I will start with a note about the title of this post. As you can see, it is rather underwhelming and unpoetic. I’m not like that, I’m a witty guy you know, so let me just explain. This post will be rather underwhelming and unpoetic. Why? Let me explain.
There’s a number of keys to getting into the playoffs, and you know them all, management, coaching, on-court play, health, luck. Ah yes, luck. The mother of everything that’s Sunny. The Suns were anything but lucky last season, and that’s why we were watching Chris Paul tear up the Lakers, instead of Channing Frye scuffling with Andrew Bynum. This time however, the luck factor grows more than ever.
No, it’s not about being rested on the third game of a back-to-back-to-back because the middle game was a blowout. It’s about where the back-to-back-to-back is, and who you’ll be playing against in it. With a schedule being created, some teams will be lucky, while others will be in a ditch. Say you get the three games with the Mavs, the Lakers and the Spurs, all away Now that’s one ugly triple header if you’re the team on the wrong end of it, and remember, some teams will have three of those.
So, in such a season will skill and coaching really be the determining factor, or will the few moments when David Stern sits down with his professional schedule makers and watches them prepare a plan for every team? I doubt it will be anything but.
If you watch the Sun-n-Gun recap contained in the last post, you will see that Andrew and I detailed some scheduling possibilities, and indicated who we’d want to see playing the Suns a lot and who we wouldn’t. Either way, here are the rules for the schedule as detailed on NBA.com
"2011-12 NBA Schedule BreakdownRegular Season Start Date: December 25, 2011Regular Season End Date: April 26, 2012Playoffs Start Date: April 28, 2012Last Possible Finals Date: June 26, 2012Individual Team Schedule BreakdownConference Games: 48• Play 6 teams 4 times (2 home, 2 away)• Play 4 teams 3 times (2 home, 1 away)• Play 4 teams 3 times (1 home, 2 away)Non-Conference Games: 18• Play 3 teams 2 times (1 home, 1 away)• Play 6 teams 1 time at home• Play 6 teams 1 time awayBack to Back to Backs: All teams with at least 1; no more than 3Playoff Back to Backs: Possible in second round"
So let’s have a little brainstorm here and figure out the perfect schedule for the Suns, the one that is unreasonably easy and lucky. Y’know something that won’t happen, within the rules above… After the jump.
Look, 4 of the 6 teams that the Suns will play 4 times will be division teams. Don’t even think that that won’t be the case. So, when we get that out of the way we get:
4 games (2 home 2 away) with the:
Golden State Warriors
So, we have two teams to play 4 games with, 3 of which are in essence, weaker than the Suns. That’s the first stroke of luck – not having to deal with many great teams in the division. The unlucky thing is that the lone good team is the Lakers.
So, we have 2 Western teams left in the 4 game column. Who would I want to get here? The first team are obviously the T-Wolves, even with the addition of Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio they’re very far away from contending for a playoff spot. Last year, the Suns swept the season series 3-zip. This year should be similar. Another team I would like to see in these 4 games is Utah. Another 3-zip sweep came last year, and I doubt this year will be that different. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks just don’t make that big of a difference.
Then the “homies” teams, I’d primarily like to face at home in the 3 game series. Those are the Spurs, Mavs and Thunder, and it isn’t really hard. Look, these guys will rip Phoenix apart, and if anything can help, you gotta hope to use it. Home court advantage is certainly one of these. The fourth team would probably be the Grizzlies, they’re the 6th power in the West behind the aforementioned trio and the Lakers.
So, for the away-centered 3 game series we’re left with Houston, Denver, Portland and New Orleans. All dangerous teams in their own right, but with problems that may benefit the Suns. Houston is in rebuilding mode, Denver moved to China, which, incidentally, is what the knees of a few important Portland players are made out of (see what I did there?) and New Orleans only troublemaker might bail mid-series. This should be ok for the Suns.
As for the East, the first choice is the teams the Suns want to have two meetings with. The ugly trio would have to consist of the Bobcats, Raptors and the Pistons, as you probably won’t find weaker teams to play against next season. The 6 away-onlies should also be weaker, which would give us the Cavs, Pacers, 76ers, Nets, Wizards and Bucks, which would leave the Suns with the Heat, Bulls, Magic, Celtics, Hawks and Knicks to play at home.
This schedule would probably generate a lot more wins for Phoenix, than one that would be changed up to ensure that the Suns see the Heat two times, the Knicks two times and the Celtics two times, from the East. This one would basically minimize loss opportunities, as the Suns would play the sub .500 teams more often and away and the above .500 teams at home, a bit less often. Another question would be the amount of back-to-back-to-backs and the teams involved in them. A lucky “b2b2b” would be Golden State to Sac-town to Minny all at home, but it probably won’t happen
In a lockout shortened season, luck counts more than ever, especially the one on your calendar. The Suns are already lucky to be guaranteed a lot of games with some of the weaker teams in the West by the courtesy of their division being flat out terrible. Will they be lucky with the other teams. Probably not. The truth is, that the schedule will be constructed with a lot of thought put into rivalries, so expect the two other 4 game teams to be the Spurs and Mavs. Also expect the Knicks to have two games with the Suns (Amar’e vs Nash is always a big thing) and perhaps even Gortat vs Dwight times two. Hopefully though, the need to bring Steve Nash to Canada will bring at least one away game in Toronto, which would basically be an easy road trip. As much as I would love a stroke of luck, the Suns will probably have a mediocre schedule, that will have it’s ups and downs.
I actually managed to calculate the winning percentage for this “Dream Schedule” with a formula I’ll be using as soon as the real schedule comes out. Check it out.
As soon as a full schedule is released, I’ll give you some comments and predictions for every months record, so stay tuned to Sun-n-Gun. In the meantime, I’ll be doing some Free Agency talk, so, just keep on reading.