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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns face Return of the Dragon, Gr33n Machine

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Miami Heat

When: 7:30pm AZ time (9:30 Eastern)

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

TV: Fox Sports AZ

Radio: 98.7 FM

Suns-east is going to visit Talking Stick Resort Arena tonight and the sound bytes might cause a meltdown in Suns-town. It was bad enough that MIke D and Jerry C got a win two weeks ago with a worse team. Now Goran Dragic and Gerald Green return with their big bad Heat team to dismantle the lowly Suns and extract some measure of satisfaction with the Suns demise.

Already Marcus Morris has enjoyed his return to the Valley, as has Ish Smith. Now its the Dragon, Gr33n and even STAT who might make Suns fans rue their franchise.

I guess the only saving grace is the game is NOT on ESPN or TNT.

The Heat

There's more to the Miami Heat than the three former Suns players who will likely get bigger cheers than any current Suns players tonight. In fact, you're likely to see and hear bigger cheers for long-time NBA star and Finals MVP Dwyane Wade.

Wade is having a very good year, but his 18.5 points and 4.5 assists per game are the lowest since his rookie year. In between, he's been an All-Star for 11 consecutive seasons. Still, his usage rate is quite high as he handles the ball a lot in the Miami offense.

Chris Bosh is the other long-term NBA star in the Heat lineup, being named to 10 straight All-Star games himself. Bosh recovered from blood clots in his lungs that knocked him out of the second half of last season to put up 19 points and 8 rebounds per game - the highest since his first season in Miami.

Manning the middle of the Heat's defense is Hassan Whiteside.

Remember Hassan?

This season, he's averaging 12.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and a league-high 3.9 blocks per game. Defensive Player of the Year candidate? Hardly. Miami's defense is 7 points better per 100 possessions without him, and he sometimes sits in 4th quarters of tight games.

The other non-Suns news on the Heat are Tyler Johnson and rookie Justice Winslow. We all remember Johnson putting up 21 points in the Heat late-season win over the Suns, and he's come back this year to be a key cog off the bench for the Heat. Rookie Winslow is getting 27 minutes per game on the wing.

Former Suns

If you just look at the stats, Gerald Green and Goran Dragic are having worse years in Miami than they did for the Suns, but you can bet they are happier with bigger roles - or at least roles that better suit them.

Dragic is scoring 11 points and dishing 5 assists in 32 minutes per game on bad shooting (46% overall, 29% on threes) sharing the ball with Wade, while Gerald Green is (shocker) hot and cold off the bench but still playing most every game and getting significant minutes.

The Suns haven't made the playoffs since Amare Stoudemire left the team nearly six years ago. That's sad. He's putting up just 3.4 points per game this season in Miami and happy riding the bench for potential deep playoff team.

Expect at least one of these three guys to score 20+ in their return to the Valley. It just happens that way.

Current Suns

P.J. Tucker got kicked in the groin/thigh in the last game but returned to play and make the game-deciding three pointer and will play against Miami. "If I'm walking, I'm playing," he told Coro.

I hope Ronnie Price can suit up (never thought I'd be saying that in early January!) to back up Brandon Knight. Otherwise, it's probably Devin Booker getting some playmaking minutes because he tends to make smart decisions, and maybe 10-day signee Lorenzo Brown will get some time as well.

The guys we don't see are Archie Goodwin and Markieff Morris and Sonny Weems. What does it mean when Lo Brown is more likely to get minutes than those three? Means the Suns are not as deep as we might have thought.

Key matchup

GM Ryan McDonough said Brandon Knight was "the best player coming or going" in the deadline trades last February that sent out Dragic and Thomas and brought back Knight.

Knight is putting up numbers - 19 points and 5 assists - but it's hard to argue at this point that he's better than either Dragic or Thomas. He's younger. Maybe with a higher ceiling. But he's not better this season.

I'm curious to see if the matchup against Dragic will bring out Knight's best or worst. He's been unpredictable this season whether he will be dialed in or not, even quarter to quarter. Dragic will likely be hyped up to play well, and might just get the best of Knight tonight.

Prediction

Suns lose, and get closer to that elusive really high pick.

(just don't listen to Kellan's assessment of the 2016 Draft right after a meal)