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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns host the rising Minnesota Timberwolves

The Suns seem to have been playing up or down to their competition, so it's a total mystery how they will show against the once-lowly but lately pretty good Wolves. Let's see tonight at 7:00pm.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Minnesota Timberwolves

When: 7:00pm AZ Time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

TV: FoxSports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona Sports

Tonight, two of the league's worst teams face off in the desert. The 17-49 Phoenix Suns host the 21-45 Wolves in a clash of teams that have collectively missed the playoffs 18 straight times. The Suns, six straight years out of the postseason, are not quite as far along rebuilding with youth as the Wolves, 12 straight years out of the playoffs. The Wolves have been worse for longer, but have the crown jewel of their misfortune: a future All-NBA star in Karl-Anthony Towns. Let's hope they do more with Towns than they previously did with Kevin Love.

Wolves

Lately, the Wolves have been a pretty good team. They are 7-9 since February 3, with wins over the Clippers, Bulls, Raptors, Celtics, Pelicans, Nets and Thunder. Five of those seven wins are against playoff teams.

*all stats provided are from Feb 3 going forward, to give a sense of currency to the Wolves lineups

In that time, the last two #1 overall draft picks - Karl-Anthony Towns (20 years old) and Andrew Wiggins (21) - are both averaging more than 21 points per game, with high-flying Zach LaVine (21) putting up 15.9 per game right behind them. LaVine and Wiggins are making >40% of their threes and collecting almost 3 assists per game, while Towns is tacking on almost 12 rebounds and 2.5 assists of his own per game.

These three are the future, but they're not the only young players in the Wolves rotation. They've let Kevin Martin and Andre Miller go (released), and have given more time to 19-year old Tyus Jones (3.1 assists per game in 16 minutes). Gorgiu Dieng (12.7 points, 8.4 rebounds) has gotten a lot of time next to Towns in lineups, a twin towers look that the Suns will have to contend with. And Shabazz Muhammad, 23, is putting in almost 12 points per game off the bench in a role Suns fans wish T.J. Warren could still be filling.

Suns

The Suns are now led by three of their own young players, now that Brandon Knight is back. Knight, 24, threw up 27 second-half points against the Warriors - tied for the most points in a half against the Warriors all season - as the Suns gave the Warriors a scare before their 49th home win against 0 losses.

Alex Len, 22, is still just one of 5 NBA players averaging 17 and 12 since the All-Star Break. Meanwhile, Devin Booker, 19, is one of only 8 NBA players averaging at least 24 points and 5 assists in March. You can correctly guess that nearly all the others on both lists are All-Stars.

It's the Suns depth of talent - given all their injuries and other poor roster decisions - that makes them one of the worst teams in the league, even now. With T.J. Warren and Eric Bledsoe down for the year,  the Suns have given young Archie Goodwin, 21, a chance to shine. He's back coming off the bench, but he's still putting in 9 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in 21 minutes per game off the bench.

So focus on the good, young players and let the rest of it just happen.

And don't let Amin Elhassan, former Suns employee, ruin your attitude with tweets like this.

He's just tweaking you guys. There's no evidence that he's right. Just ask Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Leandro Barbosa, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, etc...

Hmm... Maybe Amin is right.

And maybe the rise of Len and Booker, as well as this year's top pick, will give the Suns a chance to create a foundation on which to re-build their brand and their loyalty. Since JJ, the Suns have not shipped out a player in their prime or approaching their prime. They haven't drafted well enough.

But we can't believe it till we see it. Until then, tweets like Amin's are 100% accurate and deserved.

Lotto update

While the Suns have had a hold on the 3rd overall worst record in the NBA for a while, they've actually been playing chicken with the Brooklyn Nets for months. The Suns 'overtook' the Nets for the 3rd worst record by losing 28 of 30 games at one point, but now both teams are getting those elusive wins and might have a fight to death for those extra lotto balls until the last day of the season.

At this point, the 17-49 Suns are only one win ahead of the 18-48 Nets in the race for 3rd worst.

The quick look at the Nets' upcoming schedule only shows up three, maybe four, wins on the horizon. The Nets play the Sixers on Tuesday, but then don't have another winnable game until the Magic on March 29. There's also games against the Knicks and Pelicans in early April. But that's really it.

The Suns, on the other hand, have two more games each against the Lakers, Wolves and Kings. Plus another home game versus the Grizzlies, and a roadie against the Pelicans.

The good news is that there's almost no way the Suns finish worse than 4th in the lotto position. The next closest team to the Nets and Suns are the Wolves, tonight's opponent, who are four big wins ahead of the Suns and three ahead of the Nets.

Prediction

Who the heck knows. In their last three games, the Suns were embarrassed by the Nuggets and Kings, but almost beat the Warriors. Whaa?

Anyway, the perfect ending at this point is a good game from the youngsters culminating in a Suns loss.