On the one hand, I really enjoyed the Phoenix Suns open scrimmage at the Madhouse on McDowell in downtown Phoenix last September. The venue offered nostalgia of the 80s franchise revival, my dad’s old season ticket location and the energy provided by a smaller arena.
But on the other hand, the Suns have a long, long history of using NAU’s Walkup Skydome as the location for their annual open scrimmage to the public before charging fans to watch them play in Phoenix.
This year, they are back in Flagstaff for the annual open scrimmage on October 1 at noon. Anyone and everyone who wants to attend is welcome to get out of the Phoenix heat and make the drive up to Flagstaff’s pine trees and 75 degree weather.
For the third time in the last three chances, BSotS old-timers Sean Sullivan, Jim Coughenour and I will be making the trek up the hill to my alma mater for the day. We’ve been joined in the past by Amin Elhassan, but the ESPN regular’s head might be too big to fit in Sean’s Expedition these days.
What to expect
There’s a few things I expect to see in Flagstaff on October 1:
- Alan Williams, whose contract should be guaranteed next week for the 2016-17 season as an emergency big man when someone inevitably gets hurt next season
- Healthy Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and T.J. Warren
- One or two less guards. While you can keep up to 20 players on your roster until the end of training camp, there’s really no need to bring all of John Jenkins, Archie Goodwin and reported camp invitee Askia Booker to back up the shooting guard spot with Leandro Barbosa, Devin Booker and a rehabbed Brandon Knight already expecting time there.
- A few highlight reel dunks from Marquese Chriss. The scrimmage can be a sleepy, offense-only brick-shot shooting affair, but Chriss’ athleticism could light the fire of a few oohs and ahhs.
Latest win predictions: the bad
Whatever you think of the Suns’ chances to surprise the league this season with a healthy Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and T.J. Warren along with rookies Chriss, Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis and free agent signees Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa boosting the sagging year-end roster we struggled to watch, the rest of the country is understandably skeptical.
Chad Ford released his first mock draft for 2017 yesterday, reminding us of ESPN’s win prediction for the Suns at 26 wins against 56 losses. The projected draft order (and win totals) looks a lot like this year’s order, with the exception that they think the Jazz jump into the clear playoff picture with 45 wins and the Celtics enter the upper echelon with 51 wins. The rest looks pretty much the same.
Latest win predictions: the good
Every year, at least a couple of teams win a lot more games than anyone thought they would as training camps opened and make a surprising run at the playoffs.
In 2013-14, the Blazers (from 33 to 54 wins), Raptors (from 34 to 48 wins) and Suns (from 25 to 48 wins) headlined the upstarts. In 2014-15, it was the Bucks (from 15 to 41 wins) and Pelicans (34 to 45 wins). Last year, the Blazers again surprised the league (from a predicted 15-20 wins to actual 44 wins) as well as the Hornets (33 to 48 wins), among others like Boston and Detroit.
Which teams will surprise this year?
CBSSports.com listed the Phoenix Suns as one of seven teams that could be a lot better than the prediction models suggest. That potential is based solely on the Suns’ injury woes from last year disappearing and their best players having very good years. Other teams that could surprise for one reason or another, according to this article, are Jazz, Bulls, Bucks, Nuggets, Pelicans and Magic.
While it’s certainly possible that the Suns surprise the league and win 40+ games, a lot would have to go right for this to happen.
And like 2013 at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, the makings of a winning formula should be evident as early as their first public scrimmage on October 1 in Flagstaff.
Media Day next up
Not much will happen between now and September 26 - the official “Media Day” where we get a bunch of optimistic interviews and cheesy player pics.
Having said that, McDonough made two trades in 2013 after this point in the summer, shipping off veterans Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown to make room for youngsters.
At the least, we’ll get birdies whispering which players got back to Phoenix early for volunteer workouts and scrimmages leading up to training camp as well as which players ‘added 15 pounds of muscle’ to bulk up for the season. Stay tuned.