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Game Preview: Suns look to get back on track against struggling Hornets

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

How do these things work again?

Charlotte Hornets vs. Phoenix Suns

Time: 7:00 p.m. (local time)

TV: Fox Sports AZ

Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (I’m a real fan of this place I tell ya)

The Hornets

Can we come together as one and get Kemba Walker some help?

Charlotte started the year 8-3 and they are 18-31 since. Nic Batum and Frank Kaminsky are the second and third-leading scorers on the Hornets and both are shooting under 40 percent. Meanwhile, Walker is averaging 23-4-5 on 45-40-84, hanging off a cliff with the entire team dangling and hanging on for dear life on his legs for any playoff hope remaining.

In their last 23 games, the Hornets are 6-17. For reference, the Suns are also 6-17. That’s bad.

The per 100 possessions numbers don’t back this up. The Hornets are 15th in offense despite the aforementioned tidbit — a league-best 12.2 turnover percentage helps out the 26th ranked effective field goal percentage — and 7th in defense, suggesting they are a playoff team. While the offense has dropped considerably in that 23-game run, they are still a top-10 defense in that time, a credit to head coach Steve Clifford.

The Suns

We should have a better idea of what exactly this rotation change is after hearing from head coach Earl Watson for pregame, whether it’s Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight sitting out the rest of the year or it will change based on situation and all that.

What we do now know is all three players integrated, Tyler Ulis, Alan Williams and Derrick Jones Jr., have all at least shown flashes of why they deserve the opportunity.

Ulis is a season of shaking the rookie cobwebs away from being ready to be a backup point guard. His latest performance against Milwaukee shows his craftiness and playmaking ability is NBA ready and with a finisher like Alan Williams in his second unit, that’s a handful of assists for him every night.

Speaking of Williams, he’s making it work (so far) despite not much lateral quickness, being undersized for a power forward (he plays center) and a lack of leaping ability because he’s 1) an incredible rebounder, even at this level 2) has some of the best touch around the basket we’ve seen around the franchise in a while and 3) understands how basketball works on both ends, always appearing to understand what’s going on and being in the right spot. I’m still not convinced he’s a rotation player, but an end of the bench guy? Absolutely.

Those two, however, lack the promise of Jones Jr., who could be something special defensively given he plays out the rest of this season and gets acclimated for a deeper look at what he really could be. I love how he uses his hops in every way possible, whether that’s getting rebounds, blocking shots, or, of course, dunking. He always cuts to the basket and seems capable of making the extra pass, a critical skill given how poor his jumper is.

The Matchup

Charlotte is not a very good team, but is precisely the type of team which will give this particular Suns rotation problems. They are a sound defensive team with a star offensive player and have an offense that plays together and doesn’t make many mistakes. I don’t see them having much trouble in this one.

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