It’s not the true midway point, but most people look at the All-Star break as the divide between the first and second halves of the NBA season. The Suns entered the break playing pretty good basketball and have an even 27-27 record. It’s not terrible, but it’s not as good as the Suns’ faithful has become accustomed.
Because of the mediocre season, there has been a lot of speculation by fans about whether or not the Suns were going to move Steve Nash by the trade deadline. Nothing is ever out of the realm of possibility, but it looks increasingly unlikely the Suns will make any big rosters moves before Thursday’s deadline. With that, let’s take a look into the crystal ball and see how this season will end up for the Phoenix Suns as currently comprised…
The Suns will make the playoffs by default.
They are currently in the 10th spot in the West, but the teams in seventh through ninth place don’t inspire much confidence going forward.
The Memphis Grizzlies are in ninth, but their star, Rudy Gay and his almost 20 points per game, will be out four weeks with a shoulder strain. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports he may not return at all this season at all. That would be a huge loss for them, and will certainly make it much tougher for them to play winning basketball.
The Utah Jazz currently sit in the eighth spot, but because the Suns swept the season series, they hold the tie breaker over Utah. The Jazz did not lose a player the caliber of Rudy Gay (they have suffered a lot of injuries though), but their long time coach Jerry Sloan recently resigned and the team has not played well in his absence.
Throw in Carmelo Anthony’s likely exodus from Denver (currently seventh), and you have a pretty good recipe for the Suns to make the playoffs.
Aside from the three teams ahead of the Suns having their own struggles, there is reason for optimism as far as what the Suns have on their own plate. 13 of the Suns remaining 28 games are against teams with a record below .500.
Anyone who has watched the Suns this season knows you can’t pencil those games in as automatic wins (i.e. the Suns two losses to the Kings), but those certainly are winnable games.
Additionally, the Suns have shown the ability to play with anyone with their recent victories over Boston and New Orleans to prove it, so it’s not as though the other 15 games should be penciled in as automatic losses either.
The Suns will have some big tests coming out of the gate for the second half of the season. After opening at home against the Hawks on the 23rd, the Suns will go on a six-game road trip. Four of the six games are against the aforementioned sub .500 teams, but Boston and Oklahoma City make up the other two games on the trip, and the road has not been particularly kind to the Suns regardless of who they’ve played. If the Suns can fight through the six-game roadie with a 4-2 record, that will be a good sign moving forward.
April will also be a trying month, with a five-game road trip that includes stops in San Antonio, Chicago, New Orleans and Dallas. That might seem overwhelming on paper, but Phoenix also plays the Clippers once and Minnesota twice, so the month is not a complete gauntlet. Also keep in mind the Suns have already beaten the Hornets once, and their loss to Chicago was in double overtime way back in November before the trade for Carter, Gortat and Pietrus.
Those two road trips may very well decide this team’s season, but with their recent commitment to defense, the Suns should do just fine and slide into the playoffs.
With that, the goal should not be to simply make the playoffs, but fans should not be shocked if that’s where this team ends up by season’s end.