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Preview: Suns aim to rebound against bottom-dwelling Hawks

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After an encouraging comeback attempt against Philadelphia on Sunday, will the Suns pick up a win versus Atlanta this time around?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Atlanta Hawks

When: 7 pm AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable starters:

Hawks - Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee

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

Atlanta Hawks

OffRtg = 105.0 (16th), DefRtg = 108.4 (27th), NetRtg = -3.4 (23rd)

For Atlanta, it’s a good idea to focus on Schroder, who has been a constant target of trade aspirations by Bright Side of the Sun readers. For one, I don’t really see the reason or the fit alongside Booker.

Schroder is averaging 19.8 points and ranks in the top 10 in assists per game at 6.8, but he’s a guard that is also ball-dominant which spells trouble as far as meshing alongside a guard who has the green light to take 20 shots every night. Sure, the German point guard prospect is still only 24-years-old and on a relatively team-friendly deal of $15.5 million over his next four seasons, but he also does most of his on-court damage in non-efficient ways.

If anything, Brandon Knight is only 26 himself, and with two years still remaining on his contract following this season alongside absolutely no trade value, and allowing him to actually run point alongside Booker seems like it could be in the cards (at least Oct. - Feb ‘19 if the goal is to build up his value and ship him).

It’s hard to gauge Schroder while carrying a near 30-percent usage for a talent-ridden Atlanta squad, but from the outside looking in, he seems like a prospect general manager Ryan McDonough would want to avoid. Back in October, his name was passed by a few NBA executives and each said “thanks, but no thanks” on if he would be a good addition to their roster. The character concerns are also there with Schroder, too, but with new Hawks GM Travis Schlenk the one not inking him to an extension, he might want to shed this contract by the summer if Luka Doncic or Trae Young is there for the taking.

He would only be 25 at the start of the 2018-2019 season while still having three years remaining on his deal, but McDonough and Co. would definitely be rolling the dice here if they wanted to move forward with a Schroder-Booker backcourt.

The Hawks have surrounded Schroder with prospects such as John Collins, Taurean Prince, and DeAndre Bembry but they are definitely in the tanking crowd. If they are able to get a top three pick, that’s the best-case scenario for Schlenk.

As you can see, I’m not a big proponent of Schroder in Phoenix’s long-term plans, but whats yours?

Phoenix Suns

OffRtg = 103.6 (21st), DefRtg = 108.0 (26th), NetRtg = -4.4 (27th)

Even though it still ended in a 13-point loss for the Suns on Sunday, their ability to erase an 18-point deficit in a quarter was impressive to watch against the Sixers. It was the first loss (8-1) when Warren reached 25 points, but he himself is starting to thrive back in the secondary role to Booker.

Since Dec. 26, the Booker-Warren combo is averaging 53.7 over their last three games. Booker has continued to take the next steps forward after returning from his adductor injury, averaging 30-5-4.

Warren himself has helped buoy the Suns' offense over the past week when Booker goes cold. Against Sacramento and Philadelphia, he helped keep the Suns in those contests by picking up the slack. Then, when Booker got going in the second halves it allowed Phoenix to switch between hot hands.

Another interesting note to follow with this Suns roster is that under interim head coach Jay Triano, they are 11-14 when Booker plays. Even though the schedule has allowed them some breathing room early, it’s still very impressive to have a near .500 record when there isn’t a top-end point guard alongside Booker. That itself shows the jump Booker has taken, alongside what a real Xs-and-Os coach could do for the league’s youngest roster.

One final note that should be discussed is how often Triano will roll out Point Book moving forward. After Sunday’s loss, the second consecutive game where we saw a Booker - Troy Daniels combo close a game, Triano said they would try it out more outside of these situations.

Safe to say, after seeing Booker get trapped constantly by Sixers head coach Brett Brown, Point Book wouldn’t be such a bad option if they wanted to inject some scoring punch to help build or take leads. As I have mentioned before, though, Booker at the point should only be used in doses, but the extra space it allows an elite scorer is hard to ignore.

Over his last 15 games, Booker is averaging 28.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 45-41-84 shooting splits. Those are All-Star numbers, indeed.

Prediction

Going up against the league-worst Hawks, this should be an opportunity for this young Suns core to flex their muscles against an inferior roster. Outside of Schroder, there’s nobody to really worry about that could take over for Atlanta.

This will be the fourth straight game where Chriss also has a favorable matchup, and with his athleticism and energy being displayed via rebounding and rim protection more often, this could be another strong performance for 2016’s No. 8 pick.

Since Booker returned to the lineup, Chriss has put together an average stat line of 10.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks in only 25 minutes per game. Definitely, it’s something to monitor tonight and moving forward.

Suns 114, Hawks 109