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Preview: Phoenix looks to avoid their sixth straight loss against Dallas

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Will the Suns or Mavericks end tonight with the NBA’s third-worst record?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host the Dallas Mavericks

When: 8:30 pm AZ

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable starters:

Suns - Devin Booker, Troy Daniels, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler (Booker, Chriss, and Alex Len are all currently listed as questionable)

Mavericks - Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Max Kleber, Dirk Nowitzki

Mavericks

OffRtg = 104.6 (17th), DefRtg = 106.6 (17th), NetRtg = -2.0 (22nd)

In Dallas, there’s plenty of promise due to the presence of rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. The explosive point guard who the Mavericks selected at No. 9 overall this past draft has translated his scoring ability right over.

He can take it to the hole smooth alongside an improving jump shot that keeps the defense on its heels. When Smith Jr. is really humming on offense, that hesitation move he can pull off is deadly. Luckily for him alongside head coach Rick Carlisle, he’s allowed freedom to show off his array of skills.

And luckily for Dallas, they are able to capitalize on sitting pretty in the race for a top-five pick in the 2018 Draft. As the standings currently sit, with Sacramento picking up another win last night, Dallas is at 3 while Phoenix is two spots down at No. 5.

Outside of Smith Jr., the Mavericks don’t have any significant building blocks. That is why, for them, this draft is so important. If they are able to place a Mohamed Bamba, Deandre Ayton or Marvin Bagley III alongside him, it would go a long way towards being a competitive playoff team once the 2020s roll around.

Giving Harrison Barnes the contract they did will turn out to be a massive mistake down the line for cap flexibility, too.

For the Mavericks, they hope to continue to tank this season out organically. Play around Smith Jr. and the rest of their younger pieces and have the losses pile up. Dallas might be one of the most desperate teams to add top-tier talent as the Dirk era comes to a close.

Suns

OffRtg = 103.2 (T25th), DefRtg = 109.3 (27th), NetRtg = -6.1 (29th)

As we continue to see with the advanced numbers since interim head coach Jay Triano took over for Earl Watson, they are slowly dipping back to normal. With the competition picking up, Phoenix has seen blowout losses pile up as of late. Especially in the last week, where games have rarely been competitive at all.

The players, however, are responding under Triano. That can not go unnoticed. He’s also trying out Point Book seemingly the rest of the season to see a potential glimpse into the future. That move deserves a standing ovation to me because Tyler Ulis and Isaiah fit way better as guards off the bench.

For the last 30 or so games, Booker will run the show. In his second career start at point guard against who Phoenix is trying to mold him into, James Harden, he tallied his first ever 30 and 10 game with 31 points and 10 assists on only three turnovers.

When Booker is on as far as both playmaking and scoring, he’s a dynamic option to have at that spot. Especially if general manager Ryan McDonough is able to properly supply 3-and-D wings alongside more spacing, Booker could see his career trajectory go one very similar to Harden.

As you all know, I’m a proponent of it if it’s constructed correctly, so why not see what Booker has to offer there for the last two and a half months?

Going forward, especially as they approach the part of their schedule that makes the Western Conference a gaudy one, the Suns will need to continue to focus on what was their primary goal in this season’s outset. Triano has followed it throughout, as the Suns’ top seven players in minutes allotted are all age 24 and younger.

In the beginning of the season, I predicted a 27-55 finish and that seems right back on schedule for the moment. For Phoenix, they need to add a premier talent in this 2018 draft class one final time to stock their cupboard with young talent. Then, as they approach the summer, use those assets via picks and players wisely and build a contender around Booker, Warren/Jackson, and said 2018 selection.

Prediction

If Booker is able to give it a go tonight after sitting out Monday with a rib contusion, Phoenix should be able to pick up the win for the ESPN audience tonight. If not, we could be in for the Smith Jr. show and a Dallas win.

I'll play the percentages and say Booker is back in the lineup, including another 30 and 10 performance on top of that.

Suns 109, Mavericks 100