Nostradamus, the Oracle of Delphi, and Miss Cleo all had one thing in common: funny accents.
They also wouldn't put money on the Phoenix Suns winning many games next season. Here's the next segment in our preseason predictions series, highlighting what should be a long year for new coach Jeff Hornacek, with eyes set firmly on the future.
The Phoenix Suns
Prediction: Marcin Gortat and Kendall Marshall will be traded in the same mid-season deal.
"Wow, time flies." That's what I thought as I started writing this.
Some years ago, the Suns were everyone's favorite brand of basketball. My, how they ran and oh, how they scored. Unfortunately for them, their peak coincided with that of the Spurs and (to a lesser extent) the Mavs, and all that Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion did was end up comprising one of the best teams in NBA history to never make it to the finals. Blame fate. Blame the Spurs. Blame Robert Horry. But if you want to point the finger at someone for the sorry state they're in today, blame owner Robert Sarver.
Since buying the Suns in 2004, Sarver has carefully overseen the team's unraveling and received plenty of notoriety along the way. Steve Nash and his ‘seven seconds or less' counterparts masked the boneheaded decisions at the time but, as their roster has thinned out, the leftover shavings highlight what has been a comedy of errors.
Seven seconds is also the amount of time some of the Suns' finest draft picks actually spent with the team before being traded. In 2004, they drafted Luol Deng and traded him for cash and picks. In 2006, they drafted Rajon Rondo and traded him for (dramatic pause) cash and picks.
After sucking the last good years out of Steve Nash, Suns management did what they could for him/with him, by letting him go and play with Kobe. You also can't fault them for trading good-but-going-nowhere-with-him forward Jared Dudley and getting promising guard Eric Bledsoe in return.
Which brings us, more or less, to the Suns rotation next year:
SF: Gerald Green, PJ Tucker
PF: M. Morris (x2), Channing Frye
It's not the worst roster in the NBA--that dubious honor belongs to the Philadelphia Panzers--yet, make no mistake about it: this is a team designed to lose and lose hard.
There are only two players on these Suns still around from the start of the 2010-2011 season - Gortat and Frye. One will almost certainly not be around at the end of this season and the other they probably wish would be gone.
Frye, the Suns' third-highest-paid player, is buried in the depth chart beneath Marcus and Markieff Morris who, aside from their looks, also share the distinction of both going before Kawhi Leonard in the 2011 draft. He's coming off an injury and is making far too much money this year and next to get interest from other teams.
Bledsoe is currently the player Phoenix will plan to build around. He's incredibly athletic, great on defense, and bursting with potential. Fantasy basketball players should look at Mini-Lebron to put up big numbers next year. But is Bledsoe a starting point guard? Is he serviceable as an undersized two, especially in a backcourt with the playmaking Goran Dragic? One thing's for sure: he'll provide no shortage of highlights:
Beyond Bledsoe and 2013 5th overall pick Alex Len, the other intriguing player to mention is their other 1st rounder from this year, Archie Goodwin. Like Bledsoe, Goodwin spent one year at UK before going pro, and will take a few years to show his real potential. He's 6'5'', had a good showing in the summer league, and the number of minutes he gets this year will be directly related to how much Phoenix is interested in sacrificing wins this year in exchange for investing in the future.
For Marcin Gortat, it's not about if he gets traded but when and to what team. The rumors have been swirling around him for some time now, and the drafting of Maryland big Alex Len only affirms that belief. In this recent article by SBNation cohorts Bright Side of the Sun, Gortat admits it's only a matter of time.
The big man from Poland is still only 29 and would be a solid addition for a contending team in need of a center. His numbers last year took a hit with the departure of Steve Nash but, since he's in the last year of his contract, he represents no big commitment in terms of cap room.
The other piece of this theoretical trade, Kendall Marshall, is a former high draft pick that never really gained the trust of the coaching staff. He played spot minutes last year and spent some time in the D-League. With the acquisition of Bledsoe - and the potential of Archie Goodwin - Marshall has become expendable. As Phoenix trades Gortat, it would make a lot of sense for them to unload Marshall's contract with him.
In terms of trade partners, my early money's on Denver or Dallas--Denver because they have plenty of assets who all seem more or less tradable (aside from Ty Lawson), and Dallas because they still don't have a good center, and could look to bolster their lineup in the hopes of a do-it-for-Dirk playoff push.
It'll be an ugly year in Phoenix but a few clever moves and a promising 2014 draft class could see their fortunes change sooner rather than later.
Other Suns predictions:
Phoenix gets the first pick in the 2014 draft (5 to 1)
People may claim that the best of the east is tougher than the best of the west (it's not), but there's no denying that the bottom of the east is significantly worse than the west. Boston, Orlando and Charlotte will give Philly a few unwanted W's, and that may count in Phoenix's favor when it comes to the number of ping pong balls they get. I expect the Suns to finish with the 2nd-worst record in the NBA, which would give them roughly a 20% chance of selecting Andrew Wiggins.
Suns lose to Israeli team Maccabi Haifa in preseason game (7 to 1)
Well, they are the defending Israeli champs...
Suns trade Channing Frye (13000000 to 1)
As in, $13 million on the table over the next two seasons (including a player option next year which he would be crazy not to pick up).