When: 7:00pm AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Miami HEAT are the walking wounded, and might just be heading toward a full-blown tank job while they have control over their first-round pick in 2017. They owe the Suns their #1 pick in 2018 (top-7 protected) as well as 2021, so if they are going to rebuild they’ve got to do it THIS year.
So far, so good. The Suns are stealth tanking too, and both the Heat and Suns are positioned for Top-5 picks in June 2017 with identical 10-25 records.
Gone are all of the Big Three, and gone are the wins too. Goran Dragic is now the HEAT’s best player along with Hassan Whiteside, but unfortunately for the Heat the Dragon has been hurting lately.
In fact, the entire HEAT team is a walking wounded. While Dragic (back tightness) might be back to play against the Suns on Tuesday, all of Whiteside, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters - the Heat’s top three scorers after Dragic - are injured and not expected to play.
Guess who started their last game, against the reeling Pistons? Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed and Luke Babbitt. Off the bench are highly paid Tyler Johnson (thanks, Nets!), James Johnson, Udonis Haslem and James Johnson.
Lately, Tyler Johnson has justified his big contract with averages of nearly 16/4/4 over the last 9 games. Second year guard Josh Richardson is producing just a tick below that. At forward, small forwards Justice Winslow and James Johnson have been their highest producers. All four of the aforementioned players are averaging 3+ assists per game, something Suns fans would be confused to see.
But let’s stop putting lipstick on this thing.
It hasn’t been a good year all around for the Heat, who come to Phoenix with the SAME awful record as the Suns themselves - 10-25 on the year. They’ve lost 5 straight games, 8 of 9 overall, and 13 of 16.
But they didn’t even start the year well when everyone was healthy. The Heat came out of the gates losing 8 of 10 to kick off the season.
They just aren’t a good basketball team.
What’s even worse than the HEAT? The Suns.
The Suns have the same 10-25 record with everyone pretty much healthy that was put on the roster this year in a season that’s a mix of tank and compete.
The good news for nice people is that uber-nice-guy Jared Dudley got back into the rotation a bit last night with 5 minutes in a head-scratching loss where the Suns couldn’t even compete against a depleted Clippers squad that had lost 6 straight games. His minutes came at the expense of Dragan Bender who was targeted early by the Clippers in the post and tested for his physicality. Bender did not hold up well.
If Goran Dragic plays, we will see a good matchup between him and Eric Bledsoe at point guard.
I’m sure fans will cheer heartily for The Dragon, but our former favorite point guard turned small forward is alone on Heat Island this season. He’s going to have a hard time willing his team to victory.
If Dragic sits, then the big matchup might occur on the wings.
Justice Winslow leads the Heat in minutes this year, just like Booker leads the Suns. Winslow is shooting only 35% from the field, while Booker is now down to a 40% average. Winslow is contributing defense, rebounds (5.2), assists (3.7) and steals (1.5), while Booker has upped his production in those areas as well (3.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals) over the last 10 games. It’s tough being a primary-option 20 year old second year starter.
Who knows what kind of lineup we will see tonight in the white and orange for the Suns, and who knows who the Heat will play too.
What I do know is that if the Suns are going to win a game, it’s almost certainly a mid-week home game against an Eastern Conference opponent. The Suns are now 7-4 against the Eastern Conference this season.
We might just see win #11 on the season tonight.