Preview: Phoenix Suns (25-56) at Denver Nuggets (56-25)


Time: 5 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

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Suns

And then there was one.

It’s strange to think that not too long ago regular season finales held tremendous value for the Phoenix Suns. Either there was a high playoff seed or franchise-record win total up for grabs.

Neither will be true this year, but this much is known: Wednesday’s contest against the Denver Nuggets will without question serve as the final chapter in one of the most memorable, yet also forgettable seasons in the organization’s history.

There were coaching changes, players calling out players, players calling out coaches, blowout losses, head-scratching losses, a notable traffic citation and well, everything in between. The history books likely won’t reflect too fondly on the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns, after all this might be the season the franchise officially hit a new low.

How low?

Technically, the Suns have plenty to play for in the Mile High City. Their mindset is still very much on June, but this time around it’s a much later date in the month they’re focused on.  One draft will not instantly remake Phoenix’s roster, but the final night of the regular season could certainly play a role in changing the fortunes of an organization stuck between irrelevancy and futility.

In fact, Wednesday is one of those rare occasions where other outcomes might actually have a greater impact on the Suns’ future than their own against the Nuggets.

Take a look:

Scenario 1: Suns receive Lakers’ lottery pick

  • Utah Jazz beat Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers lose to Houston Rockets

Scenario 2: Suns receive Heat’s No. 30 pick

  • Utah Jazz beat Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston Rockets
  • Utah Jazz lose to Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston Rockets
  • Utah Jazz lose to Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers lost to Houston Rockets

Don’t hold your breath too much on Scenario 1. The Jazz are 14 games below .500 on the road this season, while the Grizzlies are 14 games above .500 at home.

Then of course, there is the race for the third-worst record in the NBA. Now ordinarily the difference between two lottery picks wouldn’t be a huge deal, but the difference between the third-worst and fourth-worst record actually has some significance. The team with the third-worst record has a slightly greater chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick, but nearly a 50 percent chance of at least landing in the top three.

Scenario 1: Suns tie for the third-worst record in NBA

  • Phoenix Suns lose to the Denver Nuggets and the Cleveland Cavaliers win against the Charlotte Bobcats

Scenario 2: Suns have fourth-worst record in NBA

  • Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets and the Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the Charlotte Bobcats
  • Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets and the Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the Charlotte Bobcats
  • Phoenix Suns lose to the Denver Nuggets and the Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the Charlotte Bobcats

If Scenario 1 occurs, it can get a little bit confusing between the Cavaliers and Suns. Rich Exner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, however, found a way to concisely explain it.

If there is a tie, the Cavs and Suns would essentially split their chances. The team winning a coin flip would get 138 out of 1,000 chances in the lottery and the other team 137 chances.

More importantly, the coin flip would also determine the order should neither team be drawn in the lottery. The lottery drawing determines only the top three picks. Others then are slotted by record for picks four through 14.

Expectations were never sky high going into the year given who had left last summer. In fact during the ValleyoftheSuns’ season preview, not one writer picked the team to make the playoffs.

But, no one knew how bad it would get and certainly it would’ve been hard to predict the level of misery the Suns have endured this season. The finger can ultimately be pointed at management, at the coaching staff (both past and present) or the players themselves. All have failed in some capacity, although some likely more than others.

With that said, it hasn’t been all negative despite what the team’s record and future prospects might indicate. Goran Dragic has matured into a quality starting point guard, P.J. Tucker has emerged from relative obscurity into a role as a serviceable player and Luis Scola has infused leadership and heart into a locker room in desperate need of both moving forward.

In a season full of lowlights, those notable trends will likely get overlooked. And while that is more than understandable, the Suns do have pieces – though not franchise-altering ones – that should be considered as part of the solution not the problem.

For now, it’s one more night of scoreboard watching. Or quite frankly, the first night in what will likely be one of the more intriguing offseasons in franchise history.

  • http://none Keith

    I am not going to call it a lock or anything, but there’s a pretty good chance Jazz make it tonight. Memphis has nothing to play for and is going to rest its starters. They only played half of the last game and should play less tonight. A motivated Utah team that has played better lately absolutely should win that game. Then it all comes down to Rockets vs LA. Rockets are highly motivated to be #7 and not #8 and therefore avoid OKC. They also are going to be hard for LA’s old men to guard with their uptempo game. Of course, it’s also a mismatch inside with LA’s big men having an advantage there. May come down to the refs on this one. Going to be interesting!

  • Scott

    As the draft churns, add a couple new foreign names to the 2nd round mix: Alex Abrines SG, and Marco Todorovic C.

    In the domestic talent category, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG is now late in the first round, and Vander Blue SG is in the late 2nd round.

  • bill.thomas

    We are resting Dragic tonight due to a hangnail (er, no actually, an “ankle impingement”–whatever that is).

  • Azbballfan

    Yep Dragon is out for some likely fake injury

    fine with me! let Marshall start in his place and get this season over with

    Hopefully Cleveland guts out a win in what could be Byron Scotts last game coaching that team

    If Hunter isnt brought back this could be his last game too

    although i really doubt that Babby would let Hunter go with Blanks still having another year on their contract

    unless they see a proven coach is out of a job and realize they better get something done if they want to be here long term

    Go Jazz, Cavs and Rockets!

    by the way if i was the Suns, i would give Byron Scott a call if it is indeed his last game

    Scott is a former ASU star who might want to coach the Suns, and really anything is better than what happened this year

  • bill.thomas

    @Azzbballfan: Agreed on all counts. I don’t think we can get anyone as well-regarded as SVG or someone like that unless we make a major free agent signing (and I don’t think someone on the order of Eric Gordon would be enough–he is not the Gordon of old and would be a major salary albatross).

    Scott has a lot more and better experience than Hunter and did not do that badly at The Dump on the Lake, considering the circumstances.

  • bill.thomas

    @Keith: I think Memphis will monitor the Clippers–Sacto game to see how it goes. If the Clippers have a nice lead at the half, and assuming they are not holding out Paul, I suspect the Grizzlies’ starters will see little 2nd half action even if they lose.

  • Scott

    Theoretically, Byron Scott has one more year with the Cavs. But we shall see.

  • Forever is2long

    I said earlier in the week Memphis would rather lose to Utah so the Lakers have to beat Houston to get in. It makes sense to me, now if the plan is executed we could be half way home.

  • bill.thomas

    @Foreveris2long: Agreed, this had also occurred to me but I think they will see how the Clips game goes so as to see if it is worth beating Utah. I think Clips will easily beat Sacto, they lost to them earlier but only when they were not playing as well as they are now.

    Don’t forget too, no matter what anyone else wants to do, the refs will try to throw the Lakers game at all costs.

  • bill.thomas

    Ooops, if Memphis beats Utah, Stern and refs will not have to throw Lakers game.

  • foreveris2long

    Gotcha Bill, good point. DBreezy and John, I saw the SI post DBreezy gave us and although I agree we should get an F, I do not criticize the acquisition of Beasley because he is young and physically talented (mental case). I think the risk was worth taking. However they criticized the Suns for not playing Marshall, I give them an F for drafting him instead of Henson simply because Henson has a much better upside.

    It is well documented I thought they should have traded Gortat and kept Lopez. I have no problem with the firing of Gentry, except management did give him a vote of confidence. Hunter would not have been my choice for an interim coach.If Wes Johnson walks it will further solidify the F grade. Giving up a 2nd round pick for the other Morris twin looks more like a gimmick than anything.

    Now I say the above knowing that if the Suns get the Lakers lottery pick, even though Laker injuries had more to do with it than anything, I think I would have to raise the team’s grade to a D for securing an unprotected lottery pick and it turning out to be a lottery pick.

  • foreveris2long

    I think K. Marshall is the worst lottery drafted point guard I have ever seen. He is probably one of the worst point guards drafted in the 1st round.

    Utah is hanging in there despite really cold shooting.

  • bill.thomas

    Marshall had 13 assists and no turnovers even though
    he shot purely. He is not a total loss and may develop into a nice backup.

    I can’t believe how poorly Utah played. I didn’t see the whole game, only most of the 2nd half, but it was an absolutely pathetic performance in what amounted to a playoff game. I don’t think most of them cared whether they made the playoffs, I think they were out to sabotage Corbin.

  • azbballfan

    dammit UTAH!

    you lost!

    86 to 70? in a game you had to have??

    well atleast the Suns got obliterated by 20

    Marshall got us 14 assists but just 2 points and 3 boards

    the M and M Boys barely played…….

    just ugly ugly ball and oh yeah Cleveland lost

    so now the Cavs and Suns get to do a coin flip

    ughhhhh thank god the season is over and we can move on to who should the Suns draft in June

  • foreveris2long

    Utah was awful. I saw a fair amount of the game and it was a very poorly played must win game by Jazz. Corbin could get fired for their 2nd half of the season collapse. I could see Jeff Hornachek becoming their new coach.

    Phil Jackson possibly interested in a front office position? He would never be dumb enough to want to work for Sarver would he (if Blanks is fired)?

    Suns were absolutely terrible tonight. I have no idea what to put on their death certificate as cause of death.

  • bill.thomas

    Free Dragic !

  • Scott

    @forever -

    Searching for an interesting cause of death? “Spontaneous combustion” is always a good one. It sounds dramatic, and it lends an aura of mystery.

    Perhaps “failure to thrive,” though, is more accurate. That’s a term given for when a patient seems otherwise healthy and able to recover, but doesn’t.