When Phoenix was rounding out their roster in October, the era of Steve Nash was a thing of the past and most NBA prognosticators had assigned the Suns to the Western Conference basement. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings were picked to finish ahead of them.
Their draft haul of Alex Len, Archie Goodwin and Alex Oriakhi last summer drew yawns, and the additions of Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee didn’t exactly light the desert on fire either.
The move to acquire the exciting and dynamic Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers raised a few eyebrows, but many wondered how he could coexist with their incumbent floor general Goran Dragic.
To top it all off, former Suns player Jeff Hornacek was taking over the head coaching duties with no prior experience, and brawny center Marcin Gortat was traded to the Wizards in mid October.
No wonder everybody had them looking like freeze-dried rat turds on a stale Bowery bagel. But something funny happened during the season.
The guard tandem of Dragic and Bledsoe is looking like the most un-guardable backcourt in the NBA, Gerald Green is suddenly the offensive peer of almost every small forward in the NBA not named LeBron, Carmelo, Paul George, or KD, and Miles Plumlee is catching all kinds of alley-oops and dunking on peoples’ heads.
Did we mention that Miles, who is averaging eight points and eight rebounds, never showed this type of athletic potential before, and that his brother Mason was the only Plumlee known for a decent above-the-rim game?
Okay, we just did. Twins Marcus and Markief Morris are a power forward tandem that is also of merit and are averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds between them.
Not too shabby.
Couple that with veteran contributions from PJ Tucker and Channing Frye, and it's easy to see how the Suns have made a surprising playoff run through the rugged Western Conference with a record of 46-31.
After defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 122-115, Phoenix is brawling with the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot out west. Heavens to Betsy, they’re even playing defense, ranking eighth in the NBA in points allowed!
While Dragic was one of the biggest All-Star snubs this season, and Green has exceeded expectations while averaging a career-high with 16 points and a 40% shooting percentage from beyond the three-point line, much of the franchise's current success can be attributed to the coaching and leadership of Jeff Hornacek.
A 46-31 record in the East would be a top-4 seed during the playoffs, yet they toil away in the desert hoping for the teams ahead of them, and below them, to continue to lose.
However, their feel-good season will ultimately end in a first round playoff matchup against the veteran San Antonio Spurs.
Do they have a puncher’s chance at pulling off an upset? About as much chance as an ice cube in Arizona at high noon, but I’ll enjoy watching the entertaining Suns contrast their style against that of the Spurs.
And maybe, just maybe, this ice cube won’t melt until quarter after 3.