The biggest surprise and one of the best stories of the 2013-14 NBA season has been the unexpected resurgence of the Phoenix Suns.
Led by first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek, the Suns put a big cherry on the delicious sundae that was the season's first half by routing the league's best team, the Indiana Pacers, 124-100 Wednesday night at US Airways Center.
Phoenix sits at 24-17 through 41 games and in seventh place in the Western Conference -- enough to get a grade of 'A' from Sports Illustrated writer Ben Golliver.
To observers, the out-of-nowhere Suns have been delightful to watch. To opponents, their high-pressure defense, relentless attacking of the basket and youthful exuberance have been a royal pain in the neck. First-year coach Jeff Hornacek is in the Coach of the Year discussion for his ability to mold a group short on star power into a determined, team-first unit that has defeated Portland, Houston, Golden State, the Clippers and Indiana even though it entered the season projected to be the West's worst team.
Golliver's point is well-taken. Oddsmaking service Bovada.LV set the Suns' over/under on win total this season at 21 -- a mark they eclipsed back on Jan. 8.
But as Golliver illustrates, the future is a whole lot prettier for the Suns than even the present is.
Their unexpectedly awesome start deserves the attention it has received, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Phoenix is set up nicely for continued success next season and beyond.
The Suns were one of only seven teams to earn a midseason grade of 'A' or better. Indiana, Oklahoma City and Portland all received a mark of 'A+', while the Heat and Spurs got 'A's. The Toronto Raptors got a grade of 'A-' for their first-half peformance.