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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns, Brandon Knight host Milwaukee Bucks in afternoon matinee

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The Phoenix Suns have a player in Brandon Knight who really wants to show his old employer, the Milwaukee Bucks, they made a mistake in trading him away last year. Knight's performance might just tilt the difference in this game.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks

When: 3:00PM AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

TV: FoxSports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM

Sure, most of the country is spending their Sunday watching highly competitive, playoff-determining matchups on the networks. Sundays in the fall are reserved for pregame preview shows, gatherings around crappy, artery-clogging food and jerseys, shirseys and face paint.

But hey not everyone is a football fan, right? Some of us just want to watch the Phoenix Suns take on a young, exciting team in the Milwaukee Bucks as a pregame warmup before the Cardinals game tonight.

Let's boil it down here. The AZ Cardinals don't play until 6:30pm tonight. The afternoon NFL games only involve a handful of interesting teams, at best. Maybe you're Brock Osweiler fan, and you can't wait to see him try to solve the Steelers? Fine, just channel-flip four a couple hours then.

Turn on the Suns at 3:00 to watch Brandon Knight try to prove to them why he was worthy of big dollars to stay in Buck-town. Knight faces his former team for the first time tonight. So far this season, he's 0-2 against former teams though he's averaged 22 points and 3.5 assists in two games against the Pistons, his first NBA employer.

The Bucks

Despite the exciting showing versus the Golden State Warriors, these Bucks have had a tough time since the Brandon Knight trade. Remember, they traded Knight for Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis.

Prior to the Brandon Knight trade last All-Star break, the Bucks were 29-23 with one of the league's best defenses and an exciting rotation of youth supplemented by a few veterans like Jared Dudley, Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova.

Knight was the starting point guard on that team in a young lineup featuring Kris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Larry Sanders. All the vets came off the bench for the first couple months before Parker got hurt and Sanders quit basketball.

After the Knight trade, the Bucks went 12-18 to finish last season and are now 10-18 this year. Was Knight the lynchpin for the Bucks? Probably not. But his shooting and playmaking skills allowed the Bucks to succeed, and without him they've struggled badly.

This year, the Bucks feature max player Greg Monroe in the middle with a developing Greek freak and steady Middleton. But they are still 10-18 because their defense is one of the league's worst (remember when MCW was supposed to make them even better replacing Knight?) and their offense is only slightly better.

The Suns

Brandon Knight has a lot of growing up to do. It's quite possible his NBA ceiling is being a microwave scorer/playmaker off the bench a la Jamal Crawford, or Lou Williams, or Nick Young. While you might argue Knight is better than those guys (I would), he kinda fits that mold at this stage of his career. He's a hot/cold shooter, hot/cold focus guy and not full of natural basketball IQ make a huge difference in games.

Yet, he's a pretty darn good player regardless. He might be in his fifth NBA season, but at just 24 years old he's putting up rare numbers for a guy so young.

Over the past FIVE seasons, only a handful of players 24 or younger have produced what Knight is producing this season (stats pulled prior to Friday's game).

Knight-numbers

Only James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry have matched or exceeded Knight's 20+ points, 5+ assists, 4+ rebounds and 1.5+ steals per night at the age of 24 or younger. Even on a per-36 basis (allowing for guys on lesser minutes per game producing at the same rate), the list does not change.

So I'll say it again - on a per-game AND a per-36 basis - Knight is one of only four players in the last 5 years with 20/5/4/1.5 per night before turning 25 years old.

If you factor in the 50+% effective field goal shooting (scoring rate per shot, giving extra credit to threes), even Westbrook drops off the short list while Knight stays on.

So while Knight might not be the fourth coming of Curry, Harden and Westbrook, he's a pretty darn good player.

Let's hope he has a good game against his former team today. It's a good measuring stick of his ability to produce under pressure. I guarantee you, no matter what he says to the media, this game means a lot to Brandon. He's going to want to play very well against the Bucks.

Prediction

The Suns really should be able to beat the Bucks. The Bucks just aren't a great basketball team.

Yet the same skills that allowed the Bucks to hassle the Warriors - putting long, tall defenders all along the wing to prevent shooters and force inside scoring - might cause the Suns trouble as well.

The Suns will need solid games from Bledsoe and Knight (especially Knight), as well as good inside scoring and defense from Tyson Chandler and Alex Len.

I see this as a comfortable win for the Suns.

100-90.

What do you think, Suns fans?