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Game Preview: Suns close out preseason against the Blazers

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The roster gets one more chance to audition for regular season roles

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns at the Portland Trail Blazers, Preseason Game #1

When: 7:00pm

Where: In Portland

TV: Up in Portland, maybe on League Pass...?

Radio: 98.7 FM


The Blazers are looking to even their record this preseason, their only win coming against these same Suns last Friday. You know, the game otherwise known as Robert Sarver’s last straw.

The Suns are looking for a win. Make no mistake about that. They need good things these days and wins count as good things.

Probable Starting Lineups

We don’t know if the Blazers will rest anyone for this game. They beat the Suns by 4,000 points on the road in Phoenix with Damian Lillard taking something like 0 shots.

Out

Suns: Devin Booker (hand), Mikal Bridges (elbow) — both should be ready for the regular season

Blazers:

Team Notes

The Blazers are 1-2 in preseason this year. They have only beaten the Suns, while losing to the Raptors and Jazz.

The Suns are 2-2 in preseason this year. They have beaten the New Zealand team and the World Champion Golden State Warriors, while losing to those Blazers and the Kings.

On Monday night, as the Suns came out strong versus the Warriors, we did not see any of Dragan Bender or Richaun Holmes until the final minutes of the game, and never even saw a minute of Elie Okobo.

While I think the Okobo minutes are a function of being the odd man out of the rotating 4-deep point guard rotation that night — and that he will likely get bigger minutes against the Blazers — we might be seeing the regular season roles of Bender and Holmes. Let’s see how it unfolds on Wednesday and whether they get minutes before quarter four.

Let’s talk about Deandre Ayton

  • Preseason stats: 20.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.8 free throws (78%), 13.2 field goal attempts (60.4%), 2.5 blocks, 35.0 PER, 21.4% REB%, 65.0% TS%, 125.5 offensive rating, 6.9% block%
  • Preseason among ALL rookies: #1 in every single one of those categories (plus #5 among rookies on defensive rating at 100.2 for a team who’s overall d-rating is 25th is preseason at 106)
  • Preseason among ALL NBA PLAYERS: #1 in points, rebounds, free throws, field goal attempts and blocks

Here’s Josh Jackson on teammate Ayton, via his diary in The Undefeated:

“Deandre Ayton is dominant. He’s a monster. He is the No. 1 pick for a reason. Any team in the draft who had the No. 1 pick would have picked that dude right there for obvious reasons. I tell him every game, ‘Nobody can stop you. Go in there with a mindset that no one will stop you.’”

Now let’s give a break to Josh Jackson

  • Preseason stats (among 16 Suns teammates): 14.2 field goal attempts (1st), 4.5 3P attempts (1st), 11.0 points (4th), 5.2 assists (1st), 4.5 rebounds (2nd), 0.8 steals (6th) per game
  • .... but then: 4.5 turnovers (16th on team), 36.9% true shooting (14th), 74.7 offensive rating (14th), 109.2 defensive rating (11th)

While Deandre Ayton has been one of the very best among all NBA players in the preseason in both raw and advanced stats, Josh Jackson has been one of the worst.

To be fair, Jackson is playing for his 3rd head coach since joining the NBA just 12 months ago. He’s being asked to be a passer and playmaker and is struggling with that transition.

Jackson’s best game of the preseason was the first one, versus the Kings: 17 points (58%), 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, against only 3 TOs. But he’s made only 12-55 shots (22%) since that night, and had as many turnovers as assists.

Here Josh Jackson on himself, in that Undefeated diary.

“Coming into this season, I really want to show people that I have gotten better in the past year and show people I have been working on my game a lot this summer. I am really versatile. I have been working on my point guard skills, my ballhandling and my passing. I’ve been trying to play at that one spot a little more to elevate my game a little bit.”

He HAS been working on his game. He’s averaging 5.2 assists this preseason after averaging less than 2 assists a year ago. And his shot motion is much smoother and has smoothed out 90% of that hitch he had.

So let’s give Jackson a bit of a pass on his game this preseason as he learns a new position.

A new role. A new shooting form. A new coach. A new scheme on both offense and defense.

Let’s give him some time to settle in.

Game Prediction

It’s preseason. The score doesn’t matter.

But it sure would be nice to see the Suns play well and win the game.