Despite seeing a four-game winning streak snapped by the surging L.A. Clippers recently, the Phoenix Suns have steadied the ship after some worrying losses. They may have slipped back down to ninth in the Western Conference as well, but this is a group that is just about to get fully healthy when it really matters.
One spot below the Suns in the West sit the Los Angeles Lakers, who themselves were on the receiving end of a disappointing home loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday. This left them below .500 at 17-18, and was the third straight loss for LeBron James, Anthony Davis and some guy who beaten Devin Booker out of a spot on the NBA All-Star fan voting ballot.
As the Lakers search for solutions to deep-rooted problems around their lineups and the players at their disposal, current head coach Darvin Ham is now very much in the hot seat. The second year coach unable to find a way to get the Lakers out of this funk, even with James continuing to defy the odds at 39-years-old to remain one of the top 12 players in the league.
In fact if there is one person the Lakers likely wish they could turn to right now, it is their one time head coach and current Suns leading man, Frank Vogel.
Although some Suns fans still remain unconvinced by the former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic head coach, if nothing else he has remained a steady presence for the franchise through some choppy waters this season. Unlike Ham and other coaches throughout the league, Vogel doesn't rush into making sweeping adjustments when things aren't going his way.
Despite Bradley Beal missing a good portion of the season to date - and with both Booker and Kevin Durant out of the lineup through injury from time to time - Vogel has remained steady with the players at his disposal. So much so that Bol Bol, a player Vogel has publicly backed this season, has only gotten some run to really show what he can do in the last two games.
Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon are the sometimes starters whose job it is to knock down open shots - be it in the starting lineup or off the bench - while no player knows their role better than center Jusuf Nurkic. If anything coach Vogel also deserves credit for ensuring Nurkic isn't an absolute disaster on the defensive end most nights either, which many worried he would be.
Jordan Goodwin is the backup point guard, while the likes of Chimezie Metu and even Udoka Azubuike know that they'll be given opportunities every so often. Even though Yuta Watanabe hasn't worked out, Vogel hasn't missed a beat creating a rotation that can still work even without the high-level 3-point shooting that Watanabe's arrival last summer promised.
All of which is to say - if Vogel was still the head coach for the Lakers - he would be better equipped to try and coach them out of the troubling situation they currently find themselves in. He has always been known as a high-level defensive coach, and when he was at the helm when the Lakers won the championship back in 2020, the defensive scheme he had in place was elite.
Yet even though the Suns were supposed to have a supercharged offensive lineup - while cobbling together what they could on the other end - in the last 10 games the Suns have a better defensive rating (117.6) than then Lakers (118.1). This despite both James and Davis being healthy for most of the season to date.
Davis had missed some time recently, but was back and played a team high 43 minutes in the loss to the Heat in Los Angeles. With the likes of Jarrad Vanderbilt and Max Christie also on the roster around their two stars, Vogel would likely have been able to turn that group into one of the best defensive teams in the league.
But instead he is treading water on that end in The Valley, while entrusting lead assistant and offensive maestro Kevin Young to put together a gameplan that sees the team pile up points when healthy. So while coach Vogel has had his own issues so far this season, his ability to stick to his principles and build the roster in his vision is going to lead to good things if they stay healthy.
For the Lakers however, if the do decide to can Ham, where do they go from there? Mark Jackson? Doc Rivers? With LeBron only getting older, they would have been better served having a proven coach in Vogel to run the team for the long haul, like they had originally planned to do. Instead the Suns moved on from Monty Williams and got to profit from the Lakers' mistake here.