The Phoenix Suns at best can finish with 40 wins this season and they will only reach that level with wins over Minnesota Monday night and San Antonio in the final game on Wednesday. That's a pretty sucky season by Suns' standards. It's just the fourth time since 1998 that Phoenix will be watching lottery ping pong balls instead of playoff seeding.
Was this disappointing season the result of talent available or did the team underachieve its potential?
This team had very little margin for error in the post-Amare era. They needed to gel and recapture last season's amazing chemistry. They needed young players to take big steps forward. They needed to stay very healthy. They needed a lot of luck.
You have to start with Robin Lopez at the biggest disappointment. No one is a bigger defender of the 23-year-old center than me but there's no doubt he failed to live up to expectations. At the same time the expectations placed on him were never realistic.
It's been a hard year for Robin and it's likely he won't be back with the Suns. Only time will tell if this season was a bump in the road or if the Lopez we saw this season is who he is.
Goran Dragic / Aaron Brooks
With Nash getting not younger by the day, it was crucial for the Suns to get a big year from Dragic. That didn't happen. Some say that's a result of the ever-changing combinations he played with and inability of Josh Childress or Hakim Warrick to space the floor. There's also a sense that Goran got a bit comfortable this year and stopped putting in the extra time and effort on his game.
The trade for Brooks was supposed to give the Suns a punch off the bench and help get over the hump and into the playoffs. Fail.
There were a lot of people, including those in the front office of the Phoenix Suns organization, that thought Vince Carter could replace Jason Richardson's scoring. That didn't happen.
Jason Richardson: 19.6 points per game; 47 percent shooting; 41.9 percent from three (25 games with Suns)
Vince Carter: 13.6 points per game; 42.3 percent shooting; 36.4 percent from three (50 games with Suns)
Hakim Warrick / Josh Childress
Neither of these guys contributed on a consistent basis this season. Warrick gave exactly what could be expected given his career marked by inconsistent play. Childress was more of a mystery and fell victim to a system that needed him to do something he's not good at, spread the floor.
There were not enough surprise performances off-setting those disappoints to make the season a success.
Jared Dudley and Channing Frye both stepped up, but not enough. They went from good role players to above average roll players. Steve Nash and Grant Hill were fantastic again but there was no way they could make up for the loss of Amare and Richardson's scoring.
Marcin Gortat is really the only thing that went better than expected for the team. His rebounding, defense and ability to finish on the pick and roll were all positive additions. But on balance, he couldn't alone make up for Turkoglu's outside shooting and floor spacing on the offensive end and defensively only gave the Suns what they lost from Lou Amundson and Robin Lopez' last season form.
There's very little more this assemblage of players could have done. The disappointments were completely predictable and the positives weren't nearly enough to overcome the loss of Amare or even Lou. The trade for Hedo Turkoglu was a disaster and the Warrick and Childress signings were at best, questionable.
It's easy to say the front office failed to put enough talent on the floor but as many teams know, finding great players is a challenge.
The results, however, speak for themselves and the season is a failure. The blame for that can't be placed on the players.