Welcome to this new world where your Phoenix Suns never lose.
The world is only a week old, but it’s a lot of fun. It has not been fun for Dallas, Minnesota, New York, and Boston. All have fallen to Phoenix in the last seven days, and the Suns will shoot for five straight Saturday in Washington.
So, how to we live in this new world? Do you have new expectations? Many were optimistic at the beginning of the season. And just last week there was plenty of chatter about how long the Suns would remain in Phoenix. So we’ve had many varied emotions this season. Here’s what the BSOTS team thinks:
I don’t think my expectations have changed at all. This is still a team that is heading nowhere this season. It does give hope for the future though and shows that effort is to basketball what salt is to cooking. It makes everything a little more enjoyable.
Oh and the other thing that has changed is my appetite for spending $15 million to manufacture “veteran leadership”. Give me hustle and hope over that any day.
First, I’m not expecting the Suns to do a complete turnaround and climb up in the standings to contest for a playoff spot. I am starting to expect them to continue to play hard each night, rid themselves of the NBA doormat image that they’ve had and finally look like a team on the way up. In a way, my expectations now are back to almost what they were before the season began.
So, the Suns have won four straight. Most people are shocked. I’m not. Why? Because I knew they would eventually get it together. Unless you’re actually in the locker room, going through the process yourself, it’s hard to have a true understanding of what it takes for an organization to be successful on a consistent basis. Think about this again… brand new coach, a fired GM at the beginning of the season, young players mixed in with some veterans who didn’t want to be apart of that process, no “true point guard” forcing Devin Booker to have to play the point, a position he doesn’t want to play and therefore contributed to another injury, and players getting waived and traded left and right. It’s not easy to maintain a level of focus needed to compete at a high level when all of that is going on. It affects the locker room, which then translates to the court.
It was only a matter of time until Phoenix figured it out and players learned Igor Kokoskov’s coaching style. Also, chemistry takes time especially with rookies but Deandre Ayton has been showing more effort and Booker seems to have figured his big man out. Mikal Bridges has been, well Mikal Bridges, a solid three-point shooter who can get back on the other end and play defense.
Last season, sources close to the organization told me that the Suns needed a culture change and with James Jones as co-GM, that was exactly what the Suns needed, a former player who GETS IT. There was a disconnect between players and the front office, which is changing now for the better. This is just the beginning, I can promise you that.
I also want to note that every article I’ve put out on the Suns has been POSITIVE because I understand what players go through and I get what it takes to build an organization from the ground up. Great things take time and patience is key during that process. Hate to be that person to say ‘I told you so’ but I told you so!
These are the Suns we saw just before Devin Booker reaggravated his left hamstring injury and they’re getting even more out of De’Anthony Melton and Deandre Ayton than they were a few weeks back. That defensive impact and two-way aggressiveness has put them in position to actually win games (FOUR!) rather than just be competitive against good teams. It’s wild to think the identity of an Igor Kokoskov team would start on defense, but he’s manipulated the team’s style to fit personnel and suddenly Phoenix looks as good as it has since the surprise 2013-14 season. Ride the wave.
I don’t know that my expectations have changed. I’ve always predicted 25-29 wins on the year. So far, their win percentage was way below that, but I always expected they’d right the ship in time to finish with high-20s wins. That is, unless the Suns acquire a real bonafide point guard.
My expectations have changed significantly. When the season started I thought they were a 30-win team. One week ago, I entirely thought it was possible that they could finish the season with a win total in the single-digits. Today, I’m back to thinking they could be a 30-win team, which would mean going 22-28 over their final 50 games. Now that I see it in writing it seems like a tall task, but it’s certainly not impossible.
My expectations haven’t changed at all with a four-game winning streak. Don’t mean to kill everyone’s vibe, but this team still isn’t going to win more than 23-27 games this season.
No need to worry, that’s okay.
As I alluded to in my column comparing the 2018-19 Suns and 2008-09 Thunder, they are still a year away from really taking that legitimate leap. However, legitimate progress is a breath of fresh air. Also, you can’t ignore the chemistry factor. The Suns are obviously gelling at the right time when their schedule is easiest.
The young core has looked better, especially a more motivated Deandre Ayton since his benching in Portland. Also, it seems like Josh Jackson’s all-around impact is really starting to show through. Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. are two long, versatile wings who help build their defensive identity alongside De’Anthony Melton.
This answer still feels rather incomplete until we pass February’s trade deadline. Kind of impossible to predict how they finish until then, in case they finally acquire a starting-caliber point guard.
Moving forward, I expect way more competitive outings but here’s who the Suns face on their longest homestand of the season starting at the end of this month: Oklahoma City, Denver, Golden State, Philadelphia, Los Angeles (Clippers), Charlotte, and Sacramento.
Check back in with me around February and I’ll have a more definitive answer for you.