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Game Preview: Suns continue preseason at Jazz

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NBA: Preseason-Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz

When: 6:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Up there

Watch: LOLZ

Listen: Probably 620 AM


Before you tune in to watch the Diamondbacks take on the Dodgers in LA at 7:30 tonight, you can catch the Suns taking on the Jazz at 6pm. If it was on TV, that is. But hey at least there’s radio, and Al McCoy’s voice is still the best play-by-play voice out there.

Both the Jazz (2-0) and the Suns (1-0) are undefeated this week in preseason, which means if preseason had a playoff format we might be looking at a Finals preview.

As it is, we get to just enjoy the game for what it is: an experiment by both teams as the Suns’ starters try not to get smoked by the Jazz starters before the deep benches make it a toss-up at the end.

What’s changed on the Jazz

They lost their top two scorers from last year, but may end up better.

The ultimate Jazz pinup model, Gordon Hayward, left for Boston, leaving the Jazz a huge hole in the scoring and secondary playmaking department at small forward. Expect Rodney Hood to get a long look at replacing Hayward’s contributions.

In the revolving door at starting point guard, the Jazz let George Hill - their second-leading scorer last year - get overpaid by the Kings and replaced him with Ricky Rubio. The former teen sensation will up the ‘ahh’ power of the Jazz offense with snazzy assists and help the Jazz improve their defensive rating even higher than last year.

Gone is Boris Diaw, replaced on the Jazz front line with Bogdan’s one-time Feberbahce teammate Ekpe Udoh - a versatile 6’10” forward who has the skills to defend in space in today’s NBA, but has very limited offensive repertoire. Expect Trey Lyles to get first crack at Boris’ minutes. Remember when Lyles was considered a better prospect than Devin Booker? (ed note: I’m an idiot. Lyles was traded to the Nuggets this summer.)

The most interesting acquisition, in my opinion, is rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell isn’t very tall (6’3”) but he’s got super-long arms and defensive potential, as well as a dynamic offensive game. He was fun to watch in Summer League, and may supplant the always-injured Alec Burks in the rotation before long.

What’s changed on the Suns

It could be that the biggest change on the Suns this season is that they play a ton of small ball with recently-extended T.J. Warren and rookie Josh Jackson - both 6’8” - playing side by side at the forward spots, anchored by a big man in Alex Len, Tyson Chandler, Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss in the middle.

I get the super-strong feeling that Jackson will get unlimited minutes as a rookie this season, much the same way rookie Jimmy Butler never left the floor as a rookie for Tom Thibodeau years ago. Jackson is just so active and engaged, and he checks every single box of a checklist coach Earl Watson might want in a player.

But the Suns love T.J. Warren too, so you can expect to see them sharing the floor a lot this season either as the wings, when Booker or Bledsoe rest, or as the forwards when Bledsoe and Booker are both in the game.

I wouldn’t even be shocked to see Tyson Chandler sent to a playoff-hunting team this month as a result of this development. There’s suddenly too much playable depth with Troy Daniels’ shooting, Tyler Ulis’ playmaking and Derrick Jones Jr.’s defending, not to mention Mike James’ scoring abilities and the eventual returns of Dudley and Reed, to keep four guys in Len/Chandler/Chriss/Bender who might have to share 2-3 rotation players’ share of minutes between them.

Let’s see how much Warren and Jackson share the floor tonight. The buzzword in camp this past week has been position-less basketball, focused around Jackson and Warren needing to get used to taking turns defending and rebounding against bigger forwards (like Utah’s Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles tonight).

Summary

Good luck finding a video feed of the game. If you find a legal, legitimate one, please share it in the game thread tonight.

Otherwise, check back here for a recap after the game’s over, and then look for some highlight packages on youtube in the morning.