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Preseason Preview: Suns face defending champion Warriors

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On the tumultuous day general manager Ryan McDonough was fired, the Suns head to Oracle Arena for their fourth preseason game.

NBA: Preseason-Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns visit Golden State Warriors

When: Monday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m. PT

Where: Oracle Arena

Watch: NBATV

Listen: 98.7 FM


Throughout the pre-draft process, many posed the question of whether Deandre Ayton could stay on the floor against teams like the Golden State Warriors: Would he be effectively played off the floor, or be the one big who could swing the pendulum a different direction? It’s a super small sample size in preseason, but the Suns’ No. 1 pick definitely looks the part of a quick-twitch big who can switch onto smaller scoring options with little issue.

In three preseason games, Ayton has nine blocks. On top of that, most of those swats have come from Ayton’s natural gifts of verticality, a la Roy Hibbert. Friday against Jusuf Nurkic, Ayton just fully extended his arms without lifting an inch off the ground for one of them.

Well, that multimillion dollar question will finally be put to the test, at least in spurts, Monday against the Warriors. When Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are snaking around the three-point line with countless misdirections, how will Ayton handle it? That’s the big idea I’m monitoring but there’s many other options to glass over.

Probable Starters:

Suns - Shaquille Harrison, Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Deandre Ayton

Warriors - Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Damian Jones

Suns

Outside of how Ayton handles the Warriors’ complex offensive scheme as an anchor, the point guard play will continue to be a focus. Their current situation with Harrison, Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton and Isaiah Canaan is so dire that it quite possibly was the final straw for Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver analyzing McDonough’s job security.

After losing to the Kings, who were destroyed by the Warriors on Friday, and barely defeating the New Zealand Breakers, Phoenix’s point-guard rotation led them to 61 assists but also 59 turnovers. Far and away, that’s the worst assist-to-turnover ratio of any team in preseason, and it’s even worse than how the Suns performed last season while tanking.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t see this getting fixed until a subsequent move is made before the regular season opener on Oct. 17. Now, with Sarver controlling the negotiations instead of McDonough, who knows what happens at this point. I would lean toward an overpay for an established player, but this could honestly go in many different directions.

Another subplot from Monday’s preseason action in Oakland is when Josh Jackson and Draymond Green face off once more. Both are very close as Detroit, Michigan, natives — and Jackson even let us know on his interview last season with Locked On Suns that Green helped expose him to the NBA life early. He would introduce him to his teammates and just show him how the everyday grind works in this league.

Last time they played against one another, Green was even calling out Jackson’s moves during his career-high 36-point performance.

Finally, I would be remise not to mention the Suns’ three-point shooting when going toe-to-toe against the preeminent juggernaut of head coach Igor Kokoskov’s ideas. As Kokoskov let the media know last week, he wants his team to shoot at least 30 three-pointers per game. Golden State has been doing this for years with the Splash Brothers and it’s later inclusion of Kevin Durant, so this is a nice measuring stick for the young Suns.

After struggling mighty through their first two games, Phoenix hit 34 percent of their perimeter opportunities against the Trail Blazers. It will be all about the spacing revolving around Ayton, who has an ideal matchup versus Jones, and how they can capitalize off of it. In order to keep this one close, former Rockets Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson need to be firing on all cylinders.

It’s going to take a lot to dethrone this team, even at half speed sometimes, so here’s hoping for a competitive game of preseason basketball.

Warriors

It’s hard to tell how the Warriors’ rotation will look on Monday, but there are two familiar faces for Suns fans on the roster. Golden State signed Danuel House to a free-agent contract in July, and then Tyler Ulis agreed to an Exhibit-10 deal (could be converted to a two-way contract). Ulis even started the Warriors’ last game when Kevin Durant visited Seattle for the first time in years.

Ulis has provided pesky on-ball defense, while House’s athleticism has shown through in a few sequences. Either way, expect to see a heavy dose of those two as head coach Steve Kerr looks to get a final impression of the guys at the end of his bench.

We already know the usual culprits — Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Green — but they signed one of the league’s best centers, DeMarcus Cousins, to a one-year deal as well. Once he nurses himself back to full strength following an Achilles tear, Golden State now has an interior weapon they’ve never had before. In the playoffs, I would hate to go up against a five-man lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green, and Cousins. At that point, it’s almost unfair.

There’s no reason to believe the Warriors won’t win another championship, so that’s where I’m leaning. Until the dynasty runs its course, I don’t see many teams being able to stop them. They even forced LeBron James to migrate to the Western Conference, joining the Los Angeles Lakers, following another Finals defeat.

The Warriors run this era, and the only people who will be able to stop the dominance are themselves. Good luck to the 29 other teams this season, they will definitely need it.

Prediction

It’s preseason, so I’m not really going to go too deep into prediction thoughts. However, I do expect a close game, at least for the first half, until the floodgates open later on. Expect another solid outing from Ayton while the point-guard rotation continues to struggle.

Warriors 111, Suns 95