) and two times on TNT (January 30 vs. Grizzlies and March 9 vs. Lakers).
Counting 7 NBATV appearances, the Suns will only appear outside the Phoenix metro area 11 times this season.
Of course, NBATV rotates Tuesday night “Fan Night” games and has the flexibility to add more games as it wants. In addition, ESPN has some flexibility in its schedule as well. If the Suns are exciting enough they might get on national TV more than those 11 times.
But the opposite can be said as well. If the Suns awful and painful to watch, ESPN and NBATV might just drop them from some pre-scheduled appearances in favor of other exciting teams.
Stay tuned... to Fox Sports Arizona and their menu of three rotating commercials all season long.
Or, if you’re lucky enough on League Pass, you’ll get to hear other teams’ announcers botch their analysis of the Suns while extolling the opponent.
All in all, it’s a great schedule for a team that should be playing hard but losing most of its games next year. The best outcome would be to play the kids a lot, show uber-promise for the future and still end up with a Top 5 pick next June.
Suns coach Earl Watson is going to have to truly believe this mantra he shared with me recently.
“For us, it’s never been about winning and losing games,” Watson said to Bright Side. “Or building good basketball players.
“It’s about the connection and the relationship we build with our players, having them become men of character and, I really mean this, helping them see beyond the sport of basketball and be productive in our society and as professionals after they retire. So that message has to carry.
“The more love we spread, the more positive role models we create in our community. We have guys who are upbeat, positive, creative and most importantly, they never complain. They always find resolution and they deliver it in an uplifting way, which is why I love all the guys we have."
Let’s hope we can still say that about Earl and co. later this year.