Phoenix Suns counted out … once again

Posted by on August 12th, 12:56 am

The Phoenix Suns are back in a familiar spot, according to the ESPN Western Conference Summer Forecast at least.

Yes, this esteemed panel of 93 voters associated with basketball at ESPN in some way (I got a vote as well and picked the Suns fifth), has the Suns oh so barely missing the playoffs with a 44-38 record, just one game behind the Houston Rockets.

If this sounds familiar it’s because this is right around where most major prognostications put the Suns last preseason, more often than not eighth but generally in the 7-10 range.

Suns owner Robert Sarver likely isn’t surprised one bit based on his comments about his team’s projections on July 20 at the Lon Babby press conference.

“My guess is this year we’ll probably be predicted somewhere between eight and 10 in the West,” Sarver said. “I think most people think we took a pretty big step backwards losing Amare. Obviously Amare is a helluva player, and he’s going to be missed here.

“I don’t know that my expectations are really much higher than they were at the start of the season last year. We’re going to have to wait and see, I don’t really know. What I’ve tried to do is help our organization get some good talent knowing Alvin will figure out how to make it work. Whether we’re going to take a step forward or a step backward, I don’t really know.”

The West is ridiculously deep. It pained me to predict Utah to miss the playoffs (as explained in a TrueHoop post) and for the record I had the Jazz missing it by a game in a bunched-up West.

And even that wasn’t so much a knock on Utah so much as it was a statement about how many good teams there are in the West, and that’s not even mentioning a New Orleans team that gets better in the present with Trevor Ariza, a Clippers team with a healthy Blake Griffin, a Warriors team with loads of talent that could finally put it together and a Sacramento team with some really nice young pieces.

The East is going to be crazy at the top, but the West is going to be crazy from Nos. 2-God know’s what. The Lakers are head and shoulders the best team in the conference but beyond that nothing really would surprise me.

At the same time, I find it interesting that our voters have the Suns out of the playoffs. I assume Sarver will be correct and that most preseason predictions will have the Suns at the bottom of the West playoff picture — and potentially on the outside looking in. I get it, they lost Amare and don’t have a true power forward and who knows what exactly they’ll be getting out of Hedo Turkoglu.

I just can’t believe that the second-best team in the West last year when all was said and done, a team that came a Ron Artest box out away from making things real interesting on the Lakers and a team that should be the deepest in the NBA with Steve  Nash at the controls will miss the playoffs. You can almost pencil in the Suns leading the NBA in offensive efficiency again and they have so many weapons that they could probably withstand injuries to anybody but Nash and (can’t believe I’m writing this) Robin Lopez (just because of how small they are without him) and be able to weather the storm.

The next reason I wouldn’t count on the Suns missing the playoffs is exactly because of predictions like this one.

Alvin Gentry foreshadowed the sour preseason punditry at the Babby presser.

“We like being the underdog,” he said. “I think everyone will pick us about where we were. The guys on this team have a tendency to find a way to overachieve if you want to call it overachieving, but I think we’ll be very competitive, I don’t look for us to take a step back, no.”

I had a real candid conversation with former Suns exec David Griffin at Media Day last year and he spoke about how the Suns have always done better as the hunters than the hunted (case in point last year, the year he was discussing at the time). You would think that expectations would come with taking the Lakers to six games in the Western Conference Finals, but with Amare gone apparently those expectations have left US Airways Center as well.

The Suns are not seen as a reigning Western Conference finalist, they’re the team without a power forward and a soon-to-be 37-year-old best player.

It’s always possible that Nash slows down a bit, Hedo disappoints and some of the new pieces don’t mesh, but regardless this team is back in a familiar role as underdogs, a role they embraced so much a year ago.

So don’t blame these prognosticators and all the other prognosticators that will probably predict similar outcomes. If you’re a Suns fan you should be thanking them.

A Suns team that was at its best when counted out last season now once again has something to rally around.

Kerr on The BS Report

Former Suns general manager Steve Kerr recently joined Bill Simmons on The BS Report. He spoke candidly about the events that led to him leaving the organization this summer.

“I didn’t think I was going to go either,” Kerr said. “Then the season ended and things kind of changed a little bit. Contract negotiations didn’t go quite as I expected, and at the same time Doug Collins left TNT to go coach the Sixers and that job opened up, and from there it just sort of happened. I didn’t anticipate it, but it happened, and I think this was the best decision for me just to be home a lot more.”

Kerr also said he was “on board” with the deal the Suns eventually offered Amare, saying it was something team executives spoke about all season.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 HankS // Aug 12, 2010 at 1:11 am

    The case looks simple: if they can’t guard the paint, they won’t make the play-offs in the loaded West. But thinking about it, last year the Suns made the Conference Finals with Stoudemire guarding the paint, something he supposedly isn’t very good at. So how much have the Suns really lost there?

    I think it’ll ultimately come down to the emergence of Warrick or Lawal. Unless either can do a creditable job, the Suns will have to make a trade for a true PF at some point during the season. And they’re in fact extremely well positioned to do that, so I don’t think there’s any need to despair.

  • 2 morgamic // Aug 12, 2010 at 1:20 am

    If Lopez stays healthy and out of foul trouble, Suns get the 4 seed. I think the biggest challenge this season will be injuries, but we’ll see what happens. That’s why we have to play the game.

  • 3 Michael Schwartz // Aug 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

    @Jacob For some reason I didn't save my spreadsheet that I did all the math on, but I think I had them at about 52 in a pretty bunched up conference.

    @Brian Haha, thanks for pointing that out. Got it fixed now!

  • 4 Xavier // Aug 12, 2010 at 1:56 am

    ariza dickface

  • 5 Xavier // Aug 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

    brians not a suns fan, otherwise the misspelled name wouldn't h been his only post.

    may the shwartz be with you!!

  • 6 stevo // Aug 12, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Ive been a suns fan since 87 and I am as excited for this team as any, As long as they play with the heart and selflessness as a season ago let the chips fall where they may should be a fun ride!

  • 7 Lloyd // Aug 12, 2010 at 3:03 am

    It should be noted, that Kobe is 32 years old and coming off of his third knee surgery on his right knee. He has a ton of miles on his body. He also slowed down quite a bit against Boston in the finals.

    When Kobe is finished, that will be it for the Lakers.

  • 8 Ace // Aug 12, 2010 at 3:31 am

    I hate how these so called "Experts" never give the Suns the credit they're due. Phoenix is a team that has made the playoffs constantly for the last decade. Phoenix is now without Amare, but I can recall them making it to the WCF 4 years ago without him. I don't get how Magic and NO get more praise then Phoenix. New Orleans isn't consistent at making the play offs and I remember a time when Pistons swept Magic in the first round of the playoffs.

  • 9 Jacob // Aug 12, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Yeah, they’re in the same position as last year. How many wins did u vote the suns would get?

  • 10 Zak // Aug 12, 2010 at 6:38 am

    I believe it all comes down to Gentry being able to adjust the system to the talents of his players. There will be plenty of talented players on the Suns' roster this year and all that remains to be seen is whether Gentry can turn that into a competitive team. Defense – as usual – will be secondary. The Suns will try to out run and out gun their opposition. Hedo could flourish and have his best season (offensively) ever with the Suns. Childress could add a lot both at SG and SF. Warrick will get his minutes and should do well although he won't dominate anyone offensively of defensively. The rest of the team we already know. I can think of several possible lineups that could create nightmares for opposing teams on the defensive end. I hope Gentry has those same ideas (and many more than I can imagine!). I think that Gentry is up to the task but only time will tell.

  • 11 Brian // Aug 12, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Who’s Trevor Arizona?

  • 12 Steve // Aug 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

    The West is always loaded, and the past three seasons have seen the Suns picked to be out of the running. Once it was true, once it was dead wrong, and we'll have to wait and see this year.

    I believe the Suns can be a 50-54 game winner, and I believe that will be good enough to land them anywhere from the three to the eight. But if they win 50 games, they're making the playoffs. I like the chances this team has, especially as a regular season team (for the playoffs, there are definitely some deficiencies that need to be addressed). The beautiful thing about the regular season, however, is that no one really tries all that hard. If the Suns can be about 20th in defensive efficiency, there is no way in the world they're missing the playoffs.

  • 13 shane // Aug 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

    This is great…. The owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, Robert

    > Sarver, opposes AZ's

    > new immigration laws. Arizona's Governor, Jan Brewer,

    > released the following

    > statement in response to Sarver's criticism of the new law:

    >

    >

    > "What if the owners of the Suns discovered that hordes of

    > people were

    > sneaking into games without paying? What if they had a good

    > idea who the

    > gate-crashers are, but the ushers and security personnel

    > were not allowed to

    > ask these folks to produce their ticket stubs, thus

    > non-paying attendees

    > couldn't be ejected. Furthermore, what if Suns' ownership

    > was expected to

    > provide those who sneaked in with complimentary eats and

    > drink? And what if,

    > on those days when a gate-crasher became ill or injured,

    > the Suns had to

    > provide free medical care and shelter?" -Arizona Gov. Jan

    > Brewer

  • 14 Zane // Aug 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    shut your frikkin mouth shane, this country was founded on immigration, and this wasnt our land originally anyway, so cut the crap. This site isnt for political views, its for fans of the suns.

  • 15 mike // Aug 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I have been a suns fan since i could shoot a basket (1976). This team is the deepest in the NBA. We will win around 58 games. When Hedo plays the shooting guard at times, it will cause major mismatches. Some of these critics have no idea how good we are going to be. Obviously, we will trade for a power forward sometime during the season. I am super excited for this season. We will be the most exciting team to watch once again.

  • 16 Kyle Fleeger // Aug 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    The NBA released the 2010-2011 schedule and the Suns have it tough playing in the Western Conference – Here is a look at the Suns Back to Backs

    October 28th-29TH @ Utah Jazz – vs. L.A. Lakers

    November 7th-8th @ Atlanta Hawks – @ Memphis Grizzles

    November 14th-15th @ L.A. Lakers – vs. Denver Nuggets

    November 17th-18th @ Miami Heat – @ Orlando Magic

    December 2nd-3rd @ Golden State Warriors – vs. Indiana Pacers

    December 7th-8th @ Portland Trailblazers vs. Memphis Grizzles

    December 19th-20th @ OKC Thunder – @ San Antonio Spurs

    January 11th-12th @ Denver Nuggets – vs. New Jersey Nets

    January 21st-22nd @Washington Wizards – @ Detroit Pistons

    February 10th-11th vs. Golden State Warriors – @ Utah Jazz

    February 27th-28th @ Indiana Pacers – @ New Jersey Nets

    March 13th-14th vs. Orlando Magic – @ Houston Rockets

    March 22nd-23rd @ L.A. Lakers – vs. Toronto Raptors

    March 29th-30th @ Sacramento – vs. OKC Thunder

    April 10th-11th @ Dallas Mavericks – vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    NBA.com offers the Full Schedule

    10 Home Games – 20 Away Games

    Now at first glance, the disparity in the number of home and away games seems like a lot. However, in looking at the other teams in the NBA, as you would imagine, they make sure that the number isn’t too different. The Lakers play a similar ratio and even have a seven game road trip in the middle of February. So I have no reason to complain about the scheduling.

    One notable note from the back to back list is that all but 2 of the 15 back to backs begin on the road. That can be viewed as the Suns finishing back to backs more frequently at home. That can be a benefit because it’s easier to fake energy at home, rather than being tired and having to play on the road.

    I am excited about the Suns 2010-2011 schedule. Once again ESPN is dogging the Suns. Starting last season ESPN had us going into the season predicted to finish in 11th place. This year it’s not a lot different. They have the Suns finishing outside of the playoffs this season in 9th place. Last year, I predicted the Suns finish in the top 4 and could finish in the top 3 in the conference. So since I have been posting. Me- 1. ESPN- 0. This year I look to extend my lead to 2-0 by predicting the same thing as last year. I think the Suns have replaced Amar’e by getting even deeper on the bench. Dragic, Childress, Dudley, Warrick, Frye or Turkoglu/Frye is one of the more formidable back-up units if not the best bench in the NBA. It may take the critics and ESPN analysts until February to say it, but having the 11th and 12th men be Earl Clark and Gani Lawal means that the Suns are going to be able to replace the loss of Lou Amundson, the undersized over-achiever in Lawal, and the talented under-performer in Earl Clark. If Earl Clark can just spend the first few months learning the offense, I think he will be great. He struggled in summer because he was playing with scrubs, and took on too much of a scorers role. In late games last year, he came into games knowing he had to play defense to justify being on the court. If Earl Clark plays well aka, pass first, defense oriented basketball, he can find a valuable place on this team. If not, it’s going to a long year of warming the bench for Earl.

    HEDO

    Hedo is the X Factor. If he can be a playmaker on the second unit or a solid defender and deadly shooter in first unit, the Suns have the sky as the limit. If he plays lazy, or gets complacent coming off the bench, we are in trouble and the ESPN analysts may even up the score on Suns predictions. If he is a 15/5/5 player, the Suns are going to be VERY good, if he is 11/2/3… the Suns are going to be looking for a lot of trade-deadline movement.

    I can’t wait for this season to begin. As Brandon at Boulders says, “It’s the first time in a long time that I am excited for the Season to begin”

    Me too!

    Go Suns!

    Michael, This is why you should hire me. I spent 11 minutes on this post, but I had ideas to expand this much more.

  • 17 Ace // Aug 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I am guessing that the team is almost set for the start of the season. Suns are going to pick a veteran Center at the minimum and may even consider bringing back Jarron Collins. Also, I am thinking that Phoenix might end up making a trade before the end of the year with Warrick, Clark, and Janning in the trading block.

  • 18 suns68 // Aug 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    I’d just like to point out that Jarron Collins was our starting center in the two playoff series we won.

  • 19 jfelton18 // Aug 13, 2010 at 7:28 am

    im only 18 but ive been a suns fan since i started watching basketball and the only dissapointment ive ever had was winning a championship i think we will finish at the number 3 seed once again and if we trade for a all star power forward lakers beware!!!!!

  • 20 Mike Meez // Aug 14, 2010 at 12:51 am

    @shane- the whole immigration/Los Suns stuff was months ago. There was an article about it here, you can check the archives and post there.

    Not only is the West stacked (again), but there have been a lot of changes and there is a lot of uncertainty for several teams. At this point ranking the top 8 teams in the Western Conference is about as useful as the pre-season college football top 25.

    Still, I don’t understand how Utah and Houston could be ranked ahead of the Suns. Al Jefferson is not the equivalent of Carlos Boozer and the Jazz also lost Kyle Korver and Wesley Mathews and Okur is hurt. As for Houston, who knows how Yao will play and stay healthy. The Suns lost Amar’e but basically everyone else is back plus a few quality additions. Spurs aren’t getting any younger either but for some reason the ESPN writers think Tiago Splitter is their savior.

  • 21 Evan // Aug 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    All of the suns doubters point out the Suns lack of Size up front and ability to defend (as always) The suns will run, be the best shooting and highest scoring team in the league (as always) Prove skeptics wrong before loosing after a deep playoff run (as always). With this team the more things change the more they stay the same.

  • 22 Parv // Aug 15, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Our roster is too stacked on the wings, I wonder if Jared Dudley will get his minutes to be as effective as last year? Anyways, Im not really expecting much from the suns this season, scoring in the paint and defending the paint will be a real scarcity because of the absence of STAT(offensively that is). I hope for atleast a 50-32 finish by the suns.

  • 23 jeremy velasquez // Aug 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    i just hope the bench we’ll be as good as i think it’ll be

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