The case for the Phoenix Suns to make things interesting in Orlando
In the most boring take of this basketball season, some have argued the Phoenix Suns shouldn’t be in Orlando. They are already effectively being ruled out of the playoff race, and mathematically could be in just a few short days.
The Suns can treat this as some extra development time for the youngsters, a unique experience to go through together and further their bond as a basketball team.
But, let’s go take a look at the eight-game schedule in nifty table form:
Phoenix Suns 2019-20 TV schedule for seeding games
|July 31||1:00 p.m.||Washington Wizards (24-40)||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Aug. 2||6:00 p.m.||Dallas Mavericks (40-27)||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Aug. 4||1:00 p.m.||Los Angeles Clippers (44-20)||NBA TV|
|Aug. 6||1:00 p.m.||Indiana Pacers (39-26)||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Aug. 8||4:30 p.m.||Miami Heat (41-24)||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Aug. 10||11:30 a.m.||Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24)||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Aug. 11||1:30 p.m.||Phildelphia 76ers (39-26)||FOX Sports Arizona|
|Aug. 13||TBD||Dallas Mavericks (40-27)||TBD|
What can we take away from this? A few things, actually! And I will now go into detail on them, details which trend in quite an optimistic direction!
All three wins the Suns have in the 11 games against this competition were among the best of the season.
We, of course, start with the home wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers early on in the season, the two signature victories of that 7-4 opening to the season.
That Sixers game was arguably the best game of Devin Booker’s career. Yes, the 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting in 32 minutes that included his best crunch-time performance of the season, but he absolutely locked in defensively as well.
I had pretty solid seating on the "Devin Booker can be pretty good at defense!" train but even possessions like this we've never seen from him before. This is rude. pic.twitter.com/8KwYkDzXYG
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) November 5, 2019
The third win was, as strange as it sounds, the first game Booker and Deandre Ayton both dominated throughout an entire 48 minutes. That was a 133-104 trouncing of the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 28.
Booker had 32 points (12-of-20 shooting), six rebounds, nine assists and two steals in 31 minutes on a whopping plus-36.
Ayton scored 31 points on 15 shots (!) to go with nine rebounds, an assist, two steals and a block. In what has become a theme of his career, a concrete mentality of getting close to the rim and bailing on the mid-range jumpers worked out.
Ayton's shot chart from tonight pic.twitter.com/vtF85HJOth
— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) January 29, 2020
With that from those three games…
POTENTIAL TO GET ROLLING
The Suns’ first three games are against the Wizards, who are not good, followed by Dallas and the Clippers.
Phoenix has always matched up well with the Mavericks in the past two seasons, and they can take the confidence from that earlier win against Los Angeles into that third game, ideally off two straight from the rip.
Which brings us to…
LACK OF MEANINGFUL OPPOSITION
The Suns will play their last seven games against teams using this as a tuneup.
While having their own destiny in control against some of the competition for the eighth seed would be preferred, this is a sneaky good twist in their favor.
Again, if the Suns can get hot, we’ve seen time in and time out how teams with a distinct advantage in mentality for that specific game can be enough of an edge. They have proven that both in a good and bad way, mostly bad, but stick with me!
The opposition will also be motivated to be on minutes restrictions and, again, using this as a slightly more ramped up preseason of sorts.
There’s a good chance the 76ers don’t want to play Joel Embiid in the second-to-last game of their eight before the playoffs when their seeding is all but cemented. Indiana has still not committed to Victor Oladipo playing. Other examples will surely pop up in the next month or so.
There’s gonna be wiggle room for some funky business going down in the land of Mickey Mouse because…
BE READY FOR THINGS TO GET WEIRD
All of this is extremely unprecedented.
The bubble, the difference in what these teams are playing for over eight games, playing games with no fans in the same arena as other games going on, being away from family for so long, getting swabs shoved up your nose three times a week, self-isolating in a hotel, seeing your opposition take the last piece of french toast at breakfast, etc.
As I’ve discussed the bubble more and more the past few months and been asked about it, my repeated thought has been to expect the unexpected. Some teams are going to adapt well. Others will not.
With that, there is opportunity.
And when you look at the best players out of the six teams competing for that eighth and final spot in the West, only Damian Lillard has an inarguable case over Booker.
Remember, we’re doing this in just over two weeks. We can’t rule out Booker averaging 35 points a game over that short amount of time and carrying this team. It’s certainly improbable, but not impossible, just like convincing yourself the Suns were a legit playoff team through the first 11 games of the season.