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Checking in on Suns preseason predictions

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Mostly, kind of, sort of, close to right about the Phoenix Suns

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now two weeks away from Christmas and I think that it is a good time to check in on Keith’s preseason Phoenix Suns predictions.

Why is it a good time to check in on those prognostications? Because he’s mostly been right. Would we be checking in if Keith was mostly wrong? No. No we would not.

As posted on October 4th, PREDICTION ONE:

Devin Booker will be named to an All-NBA Team

Hmmmm. Well. I suppose we should start by taking a look at Devin Booker against the other Devin Bookers.

By most metrics this is the best Devin Booker we’ve yet seen. Inside the arc, outside the arc, at the charity stripe, his shooting numbers are the finest in he’s put up in five NBA seasons.

He’s actually shooting less, a credit to the Suns brass surrounding the franchise’s savior with other professional basketball players.

The shooting is all he’s going to be judged by. He’s not a point guard, though we chose to call him that once upon a time. His defense needs only to be forgettable.

So how does Devin Booker measure up among the non-Devin Bookers?

Among eligible guards Book is seventh in scoring at 25.5 points a game. Of the top 20 scorers only Evan Fournier shoots better from behind the arc. Of the top 50, only Ben Simmons has a better FG%.

So what does that mean? Not much. Book’s recognition will be tied to the success of the Suns, for better or worse. Big success for the Suns means awesome individual performances will be recognized. If Phoenix slips he’ll be ignored as he has been in the past.

Today you can’t say that an All-NBA Team selection is likely. But you can’t say it’s impossible. I’d say the odds of an All-NBA Third Team selection are about the same as Oklahoma knocking off LSU in the Peach Bowl.

PREDICTION TWO:

Deandre Ayton will be an All-Star

Well, now, this seems very unlikely.

Ayton has a grand total of one game under his belt this season. He’ll be eligible to play on Tuesday when your Suns have a date with the Clippers in Los Angeles.

Last season NBA All-Star voting kicked off on Christmas Day. So he’s got four games before that. First returns on voting will come back in the first week of the new year. Voting will close near the third week in January.

So what needs to happen? He should probably average 40+ upon his return. A destruction of the Lakers in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day would help. Sprinkle in a couple poster-worthy dunks on LeBron and Anthony Davis, find a way to trash Donald Sterling before leaving town. There’s a new documentary on the Sterling saga that’s being released. That should provide a good jumping-off point for racking up those fan votes.

I’d say the odds of Deandre Ayton being selected for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game are about the same as Bill Belichick calling a press conference to take responsibility for the Patriots-Bengals sideline filming incident.

PREDICTION THREE:

Your Suns will be .500 at Christmas

Oh boy. Now we’re talking. Time to get obnoxious.

I really want to be right on this one. I really, really want to be right. And I want to remind you about it the rest of the season.

Yes, what was once received as nonsense is now clearly an indicator of a revolutionary basketball mind.

As of lunchtime on Wednesday, December 11th, your Suns sit at 11-12, tied for the seventh seed in the West. We have seven games remaining before Santa’s birthday. I’ve done the math for you, that means we need to go 4-3 between now and the 25th.

Dec. 11 Memphis

Dec. 14 San Antonio

Dec. 16 Portland

Dec. 17 at LA Clippers

Dec. 20 at Oklahoma City

Dec. 21 Houston

Dec. 23 Denver

I definitely count three wins. But Phoenix is going to have to steal one somewhere. If Aron Baynes is the same guy we saw in Tuesday’s win over Minnesota, with gradually increasing minutes, the smart money is on four wins. Depending on how Ayton is incorporated beginning next week, we may be looking at five.

I’d say the odds of Phoenix having a .500 record on Christmas are about the same as Arizona State knocking off Florida State in the Sun Bowl.

I just learned that Florida State received a bowl bid. Why is Florida State receiving a bowl bid? What a broken system.

PREDICTION FOUR:

Monty Williams will be named NBA Coach of the Year

Well this is an interesting one. There’s not a lot of recent history of head coaches taking home hardware for winning fewer than 50 games in a season.

Sam Mitchell did it when he lead the Toronto Raptors to a 47-35 record in 2007. I don’t know how many of us are prepared to say that Phoenix is a 47-win team.

Doc Rivers is who we should look to for inspiration. His 2000 Orlando Magic squad finished 41-41, falling a game short of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

While Orlando was a playoff team the year before, they were picked by many to finish last in the conference in 2000.

Sounds a lot like our Suns. You might find some preseason publications that have us finishing in front of Memphis in the West, but you’re not going to find much more than that.

Prior to the start of the season, oddsmakers didn’t feel Williams could guide Phoenix to a significant enough of a leap to warrant COY discussion. In fact, he was tied for the longest odds in the Association.

No doubt he’s made significant gains, but it’s still going to be a mighty hill to climb. You can probably put him on the short list, though. Expectations are different all across the league. Lakers and Clippers, you’re talking championship. Bucks and Nuggets, a Finals appearance may be enough for Mike Budenholzer or Michael Malone to get their hands on a trophy. And Dallas......well I’m a little salty about Dallas’ success so I don’t want to talk about Dallas.

I’d say the odds of Monty Williams being named NBA Head Coach of the Year are about the same as the Buffalo Bills advancing to the AFC Championship Game.

PREDICTION FIVE:

YOUR PHOENIX SUNS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS

I still believe it. I said it before the season started, after the season started, so why would I change course now?

Among the top ten or so teams in the Western Conference there is definitely a line you can draw separating tiers. It’s a top-heavy league, not all that dissimilar to the 2016-17 season. That year both the Warriors and Spurs topped 60 wins, followed by three teams with at least 51 victories.

That allowed a 41-win Portland Trail Blazers team to pick up the eight seed. It was a similar story the year before when Golden State won 73 games and Houston snuck into the playoffs with a .500 record.

It feels like that could be this season. Granted there is a lot of basketball left to play, but as of the second week in December the top five teams in the West are chugging along at a similar pace as those teams in ‘16 and ‘17.

Either way I’m going to tell myself that this is all plausible because it’s the most likely scenario that involves the Suns ending the longest postseason drought in franchise history.

I’d say the odds of your Phoenix Suns going to the playoffs are about the same as the New York Knicks missing them.