PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns are the "best team not to make the playoffs."
That's the title first-year coach Jeff Hornacek bestowed on his overachieving squad after it finished a remarkable turnaround season. But despite 48 wins, the Suns are staying home when the real fun begins.
They've tied a record of sorts.
In the NBA's 16-team playoff era, only one other 48-win team didn't make the postseason — the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors.
It's a frustrating situation because of the decidedly Western power tilt in the NBA. If Phoenix was in the Eastern Conference, it would be tied for the third-best record with Toronto and Chicago. The Suns won 10 more games than the East's No. 8 seed, Atlanta.
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with Fox Sports Southwest that there needs to be "a fresh look" at the possibility of restructuring the playoffs to seed teams by their records regardless of conference.
Of course the Suns would be all for that.
"When you look at the teams in the East and see where you'd be seeded in the East, it kind of irks you I think," Phoenix center Miles Plumlee said. "But I think the landscape in the NBA might change in the future and maybe it might just be the top 16 teams that are in it."
Dallas, the No. 8 seed, is the only playoff team in the West not to win 50 games. The Mavericks won 49, including a crucial victory over Phoenix last weekend, to finish a game ahead of the Suns. In the East, only Indiana (56-26) and Miami (54-28) topped 50, and the Suns beat Indiana twice.
The scenario was almost identical in 2008, when every playoff team in the Western Conference won at least 50 games. If that Golden State team had been in the East, it would have been the No. 4 seed.
This is not an unusual situation for Arizona sports fans.
Last season, the NFL's Arizona Cardinals became the first 10-6 team not to make the playoffs since New England in 2008.
And in the NHL, the Phoenix Coyotes' 89 points were the most by any team not to make the postseason.
Of course, any whining must be accompanied by the realization that a victory here and there — such as in the Suns' inexplicable late-season blowout loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles — and some other team would be wearing the "best of the rest crown."
The Suns have to be satisfied simply with a 23-win turnaround from their 25-57 2012-13 season that was the second-worst in franchise history. Preseason forecasters had said the Suns would be lucky to win 20 games.
"The expectations at the beginning of the year, we've soared beyond those," Plumlee said. "Regardless of whether we made it or not, we knew it was a great year. Just a couple of games here and there that we should have won and we'd be in it."
Hornacek, who saw plenty of playoff action in his days as a sharpshooter for the Suns and Utah Jazz, said, "I think it's just frustration. You had a good year, you won 48 games, and you miss out."
The Suns look at this as a springboard to better things to come. They should not use those '08 Warriors as a case study.
The following season, in 2008-09, Golden State went into a freefall, finishing 29-53.