Early-season struggles suck. For me, they’re just too reminiscent of watching the “dark decade” Phoenix Suns stumble through game after on their way to being out of playoff contention by game 30 or so. A win on Wednesday puts the team at 4-4, but growing must still occur.
The Suns have struggled a little in the early going, but it’s easy to chalk a lot of that up to missing two starters. Most teams in the NBA are pretty bad minus two starters. Doubly so if both missing starters were guys projected to be top 3 on the team in scoring. That’s a lot of punch to be missing.
I’m here not to harp on the missed opportunities in the soul-crushing back-to-back losses to the San Antonio Spurs a week or two back, but to offer a sobering and yet also uplifting prognostication of the Suns’ near future.
The reality is that the Suns have a moderately tough slate of opponents coming and it may well take a few games to really get the the Devin Booker-Kevin Durant-Bradley Beal triple threat firing on all cylinders.
The Suns have the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder both coming up, neither of which are pushovers, though perfectly beatable. Plus the Minnesota Timberwolves (same goes) and road games in Utah are never fun even if the Jazz aren’t especially scary.
So what does that mean for the Suns’ expectations? Well, to be honest, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Suns still hanging around .500 after another 7 or 8 or even 10 games.
That may scare a few fans who tend to demand instant gratification, particularly after the seismic shifts the franchise has undergone since this time last year. Recall that last year at this point the Suns still had Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson on the roster, not to mention Deandre Ayton, and the team was 7-3 through its first 10 games.
The Suns don’t need to win 55 games this season. Sure, it would be nice for them to lock up a very high seed and get the advantage of home court in the playoffs, but the primary goal has to be getting to the postseason healthy. To that end, I’m glad they’re being cautious with Booker and Beal early and I expect they will continue to be cautious with all three of their stars all season long.
So let’s not get bent out of shape if the Suns aren’t at the top of the standings in mid-December. Let’s not stay focused on the stats of former Suns or the underwhelming counting stats of a certain very large role player the Suns acquired in exchange for one of those former Suns.
Hey, maybe the Suns will surprise me and dominate the next few weeks anyway. Let them. I don’t mind being wrong about that.