The Phoenix Suns' poor season plummeted to new lows on Christmas Day, as Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks came to The Valley and beat the home team, 128-114. The result dropping the Suns below .500, while Doncic went off to the tune of 50 points for the victorious team.
The result not only marooned the Suns in the 11th spot in the Western Conference, it was the second time in the last five games that an opponent has scored 50 against the team at home. The other player being former Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson, who is now with the New York Knicks.
The Suns are now 1-5 in their last six games, and both Eric Gordon and more worryingly Kevin Durant are frustrated with how this campaign is unfolding. Gordon's concerns were voiced by him to the media, while Durant's came through NBA Insider, Adrian Wojnarowski.
Whenever a team with high expectations is struggling, the head coach is the first to feel the heat, so how has Frank Vogel done through 29 games in charge?
Rightly or wrongly, he has to take some responsibility for where the Suns find themselves right now. Not having Bradley Beal for most of the season so far has really hurt the group's ambitions, while center Jusuf Nurkic isn't the first player you'd think of when pairing a high-level defensive big to try and impliment Vogel's schemes on that end.
He can only work with what he has been given, and what that looks like right now is a top-heavy roster that is missing their third best player. With that being said - if anybody was going to maximize the talent at his disposal on the defensive end - it was going to be coach Vogel. Only to this point we have failed to see that happen for long stretches.
The team ranking 19th in defensive rating (115.4), and an even worse 119.9 over the last seven games. To give Vogel some credit again though, when your center rotation is Nurkic, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu and sometimes even Durant in certain situations - you are only going to be so good on that end.
Offensively this group was supposed to take care of itself, but their scoring struggles have been well documented recently. The Suns ranking below league average (16th, 115.3) so far this season, and a truly awful 26th (112.3) over the last seven games. A period we keep returning to, as it has easily been the worst stretch of the season to date for the franchise.
Even with Beal missing, coach Vogel has to do a better job of creating a successful offensive scheme around Durant and Devin Booker. On the subject of their franchise player, it is unclear if coach Vogel is happy with Booker as their primary point guard. He has been full of praise for the player, but behind closed doors, he may want to see Booker return to being the elite two-guard we all know that he is.
Having a veteran ball-handler would also allow coach Vogel to have a player out there who can be his voice over the course of a game. Not that Booker doesn't try to do this - but this is his first season as a point guard and although he is doing a great job - it takes years and plenty of reps in less pressurised situations to become a high level co-ordinator of a group out on the court.
So again, we can't really blame Vogel for that either. If you were running the team, you too would have Booker initiating the offense more often than not. The topic of Durant's unhappiness isn't on him either, because Vogel can't make Durant be happy about his current basketball situation. It is one he literally cherry-picked himself while with the Brooklyn Nets.
Coach Vogel hasn't come out and had any outrageous quotes or moments of madness when speaking to the media, and really his calm and even-keeled demeanour is exactly what this organization needs at the head coach position in this moment. Then again, does his skillset make him the right person for this group as it is currently constructed in the long-term?
The logic between hiring him was sound, and nobody is missing Monty Williams at this point either. But Vogel had his best success while coaching an Indiana Pacers team that had a young, two-way star in Paul George, and an enforcer in Roy Hibbert. While with the Los Angeles Lakers - where he won a championship - he was able to call upon Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
Davis when healthy is a game-changer on the defensive end, while James is one of the best to ever do it. Vogel also had a floor general in Rajon Rondo who had seen it all, and a defensive-minded difference maker in the form of Alex Caruso. If he had both of those needs filled with the Suns, it is fair to say they may be in a better position than the one they find themselves in now.
But it may be that - when trying to create an offensive supernova that can mask the defensive fragilities of building around three stars - that Vogel is not the right man for the job. His position should not be under any threat right now however, although we all know in the NBA when things are going wrong, it is the head coach who is the first to go.