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Pre-Season Preview: Phoenix Suns v. Oklahoma City Thunder: Introducing the youth in very different ways

Seven years ago the shoe was on the other foot and in the a weird circle of basketball life the Suns are where the Thunder were even before they were the Thunder. Home pre-season finale, what are the key match-ups, stats, and starting line-ups?


Two teams heading in opposite directions with pre-season pride on the line? Yeah, the Phoenix Suns (3-2) hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1) is clearly a "can't miss" event.

On paper these two teams should come together for a competitive game.

Every year there seems to be a rumor of the Suns and the Thunder doing business together from a rumored Steve Nash trade a few years ago, to James Harden discussions, and to Marcin Gortat rumors the past year and a half. These two teams are always in the rumor mill together and yet no triggers have been pulled.

In the mean time the Thunder have knocked around the Suns for 10 straight games.

This year both teams will have new dynamics on the court. The Thunder are incorporating their younger players into rotation minutes on the perimeter and the Suns are incorporating a brand new team.

Goran Dragic and Russell Westbrook will not play in the game tonight taking away some of the excitement, but allowing young players like Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, Archie Goodwin, and Kendall Marshall to get some floor time and earn a slot in the rotation.

Head-to-Head: Pre-Season Stats

Suns (3-2): 105.2 PPG 43.8 RPG 9.0 SPG 49.9% FG 36.3% 3PT

Thunder (4-1): 99.4 PPG 49.4 RPG 8.8 SPG 44.8% FG 29.9% 3PT

Hey, the Suns are the better team on paper! Through five games this pre-season the Suns are a better rebounding team, better shooting from the field and three, and causing more turnovers per game. The team has more energy and in this exhibition season have been playing well as a unit, outside of the past two games.

The Thunder are a little more restricted offensively with Russell Westbrook out of the line-up still, leaning more on defense, rebounding, and Kevin Durant.

Athletically the Suns match-up well with the Thunder in this setting. They can match them with athletes on the perimeter and in the paint getting up-and-down the floor scoring and causing havoc. With the pre-season winding down there might be more floor time for the reserves, but the Thunder reserves are young prospects auditioning for trades and free-agency, for teams like the Suns.

Head-to-Head Match-Up (pre-season)

Reggie Jackson: 14.2 PPG 6.2 APG 3.2 RPG 1.4 SPG 52.9 FG% (5 games)

Eric Bledsoe: 11.0 PPG 5.4 APG 2.8 RPG 3.0 SPG 47.1 FG% (5 games)

This pre-season has been a statement and coming out party for Jackson. He has started every game and is stepping his game up to show that he is a potential starting point guard in this league that is more than just athletic. He played well during the playoffs with a little trial by fire, but backing it up sometimes is tougher than proving that you can actually do it initially.

He and Bledsoe are in similar situations with being given the reigns of a team over night, with different circumstance.

Two of the more dynamic, athletic point guards in the league coming off the bench last year go head-to-head as starters. With Westbrook still rehabbing, he practiced with the team for the first time yesterday, Jackson becomes the teams primary play-maker on the perimeter opposite of Durant.

This has the potential to be a fun match-up this game and going forward as both teams will showcase very athletic, play-making back-courts this season with Westbrook-Jackson and Bledsoe-Dragic.

Bledsoe is coming out of Chris Paul (and John Wall's) shadow for the first time in his career. He has the opportunity to cast his own shadow now and see how it measures up with his former mentors and a fair shot at starting minutes. There is no question that "Baby LeBron" has the physical and athletic skills to be a play-maker like Jackson, now both come head-to-head as they try to prove themselves.

(Potential) Starting Line-Ups

PG - Eric Bledsoe v. Reggie Jackson

SG - Archie Goodwin v. Thabo Sefolosha

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Kevin Durant

PF - Markieff Morris v. Serge Ibaka

C - Marcin Gortat v. Hasheem Thabeet

Potential Suns Inactives: Goran Dragic (Ankle)

Potential Thunder Inactives: Russell Westbrook (Knee) & Kendrick Perkins

Key Match-Up

Archie Goodwin v. Jeremy Lamb

How do you like your young, athletic wing players? Are you partial to the long, raw, and aggressive type wearing purple and orange? What about the smooth, quality shooting, long type in blue and orange? Either way this match-up of a Suns fan favorite from the 2012 NBA Draft and who might be the steal of the 2013 NBA Draft could be a fun one if they see considerable floor time.

Lamb has not shot the ball well through five games (4-23) and has struggled offensively so far. He could be the teams designated shooter this season from the perimeter playing side-by-side with Durant creating a long wing combination.

Goodwin was taken a year later in the draft and 17 picks later, but has been impressive in his short time with the team. He is the youngest player in the NBA and sometimes plays like it. These two can combine for their share of highlights (or low-lights) with aggressive defensive plays and finishes out on the break.

Interesting Stat: 23.4

Nobody is playing major minutes this pre-season for the Suns. To date there are only three players that have averaged 20+ minutes a game in Gortat (20.0), Markieff (20.4), and the leader, Bledsoe (23.4) with all three being projected starters this season.

In contrast the Thunder have six players averaging at least 21+ minutes per game and have their rotation set going into the season.

Meaningless Stat: 56.25% (9/16)

So far this pre-season the Morrii are shooting 56.25% from three. Markieff is 2/2 and Marcus is 7/17 as the duo is shooting the ball well, sparse, and efficient from the three-point line. Through Markieff's career he has shot the ball in volume from three and it exposed his efficiency (34.1% career), but with this role he is playing more in the mid-range and limiting his three-point shooting. The closer you are to the rim the better the percentages are to make a basket. So far this pre-season, the Morrii are getting that.

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