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Game Preview: Can the Suns break through the Spurs’ resolve?

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The last game between these squads went resoundingly in San Antonio’s favor.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (2-11) host San Antonio Spurs (7-5)

When: 7:00 PM

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


Oh boy.

We last saw these Spurs (7-5) a couple of weeks ago. You remember that right? That was the scariest home game of the season so far for the Phoenix Suns (2-11). On Halloween night, Oct. 31, the Spurs methodically tore apart the Booker-less Suns on national TV to the tune of a 30-point rout. On the road in Phoenix.

The Spurs

They are perfectly above average this season: 13th on offense, 12th on defense with a 7-5 record.

But against the Suns, they looked like a juggernaut. None of the Spurs starters needed to play more than 27 minutes or through even the end of the third quarter. Leaders DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 49 points between them on 20 of 25 shooting in that short time.

On the season, DeRozan has been incredible: 25 points, 6.6 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Aldridge is putting up his usual 18.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 blocks. No one else is averaging more than 13.3 points, though seven total players average at least 8.5 points per night in a balanced attack.

Derrick White has returned from injury to run a lot of point guard for the Spurs, averaging 5.3 assists in 24 minutes per game, and six players average at least two assists per game.

The Spurs have lost three of their last four games, losing to the Magic, Kings and Heat.

The Suns

You’ve read a lot about these guys. Check all the other excellent stuff on Bright Side for the latest on your Suns.

I will add this though: The Suns did not have Devin Booker in that loss to the Spurs a couple weeks ago. Booker has been pretty good himself this season, averaging 24.3 points, 6.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and one steal per game.

T.J. Warren is now the Suns second leading scorer (16.3 points, plus 4.3 rebounds).

Deandre Ayton is third in scoring on the Suns with 15.9 points, along with 10.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and eight double-doubles. Those are good for third, first, fourth and first respectively among NBA rookies.

And for those who say Ayton only puts up empty stats and has little to no impact on the game, please note that Ayton is a plus-10.4 for his team (they are 10.4 points better per 100 possessions on the scoreboard when he’s on the court versus off the court), by far the best on the team.

Ayton is the best among his top rookie peers in on/off rating and has the most Win Shares among all rookies (1.1 win shares on the season).

  1. Deandre Ayton: plus 10.4 points per 100 possessions on-court vs. off-court
  2. Marvin Bagley III: minus 16.9
  3. Luka Doncic: minus 9.3
  4. Jaren Jackson Jr.: minus 11.6
  5. Trae Young: minus 12.3
  6. Mohamed Bamba: minus 17.1
  7. Wendell Carter Jr.: minus 5.1
  8. Collin Sexton: minus 9.6
  9. Kevin Knox: minus 11
  10. Mikal Bridges: plus 22.3

Wait. So by now you’re calling bu77sh*t on this analysis. There’s NO WAY the two most “positive” rookies on the scoreboard among the top 10 happen to play for the league’s absolute worst team.

But it’s true. The other eight top picks, some starters some bench players some on winning teams and some not, are all net-negatives when they play versus when they sit. Even the lauded Luka and JJJ are net negatives on the floor versus off the floor.

This is an on-off stat. The stat isn’t saying the Suns are plus-10 with Ayton on the floor. It’s saying the Suns are 10 points BETTER per 100 possessions (roughly full game equivalent) than when he sits.

So you’re now saying, well that’s because the bench has sucked this year. But fellow starter Trevor Ariza is a negative — by a wide margin, at minus 13.2 per 100 possessions — while bench player Mikal Bridges is a huge net-positive guy coming off the bench at plus 22.3!

Maybe start Ayton and Bridges together while sitting Ariza and see what happens, eh?

The other Suns on/off positives: Booker (plus 7.3), Isaiah Canaan (plus 5), Ryan Anderson (plus 4.5), Richaun Holmes (plus 1.6).

Prediction

Come on now. I can’t predict the Suns will beat the Spurs that walloped them just two weeks ago.

But hey. It’s hours till game time. Why not.

Suns win!