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Preview: Devin Booker makes his return as Suns face the Grizzlies once more

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The Suns’ 21-year-old star is back after missing 9 games with a left adductor injury.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Memphis Grizzlies

When: 7:00 PM AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


He’s back! Following a 3-6 stint without him (I predicted 1-8 initially, so call me surprised), Devin Booker is back in the Suns’ starting lineup on Tuesday night against Memphis.

In those 9 games, Josh Jackson started in Booker’s place and the offensive production reached historical lows with that group. The starting lineup’s offensive rating of 66.7 is the worst ever recorded in the NBA stats database in their 75 minutes logged together. Yikes. With Booker on the floor, it exceeds 100.

Booker being back in the starting lineup will be a welcome addition to a roster that’s depleted of much offensive attack outside of T.J. Warren, but Troy Daniels and Isaiah Canaan have proven capable of stepping up over the past week when need be.

Probable starters:

Grizzlies - Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, Chandler Parsons, Marc Gasol

Suns - Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler

Memphis Grizzlies

(OffRtg = 101.6 {27th}, DefRtg = 106.1 {16th}, NetRtg = -4.5 {T25th})

Without Mike Conley, the Grizzlies have struggled mightily on both ends of the floor, and it even led to them firing David Fizdale in the process. They chose Marc Gasol in their schism, and now it wouldn’t surprise me if Gasol is shopped at February’s trade deadline to help revitalize a roster stricken by limited flexibility and overall talent.

Safe to say things aren’t going well at all for the once playoff consistent Grizzlies led by the Grit N Grind group of Conley, Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen that is now no longer.

This roster outside of Conley and Gasol is led by Evans, who is having a comeback season for the books, and rookie Dillon Brooks. Evans has filled in admirably for Conley at point guard, while Brooks has been a pleasant surprise as a 3-and-D wing.

Brooks worked out for the Suns during the pre-draft process and was later selected by Memphis at No. 45 after they instead chose Davon Reed over him. On the season, Brooks has averaged 8 points and 3 rebounds while shooting 38.3% from 3-point range.

The Grizzlies have other prospects such as lanky big man Deyonta Davis, but, really Phoenix does have the overall talent advantage which really shows you that Memphis needs to hit the rebuild button right now and try to sell off Gasol and eventually Conley, too, for draft capital.

Phoenix Suns

(Under interim head coach Jay Triano: OffRtg = 103.4 {21st}, DefRtg = 107.8 {25th}, NetRtg = -4.5 {27th})

It should be noted that even though sometimes his rotations can be head-scratching, Triano has done a great job from keeping this ship from sinking after the awful start under Earl Watson.

After a 0-3 start that included two 40-plus point losses, Triano rattled off four of the next five as wins, while unlocking some more confidence for players such as Dragan Bender and Alex Len.

To even have a record of 3-6 without their main offensive cog in Booker was rather impressive as well, even though it wasn’t against the best the West has to offer (Minnesota, Dallas, Memphis). However, you could also point to the decision of removing Mike James out of the rotation for Canaan made the biggest impact.

After Canaan took over the reigns of running the second unit, Phoenix’s 5-man lineup that includes Daniels, Danuel House Jr., Bender, and Len helped them win all of those said games.

During that streak, the Suns’ bench averaged over 50 points per game while Canaan and Daniels helped carry the offensive slack while Warren maintained his high usage with the first unit.

The question now is if Ulis continues his own struggles offensively, should Triano consider moving Canaan into the starting lineup upon Booker’s return? It shouldn’t happen right away, but if similar outcomes continue over the next three or so games, why not try it out?

Against Memphis, look out to see how both Ulis and Canaan fare. Also, will the inclusion of Jackson back into the second unit make 2017’s No. 4 overall pick look better or will he drag the unit down with out of control play?

Even though these Suns are 12-23 on the season, with Booker’s return, there’s now a lot of interesting tidbits to follow heading into 2018.

Prediction

The Suns are due to have a double-digit victory, right? After Booker scored 46 in Philadelphia, that’s the only time so far this season.

They just beat this same Grizzlies team a few days ago, and now with Booker back that should be a locker room spark to energize them.

I’ll say Booker gets back to his usual ways, dropping his 11th 30-point game of the season, as the Suns cruise late behind his performance.

Suns 117, Grizzlies 102