I think it is safe to say that after a four-game losing streak that included two losses to teams they are now chasing in the race for the 8th and final playoff spot that we can stick a fork in the Phoenix Suns.
For Phoenix to overcome Memphis, New Orleans and Houston and take the 8th seed they would not only need those three teams to falter down the stretch but they would likely have to go 12-4 in their final 16 games. And that is something that the Suns are just not capable of doing.
After 66 games the Suns are what they are – a .500 team. No better. No worse. And it is completely unrealistic to think that a team that has played .500 ball for 80% of the season can now play .750 ball. And especially not with Steve Nash playing hurt and Channing Frye still out of the lineup.
Make no mistake that ownership, management and the players wanted desperately to get to the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs generates excitement, extra revenue, gives fans a good feeling about their team and gives the players pride in accomplishing something over a grueling 82-game schedule.
But there is a silver lining. By not making the playoffs the Suns will get to keep their draft pick, which was lottery protected, instead of giving it to Houston as part of the Goran Dragic for Aaron Brooks trade. The Rockets instead will get the pick that Phoenix acquired from Orlando in the blockbuster trade that sent Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Magic for Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter.
I know it may not seem like much now but when draft day comes you will be much happier with Phoenix picking 12th or 13th instead of 22nd or 23rd, barring a lottery miracle. The difference in picks between Phoenix and Orlando will likely be around 10 or 11 draft spots. That’s a big deal in terms of getting a better prospect.
And it’s not like the Suns would have made the playoffs and shocked the world by knocking off San Antonio again. They in all likelihood would have been a first-round out type of team. So is it better to make the playoffs and pick in the low to mid 20’s or miss the playoffs and pick 12th to 14th?
This upcoming NBA draft is supposed to be one of the worst in recent memories for true talent, but there are always gems in every draft and maybe, just maybe Phoenix can find one.
The Suns competed hard this season, they just never were able to overcome the loss of Amar’e Stoudemire. It’s hard to lose a star player, replace him with role players and not take a step back. Just look at Cleveland without LeBron James, Toronto without Chris Bosh and Utah without Carlos Boozer this season. Right now none of those four teams that lost star players in the offseason would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Whether they like it or not Phoenix is in a transition phase, trying to be competitive and make the playoffs while rebuilding at the same time. And if you are rebuilding having a better draft slot certainly should help.
So while playoff fever will skip Phoenix this season, at least there is a consolation prize.