With a victory over the second play in the East Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns have continued a recent streak of more competitive basketball that is placing Phoenix right where we want them.
The beginning to the 2018-19 season has been absolutely awful for Phoenix Suns fans. No starting point guard (although not for a lack of trying by Devin Booker), no legitimate power forward, and a very slow start to boot, and Phoenix Suns fans went from cautiously optimistic that number one overall pick Deandre Ayton might help carry them at least close to a playoff berth, to already wondering if Phoenix can win the lottery in back-to-back seasons and snag Duke super-phenom Zion Williamson this summer.
But as the season as crawled along, this very young Suns has slowly began to piece together who they are and how they all fit into first season Igor Kokoskov’s offense.
Granted, they are still sloppy; their defense has been atrocious; and while some players have had better than expected seasons thus far, others have let the team, and their fans, down.
Even with the victory over the Milwaukee Bucks and competitive games against other good teams, the Suns still aren’t winning, they’re not going to win a lot this season, and they don’t stand a chance at making the playoffs in 2019.
Although there is no doubt that the occasional stinker here and there will come, the Suns are finally starting to play the way we have been wanting them to: competitively losing.
Suns fans have been stuck in a rut for several years now. While they would much rather be supporting a championship caliber team, they are accepting of losing so long as it is productive; that is, fans are aware that this Phoenix Suns team is not going to make the playoffs – There are just too many good teams in the Western Conference ahead of them, and this roster has too many important holes.
But what fans want to see is improvement in player and team play throughout the year, and with that, even if it the team is losing, losing competitively where the games are at least fun to watch, although still not winning enough that the Suns have as many ping pong balls as possible to to place themselves with the best chance at earning the first overall pick, and the right to draft arguably the next Charles Barkley.
Losing sucks. It really, really sucks. And the Phoenix Suns are good at it.
But a competitive loss to the Boston Celtics (even though the Suns actually grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory in that one), a victory over the San Antonio Spurs, competitive losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and then Philadelphia 76ers, capped thus far with the victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, are what Suns fans can really hope for over this season if the team isn’t going to compete for the playoffs.
What has been particularly nice about this recent stretch as well is that it was proceeded by a number of blowout losses, including a few against teams that the Suns should have never lost to in that manner (including the Brooklyn Nets immediately preceding the loss to the Celtics).
In the meantime, Phoenix is still well back in the Western Conference standings, one of the many Western teams that were expected to have taken a step forward this season, and yet the only one that doesn’t seem to have made a solid leap at all yet.
And with this poor standing in the league, they are still currently tied for the second worst record in the league which places them in the bottom three of the league, and the best odds at the number one pick.
Before the season I said that I hoped that the Suns would take a very large step forward, finish somewhere near the 9th spot in the West, then have the lottery Gods bless them with another number one overall pick, following in the footsteps of the 1992-93 Orlando Magic who grabbed Shaquille O’Neal in the 1992 Draft, then after finishing 41-41 and missing the playoffs only by a tie-breaker with the Indiana Pacers, winning the lottery for the second consecutive year with the lowest possible odds.
The Suns aren’t probably going to win enough this season to place themselves as close to the playoffs as the Magic were in 1993, but competitive games with more wins this season than they are currently on pace for, and a shot at the number one overall pick, will still make watching these games, and a lot of losing, a lot more fun – and is about all we can ask for at this point.