Not long ago, the Phoenix Suns seemed destined for a playoff run.
But times have changed.
The Suns are currently 36-28 and a full two games out of a Western Conference playoff spot.
Given where the team was predicted to be before the season began, this campaign would have to go down as a success. But if the team fails to reach the postseason for the fourth straight season, 2013-14 will be looked at rather differently.
After all, they'd be where they've been many other times: out of the playoffs but not bad enough to get a top draft pick.
Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, though, sees no way that this season could go down as a failure.
"I find that to be completely wrong," he told the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "We've built a culture, we've got a tremendous coaching staff, the front office is in great shape, the training staff is the best in the world. We've identified players that are here and are going to be successful and have performed at a higher level than we ever expected.
"Yeah, we'll be disappointed if we don't make the playoffs because we put ourselves in a position to accomplish that and that would be a great feat for us, but I don't know how anybody could look at the season other than as a wild success."
It all depends on one's perspective, of course, but Babby may a point. Whereas past "mediocre" Suns teams would have a similar fate to the one this team may be heading for, they were usually filled with veterans in the twilight of their respective careers or, at the very least, lacking in young players the team could build around.
But this team, no matter how it finishes the season, is not lacking in that area. Add in the bevy of draft picks coming their way, too, and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic, no matter how this season ends.
"Of course we're going to be disappointed if you don't achieve a goal, but the fact that we even have that as a realistic goal is a tremendous accomplishment," Babby said, before turning his attention to the team's future draft picks, salary cap space, coaching staff and front office, including a rising star for a GM in Ryan McDonough. "I don't think you could find, I'm going to say, ten franchises in the NBA that are in a better position than we are going forward, and that's a great spot to be in.
"Now we just have to execute on it, we have to convert all these assets into wins, but I'm confident we can do that."