Just because a team’s future appears to be bright does not mean it actually will be.
Case in point: The 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Following their divisional series loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, there was plenty of disappointment. To come so close yet fall short stung. However, there was also plenty of optimism. The D-backs were a young team that surprised everyone with their season, and their farm system was stocked with elite prospects.
It was only the beginning, we thought.
Apparently it was the end.
For a variety of reasons — be it poor decision-making, injuries, increased competition or the lack of growth of players from whom it was expected — the D-backs not only failed to take a step forward, but appear to have taken quite a few steps back.
In October 2011, it was believed the D-backs would be one of baseball’s best teams by 2014. Instead, they might just be one of the worst.
Allow the Diamondbacks to serve as a bit of a cautionary tale for the Phoenix Suns and their fans.
The team surprised everyone by winning 48 games and nearly finding its way into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. And if the Suns had been part of the Eastern Conference, they’d not only be in the postseason, but have a shot at earning home court advantage.
But as the surprising campaign comes to its premature end, all the focus will not shift toward next season and beyond.
Virtually every conversation about the team’s disappointing finish is centered on the idea that this is just the beginning.
We can hope.
Much like the Diamondbacks three years ago, there is plenty of optimism surrounding the Suns. The roster is young, there are a bevvy of first-round picks in their future and they appear to have the right guys in place at both head coach and general manager.
The Suns very well could be just an offseason away from being right back among the NBA’s elite. The right free agent signing or a well-executed trade could turn them from playoff contender to championship contender, and they appear to have the pieces to make it happen.
But will the pressure to get to the next level cause the team to make a mistake or two? There is an inherent danger in believing you are a piece or two away from a title, because that generally leads to mortgaging at least a part of the future in order to try and help the present. As the D-backs have proven, that can be a very, very bad thing.
The good news is by all accounts, the Suns seem to be pretty steadfast in the plan they’ve put together and do not appear anxious to veer away from it. They decided to stand pat at the trade deadline — perhaps at the expense of a playoff spot this year — because there was no interest in risking the future.
Up until now, Suns GM Ryan McDonough has provided little reason to doubt his acumen or ability to build a winner and there is a strong belief the team was in good shape with him calling the shots.
Then again, it wasn’t long ago where we felt the same about Kevin Towers and what he could do with the Diamondbacks.
As we know all too well, even the brightest of futures can be dimmed in no time.