While the season sadly came to an abrupt end as the surprising Phoenix Suns missed the playoffs out West with a fantastic 48-34 record, there are some things to be learned from the season finale.
1. Archie Goodwin is awesome
The 19-year-old rookie has barely played in his first professional season. First it was the slash brothers of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe sitting ahead of him on the depth chart and whenever either of them went down with injuries, someone else took their spot instead of him. Whether it was Gerald Green, Ish Smith or the signing of veteran Leandro Barbosa, Goodwin didn’t really get an elongated chance at minutes.
That was OK though, he was still getting better as seen in the season finale, a victory over the Sacramento Kings. Goodwin put up 29 points in 31 minutes, going 11-13 from the field and making a three-pointer! His only two misses were a couple threes. He also went 6-7 from the free throw line. He had four rebounds (three of which were on the offensive end), and assist and a pair of steals. Imagine next season when he’s acclimated with the speed of the NBA game, has bulked up and can actually shoot outside the paint. Just terrifying to opposing teams.
2.The team has chemistry that can last
Following a Goodwin double-clutch reverse dunk on a fastbreak all by himself, (and a timeout by the opponent) the entire Suns bench came out onto the floor to congratulate the rookie. This happened anytime any of the Suns did anything spectacular (Which happened a ton this year!).
During the last week of the season and with exit interviews, those players whose contracts are up are taking about how much they love this team and want to be back competing with their teammates for a playoff berth and a deep push for a championship. They all really care for each other. It really helps their on the court production.
3. While not a starter, Markieff Morris is a key to the Suns’ success
The “elder” Morris twin should be the sixth man of the year, seeing as he led the league in points scored and double-doubles off the bench. When he is cooking offensively, banging down low, displaying his array of moves before a mid-range attempt, or draining that rhythm three, the Suns are basically unstoppable. They go as he goes.
That showed against Sacramento as Morris scored 15 points on 7-13 shooting, most while playing with Goodwin, who’s slashing 29 points dominated the ball… and the night.
While Frye will probably improve his shooting percentages and overall game by next season (just by default of not being rusty following a missed year, like the 13-14 campaign), Markieff Morris could still overtake Frye as the starting power forward. Unless of course some like Kevin Love or another superstar power forward were acquired. Markieff still needs homework on his shot selection a bit, while he and his brother need to work on being decisive when they catch the ball.
4. Expectations will shift
Next year, the Suns won’t be called one of the bottom-feeders of the league. They will be expected to be in the bottom half of the Western playoff standings instead. They won’t be able to catch teams off-guard and won’t be playing with house money. They will need to improve their individual games over the summer, and once they get together in October, work on building the same camaraderie they had this season. But it seems they’re up to the challenge.
5. The future is bright
Phoenix will probably have the 14th, 18th and 27th picks in a draft known both for its incredible talent at the top, but also the fantastic depth throughout the first round and possibly even further. They also have a core of young players developing together, showing improvement by leaps and bounds. They have the veterans to give them tenacity, a desire for greatness, and the mental fortitude to get there.
Additionally, they have a wealth of cap space to sign their current key players (Bledsoe and Tucker) as well as some fresh talent.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the Phoenix Suns have the GM in Ryan McDonough and the coach in Jeff Hornacek that can take these assets and turn it into playoff appearances and a championship ring!