The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, circumstantially forced into tanking the right way
The Bad Guys: The Cleveland Cavaliers, who recently rewrote the book on when it's acceptable to fire a coach
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland OH
When: 5PM Arizona Time
The Tube: Fox Sports AZ
The 2015/16 Phoenix Suns' season continues, according to league stipulations, but the team has recently perfected the art of the tank, albeit inadvertently. The Suns have now gone 7-27 since starting the season at 7-5, (2-13 since Eric Bledsoe tore his meniscus), and have dropped games to the Lakers, Nets, Timberwolves and 76ers (twice).
They currently sit with the fifth-worst record in the NBA, and have scored losses to every team below them.
They have the first and most integral part of tanking down -- losing games -- but the trickier part is having young players on the floor that actually can make a case for playing time. That's where this team soars above the 2012/13 squad.
Archie Goodwin has scored 20+ points in three straight games, lending reason to wonder if the still-21-year-old has "figured it out." Devin Booker has been miles beyond what anyone predicted as the youngest player in the NBA, easily becoming the Suns' most exciting rookie since Amar'e Stoudemire, and figures to put up All-Star numbers as he hones his game and increases his usage.
Alex Len and T.J. Warren have suffered some ups and downs, but both have already firmly entrenched themselves as NBA players as their development has continued, although without enjoying the leap that might have been expected.
Veteran free-agent pickup Tyson Chandler has shown signs of life lately, registering back-to-back 20 rebound games, and Markieff Morris looks determined to get his PER up to a solid 10.0 before the season is over.
The Suns are a very bad basketball team, but not unwatchable. They might have picked the wrong year to accidentally tank (draftwise), but at least they're doing it in interesting fashion.
As you have surely heard, the Cleveland Cavaliers gave head coach David Blatt the ol' high-hat despite being in first place at 30-11, replacing him with former marginally-talented point guard Tyronn Lue and promptly discarding the interim tag via a multi-year contract, joining him with Blatt and Mike Brown as the third head coach to receive a salary from the Cavs this season.
I don't have any hot takes to offer on this subject. The only surprising thing about Blatt's firing is that anyone was surprised by it, considering the head-coaching climate in the NBA.
After dropping his debut to the Bulls, Lue received his first win as a coach on Monday against the Timberwolves, moving the Cavs to 31-12. While the East has drastically improved as a whole this season, there appears to be less competition for the crown than there was last year, as it's difficult to fathom the Toronto Raptors offering a serious challenge to LeBron James in a 7-game series.
The Cavs rank 6th in ORtg (108.0) and 5th in DRtg (102.4), so they're quite a bit better than the Phoenix Suns. They also play slow (92.8 Pace, 28th in NBA), and we know how well the Suns deal with that.
|Phoenix Suns||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|G||Archie Goodwin||Kyrie Irving|
|G||Devin Booker||J.R. Smith|
|F||P.J. Tucker||LeBron James|
|F||Alex Len? Jon Leuer? Who's healthy?||Kevin Love|
|C||Tyson Chandler||Tristan Thompson|
Don't worry about it -- Devin Booker is playing basketball tonight. Maybe he'll end up in a shootout with LeBron. You should watch just in case.