Phoenix Suns’ quirky schedule advantage amid sad injury news for young star

Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phoenix Suns’ matchups with the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost an element of excitement, with number two overall pick Chet Holmgren ruled out for the entirety of next season.

The compelling seven footer suffered a lisfranc injury during a Pro-Am game last week, doing so in a play where he was guarding none other than LeBron James.

It’s not only disappointing news for Thunder fans but really any NBA enthusiast, with the 20-year-old projecting as one of the most fascinating players to watch develop in 2022-23.

While Holmgren was never expected to be a massive difference-maker straight away, the Thunder appeared like a dangerous team who could cause some major upsets and wreak havoc for playoff-contending teams.

Instead, they’ll likely turn their attention to another season of development with winning certainly not the core focus. Their approach to this has been interesting in the last couple of seasons, and if the trend continues, the Suns could be major winners.

The Phoenix Suns have a quirky schedule advantage in 2022-23, with the franchise not scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder until late February.

Oklahoma’s rebuild begun as soon as Chris Paul was dealt to Phoenix in the 2020 offseason. However, after Paul had led them to a surprise playoff appearance just prior, the Thunder again proved to be a weirdly competitive outfit in the early part of the 2020-21 season.

They weren’t good by any means, but they were winning more games than a lot of people expected. By the end of the season things changed, key players missed through apparent injuries and the Thunder ended with the second-worst record in the conference.

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Almost the exact same thing happened last season – the exciting new backcourt of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey propelled them to some unlikely wins. But again, those two missed a large chunk of time towards the end of the season and the team went on a downward spiral.

Could the same thing happen for a third consecutive season? With Holmgren going down, there’s an even greater chance of it occurring. The Suns play the Thunder four times, however the first matchup won’t come until the 25th February next year.

Let’s put that into some context – In the 2020-21 season, the Thunder’s record before February 25 was 13-19, a winning rate of over 40%. They finished the remainder of the season 9-31, a winning rate of 22.5%. Last season, their record before February 25 was 19-41, a winning rate of 31.7%. They then finished the season 5-17, a winning rate of 22.7%.

dark. Next. Phoenix Suns face a perilous, lose-lose situation across 2022-23 regular season

So, as you can tell, Oklahoma are making a habit of throwing the towel in later in the season. The Suns would be favourites in any matchup with the Thunder right now, that’s just the nature of where the two teams are at. However, there’s little doubt the schedule will help Phoenix in this instance, with their opposition likely have put key players in cotton wool by the time they face each other.