When the Phoenix Suns schedule came out on Monday, I anticipated doing what I’d done in prior years: pouring over the schedule to predict wins, losses and playoff likelihood for our beloved home town team.
But my interest waned before it even began.
The 2017-18 season is not about wins and losses.
It’s not about #TheTimeline either. In concept, #TheTimeline only cares about 2-3 years down the road. Not this upcoming season.
The 2017-18 season is about progress, which can come in many shapes and sizes.
Can GM Ryan McDonough show progress in his ability to build a sustainable winning roster?
Can coach Earl Watson show progress in his game-planning and rotational decisions in his second full year as a head coach at any level?
Can Devin Booker show progress in his efficiency on offense, making him one of the best guards in the league?
Can Marquese Chriss and the other young guns show progress in their rise to become respectable NBA rotation players?
The Suns as a franchise need to show progress in their ability to attract fans’ interest in the team again.
All these factors are inter-related, and will give the Valley a clearer view of the near future of the Suns franchise as the games begin this October.
Yes, the Suns will play 82 games again this year, just like last year. 41 of them will be on the road, while the other 41 will be at home.
And since the Suns can’t play themselves, they have the misfortune of earning the league’s “toughest” schedule in 2017-18. Thanks, Warriors.
Every NBA team's 2017-18 strength of schedule ranked by 2016-17 W-L% and Pythagorean Expectation. Suns toughest, Cavaliers easiest. pic.twitter.com/DR11MeuWNW— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) August 15, 2017
Having the league’s toughest schedule isn’t the worst development, given that a team relying on 19 and 20 year olds probably was going to lose a lot of games no matter what. So why not go down in epic fashion and earn that top pick next spring? Luka Doncic could be a gem at point guard. Local talent Marvin Bagley III could be a star in the middle. There’s a few other blue chippers as well.
On a good note, we find out earlier than ever if the Suns can compete as they enjoy their season opener at home in Talking Stick Resort Arena against the Portland Trailblazers on October 18.
The league stretched the schedule out another 10 days this year to reduce back-to-backs (Suns have 15 of those) and 4-games-in-5-days stretches (Suns have 0).
On another good note, I am in the midst of finalizing plans for our annual Bright Side Night, where WE as a community send underprivileged kids to their first NBA game! We’ve sent more than 2,000 kids to games over the past two seasons, and this season I’d like to DOUBLE that! We are eyeing one of those home games in November. I’ll keep you posted as more details graduate from pencil to ink.
Other than that, it doesn’t really matter who the Suns play on what night. They only have to show progress this season. How that “progress” is defined, we don’t even know yet.
All we have to do now is survive the most boring month on the NBA calendar. The end of August can’t come soon enough.