It’s not every winter that a terrible team in the Western Conference fires its coach and Celtics fans actually have to care. Honestly, I kept confusing Jeff Hornacek for the coach of 2 or 3 other teams at the start of the season, and I only recently memorized his name.
I finally learned for good which team Jeff Hornacek coached when I looked at the standings a few weeks ago. I realized that the Brooklyn Nets, whom we need to lose as many games as possible, only had a handful of fewer wins than the Suns. Since that time, the difference in wins has shrunk to just 2 games, with the Nets at 12 and the Suns and Timberwolves at 14.
The Suns have been in a tailspin recently, going 7-30 since their 7-5 start. Suns owner Robert Sarver hates both Markieff Morris and all millennials, Eric Bledsoe is done for the year, and now their coach is looking for a job. The Phoenix Suns are in disarray, and it’s too bad that we have to care about a dumpster fire when we have an exciting team to watch.
If Brooklyn surpasses Phoenix in wins, then the Nets have the 4th best chance at the top pick in the draft instead of 3rd, decreasing the Celtics’ chances of Ben Simmons from 15.6% to 11.9%. It also lowers their chances at Brandon Ingram, who looks to be a decent consolation prize as the number 2 pick, from 15.7% to 12.6%. Those aren’t huge differences, but there’s another drawback from the Nets beating out the Suns. Danny Ainge will definitely consider trading the Nets’ pick this summer, either for the number 1 pick or for another asset. The 3rd pick carries more weight than the 4th, especially if you’re trying to jump from #3 or #4 up to #1.
The Timberwolves also have 14 wins, but that’s a team that seems more likely to actually try to win games in the Spring. They have a good locker room up in Minny due to KG, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller, and they’re trying to groom the future stars of Wiggins and Towns. For the Suns, though, coach firings usually go one of two ways: Either the players had quit on the old coach and will have a new sense of purpose for the new coach, or the coach firing demonstrates that the team is a sorry collection of players who will only quit on the season even more than they already have. Let’s pray that it’s the former.
It’s important to keep some perspective here. I’m not saying that the Suns dropping behind the Nets would be a devastating blow to the Celtics. But the seeding in at the bottom of the NBA standings is important enough that you should be following it.