With Suns basketball right around the corner (12:30 p.m. MST on Friday), it’s time to get our predictions on paper so that you all can tell us how wrong we were in a few weeks.
The Suns have eight games in Orlando to try to get in position for the play-in games for the NBA playoffs, perhaps most importantly, eight more games than the rest of the league to improve chemistry and develop their individual games.
Let’s see where everyone on our staff stands heading into Friday’s tipoff.
First off, now that we’re here, do you think it was worth it for the Suns to go to the Bubble after all?
John Voita: Absolutely. The experience that the organization will gain, from Monty and his staff to the bonds created between players, is unquantifiable. A team that is so young and learning to win rarely has a chance to play minutes that are meaningful. In Orlando they get that chance. Should they be there is a different question, but I am pleased that they made the cut and had an opportunity to grow.
Sam Cooper: I was on the fence when the bubble was announced, but two things have convinced me. First, this bubble—and all other professional sports bubbles like it—are proving to be effective at keeping the virus at bay. The Suns are ultimately much safer in that environment than they would be in Arizona right now. But secondly, it’s the amount of hype I’ve seen online from Suns fans these past couple weeks, even though we all know the odds of making the playoffs are slim to none. This fanbase is more resilient than many around the league may think, and after a few positive scrimmages I’m very excited to see the players mesh.
Zona Sports: Honestly I was a bit skeptical of this entire thing to begin with, but now that we’re seeing the encouraging results from the negative tests and strict league procedures it looks like there’s a real possibility that the bubble is a safe environment that will allow the NBA season to actually conclude. The scrimmages alone have already looked to be a valuable developmental setting for Mikal Bridges and has allowed Deandre Ayton to tee up and knock down a couple three pointers as well. Phoenix faced a ton of inconsistency in the rotation with the Ayton suspension and injuries throughout the year, so these games will give them some much needed reps to enhance their continuity and team chemistry. At this point I can confidently say it is worth it.
Matthew Lissy: It was worth the three scrimmage games for the Suns to be here. The Suns can do the most with this opportunity out of any team in the bubble. With a national audience watching and the young and future players playing, it’s a way to put themselves on the map going into next season.
Khaleel Abdullah: Absolutely. Even if the team doesn’t surpass expectations, just the fact that they got some recognition from the league and were invited is good for them. These next eight games are the closest to the playoffs that the Suns have been in a decade. If they don’t make the actual playoffs, they still get a lottery pick. If they do, oh boy! For Phoenix, there is really nothing to lose in this situation in my opinion.
Dave King: Oh my god, yes. As Monty says, they’ve gotten years worth of team development out of these Bubble weeks because it’s been 24/7 together. The players all agree, too. They’ve talked about it openly. Also, we get to see Mikal and Cam blossom early! (sorry, Ty, maybe next season in 3 months). And they didn’t even have the requisite 40% offseason turnover each team has to endure. Yes, yes, yes, this has been worth it!
Brendon Kleen: We’ve gone two weeks without any positive tests at the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. If everyone is safe, I don’t see how you could not see the value in an entire six extra weeks of practices as well as 11 games (including the scrimmages).
What will the Suns’ record be in the eight seeding games?
JV: I tend to be a realist in these situations, especially considering that (minus the Washington Wizards game) they are playing playoff caliber competition. When the schedule was released it had 3-5 written all over it. But factor in their youth, their stamina, playing 8 games in 14 days, and the fact that other teams will be resting players for the playoffs (especially with so many games in so few days), and I believe the Suns can surprise some teams. I am optimistically saying 6-2.
SC: I’ll go with 4-4. If you can break even against the league’s upper echelon of teams, you stand a solid chance of more seriously competing for the playoffs next year.
ZS: 4-4. This is a tough schedule and going .500 in this stretch would be nothing to be ashamed of. They are playing in a setting that features the top 22 teams in the league after all. Finishing with a 4-4 record would put them at 30-43, and finally secure them that elusive 30-win season they haven’t had since their 39-win season in 2014/2015.
KA: At the very worst I see them getting at least three wins, which would give them a 3-5 record. However, the only team they are set to face that they had legitimate issues with is Indiana which (by a great stroke of luck) means they could go 7-1. I’m going to meet in the middle and predict them to go 5-3.
DK: I’m gonna be the conservative one I think, and call it 4-4 or 5-3 because there’s always 1-2 games out of every eight that we lament the mistakes in a close loss. So in that vein, 4-4 or better is an excellent outcome. I only hope it’s not 2-6 that began with 2-3 straight shoulda-wons.
BK: I really like how this team has looked in the scrimmages, but I don’t see how they do better than 4-4. The idea that the playoff teams won’t be determined to win games is over-blown. The entire league has eight contests to get up to speed before the most bizarre playoffs any sports league has ever seen. You’re telling me that’s not enough to get Kawhi Leonard energized for a game against the Suns? Try again.
Who will be the Suns’ most valuable player in Orlando?
JV: Ah, the “valuable” debate. The answer comes in the subjective manner that we see what is valuable. I am going with Ricky Rubio, as the team will go as he goes.
SC: MIKAL BRIDGES
ZS: Devin Booker. He’s still their best and most important player on this roter until proven otherwise and I believe he’s going to be a man on a mission in these 8 games. Not sure if either of these are considered “hot takes” but I’ll throw them out there:
1) Booker averages 30+ points per game in these 8 games.
2) He has a game with 7+ three pointers made, a new career-high.
ML: One week ago — Devin Booker. Now — Mikal Bridges.
KA: The easy answer would be All-Star Devin Booker and the second easiest would be rising star Deandre Ayton. Those are the easy answers though and I like to think outside the box. It’s fairly obvious they need them to be on top of their game in Orlando. Barring a return of Kelly Oubre which I’m not counting out as I like to think positive, the Suns are going to need the Disney version of Mikal Bridges if they are going to make any noise. Having him show out on both ends of the floor will help them immensely.
DK: I think you’ve got to say Devin Booker on this. He looks so focused, he might lead the team in scoring AND assists. He might even make the fictional ‘All Bubble’ team. That’s how high I am on BubbleBook. What’s great is that I can envision any of Bridges, Ayton or Rubio being the favorite for best two-way impact.
BK: I’ll say Ricky Rubio because I’m fascinated to see if the trend continues of the Suns only being able to score consistently when he’s on the court.
Will the Suns make the playoffs? And if not, who will be the eighth seed in the Western Conference?
JV: The odds are against them and I can’t see them making it to the playoffs, even if they go 6-2. Although I believe the NBA wants New Orleans to make it into the 8th seed, as a Zion v LeBron matchup is ratings gold, I feel that a revamped Portland team will ultimately capture the final spot in the Western Conference.
SC: No. Let’s be real, this is the Grizzlies’ thing to win unless the NBA decides to put its foot down and force Zion into the playoffs.
ZS: They will not. It’s a nearly impossible task because even if they went 7-1 or 8-0 they’d still need help from other teams in the back-end of the West. I think Memphis locks it up and hangs on, but watch out for Portland. Damian Lillard is a man that I will never bet against, especially in this type of setting. If they can play their way into the play-in round against the Grizzlies that would make for some must-see TV.
ML: Yes. I believe so.
KA: The odds are definitely stacked against the Suns but there is a fighter’s chance that they can get int and the team showed in the scrimmages that they are going to fight. I will not count them out as I would love to see them as an underdog facing the Lakers in the first round. If they don’t make it and another team does leapfrog the Grizzlies, I’m going to go with the Portland Trail Blazers because playoff Damian Lillard is great to watch.
DK: No the Suns won’t make the playoffs. I think there’s a 90% chance it’s just the Grizzlies. Wouldn’t it be awful to go 8-0 to force the play-in, only to have De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke and Josh Jackson make big shots in a Grizzlies win to clinch the spot? nevermindforgetIsaidthat
BK: Nope, sorry. Everyone in this thing besides Washington is rearing to go. I just don’t see how the Suns surpass the Spurs and Kings with only eight games to play, let alone the Grizzlies, Pelicans and Trail Blazers, all of whom have more talent than the Suns.