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Opening Night Game Preview: Phoenix Suns kick off season against Sacramento Kings

The Phoenix Suns host the Sacramento Kings to start both teams’ 2016-17 season.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host the Sacramento Kings

When: 7:00 PM

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

TV: YES! It’s on FoxSports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM ArizonaSports

On one hand, the Phoenix Suns get to start their 2016-17 with a winnable game, against the team in the Sacramento Kings that are struggling just as much as anyone in the West to get back to the playoff picture. The Kings have gone a full decade without reaching the playoffs, "leading" the Suns by three years in that department.

But on the other hand, the Kings have recently had the Suns number. The Kings took 3 of 4 from the Suns last year, winning all three games in 2016 after the Suns beat them handily in November including a 2-0 record against interim coach Earl Watson.

And that was with George Karl at the helm. Now the Kings have former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger on the sideline, which should provide benefit to DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins made no secret of his dislike for Karl’s style, yet they suffered together all year anyway.

The Kings

Do the Kings want to make the playoffs in 2016-17? Absolutely! Do most outlets think they will? Abso-not-ly.

The Kings remain highly dysfunctional despite changing to a coach who is more likely to stay in DeMarcus Cousins’ good graces because he’s more of a grinder. Cousins reportedly preferred former coach Mike Malone’s slower pace, and Joerger comes off leading the Grizzlies to pace ranks of 27th, 26th and 30th in his three years at the helm. Joerger also geared his Grizzlies teams around a big, talented front court, and now is lucky enough to go from one All-Star to another at center (Marc Gasol to Cousins).

Expect the Kings to slow it down this season. They were 13th in pace in preseason, a 12-spot drop from last year.

On the downside for the Kings, starting point guard Darren Collison is suspended (domestic abuse) for the game, so we can expect to see Ty Lawson out there most of the point minutes.

For some reason, the Kings added 2,000 forward/centers this offseason, including former Sun Anthony Tolliver who scored 8 points per game in preseason.

The Kings have, courtesy of the Suns/Kings draft trade, big men Georgios Papagiannis (13th) and Skal Labissiere (27th) on the bench, stuck behind Cousins, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein and the afore-mentioned Tolliver.

On the wing, the Kings have the odd collection of Omri Casspi, Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes and Arron Afflalo, plus the under-whelming Ben McLemore.

In summary, the Kings roster looks like a mashup mess, but will probably coalesce just long enough to make the Suns look bad. It’s what the Kings do.

The Suns

Have you heard of these guys? I mean, we’ve talked about the Suns all summer so I’m not going to rehash the rehash. Everyone is healthy for the opener, including P.J. Tucker to come off the bench behind T.J. Warren while he gets back in game shape.

Until the Suns start winning a lot of games again, making each matchup matter, there are only three players worth focusing on tonight: Devin Booker, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.

Teen records

If all three of Booker, Bender and Chriss play in tonight’s game, the Suns will become the first NBA to ever get three teens on the floor in the same game. Booker is starter and Chriss is the primary backup at power forward. Both are sure to play. Bender has played a lot this preseason and should see the floor as well, though sharing minutes with Tucker will make it tight squeeze.

Heck, if it’s a blowout we might even see their 4th teen Derrick Jones Jr. in mop-up duty!

Booker with 2 games to extend his teen legacy

Booker, who turns 20 on Sunday, has two games to add to his myriad teenage accomplishments in the NBA. Let’s hope the Suns give him the ball enough to have a killer game.

  • Has six 30+ pt games. Only four teens have EVER had more than 2. One more would tie Kevin Durant at 3rd place all-time among teenagers with 7.
  • Has two 30 point, 5 assist games. Only 5 teens have EVER had any at all, and only LeBron James has had more than Booker’s two (LBJ has 13). One more 30/5 game would put Booker second all time. (Note: he had 34/5 against the Blazers this preseason in only 30 minutes of play)
  • Has three 30 points, 4 assist games. Only 7 teens have ever had any at all, only LBJ (18) and Carmelo Anthony (4) had more than Booker’s 3. One more would tie Anthony. Two more would take the lead.
  • Has four 27 point, 5 assist games. Only LBJ has more. Only 9 in history have had any at all.
  • Has one 15/10/7 game. Only LBJ has more than one game with 15+/10+/7+ as a teen (3). No teen has ever had a triple double, even LBJ. Although LBJ came close a few times (coming up one short on assists/rebounds), he didn’t have a triple double until he was 20 years old.

So, root on Devin Booker to get hot in this game to add to his young legacy. After Friday night’s game against the Thunder, Booker’s teenage NBA phenom year is OVER and he’s just another guy.

Potential on Marquese Chriss

The Suns have another teenager already set for a big role this season in Marquese Chriss, and the way Chriss stuffs the stat sheet we could see him setting some teenage big man records himself.

Did you know that only two teenagers in NBA history have 5+ games of 20 points and 10 rebounds before turning 20? Over the next 82 games, Chriss could join that list, and if he can muster six of those 20/10 games he would pass Anthony Davis and Jahlil Okafor.

Chriss could also become only the 8th teenager with 10+ double doubles. I definitely see dozens of games with 10+ point for the multi-talented kid. Now we just need to see the dedication to rebounding.

Probable Lineups

Chandler has averaged nearly a double-double in his two preseason games, and T.J. Warren keeps the starting spot while P.J. Tucker rounds back into shape.

For the Kings, I’ve shown the most likely starting lineup. Koufos and Cousins are beats in the paint, which will make it really tough on Duds and Chandler. Alex Len and Marquese Chriss will have to avoid major foul trouble when they come in off the bench.

Matchup to watch

Ok, there IS a little thing called a game taking place tonight. While we can all hope to see some highlights from Booker and Chriss, the Suns want to actually win the game.

For the Suns to win, they have to at least hold their own on the front line. With all the Kings bigs, the Suns have to try not to embarass themselves on the glass. Only Tyson Chandler and Alex Len are above-average rebounders, but if they get into foul trouble against Cousins it could be a long, long night under the glass.

So the Suns will have to dominate on the perimeter. Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker might just combine to 70+ points tonight against the Kings anemic backcourt, and that’s what will likely have to happen for the Suns to emerge on top.


What the heck! It’s opening night, so let’s predict a SUNS WIN.

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