What: Phoenix Suns (4-19) host Sacramento Kings (11-11)
When: Tuesday, 7:00 PM
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
Just a few months ago, the Phoenix Suns were mired at the bottom of the Western Conference, and even worse they were the subject of incessant jokes about the ineptitude of their front offices.
Remember Game of Zones video featuring the suggestion to create the SunsKings?
Since then, the circumstances have changed. And its not good news for the Suns.
The Kings (11-11)
Offense: 17th; Defense: 21st; Pace 2nd; Strength of Schedule: 3rd toughest
The Kings are suddenly good. And, better yet for them, they have relevancy and widely-assumed staying power in the thick of West. And, they’re doing most of it with the youth they’ve acquired through the draft in recent years.
How?!?! How have the Kings blown away the Suns so quickly?
They’ve played a tough schedule. They’re riding a 21 year old point guard, the #2 overall pick in this last draft and a trio of fairly recent first-round wings and bigs, and don’t have anyone over 30 years old in their entire rotation.
Sounds a lot like the Suns formula right? So how can the Kings be 11-11?
Partly, the big difference between the Suns and Kings is that the Kings have more mature young players. Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield and former Suns pick Bogdan Bogdanovic are all 25 or 26 years old. That might not seem much older than the Suns young players, but it makes a difference.
WCS has become the center he’d promised to be after two years at Kentucky and another couple translating to the NBA. He’s dropping almost 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds per game.
Buddy and Bogi combine for more than 34 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds per game, while Iman Shumpert is resurgent as a rotation player who can play defense and make 40 percent of his threes. The three wings are making more than 40 percent of their 15-plus threes per game.
But it all comes down to the floor general.
De’Aaron Fox has completely grown up over the summer, getting significantly better since his rookie season. Every statistic has almost doubled on a just five more minutes per game. He’s a future star, and may already be a star right now.
The Kings are second in the NBA in pace with a coach who used to run the Grit N Grind in Memphis, and everyone’s happy right?
Wellllll, Dave Joerger seems to be frustrating his bosses again. Remember he was let go from Memphis despite his players loving him and getting more out of Memphis than anyone could have expected. Now he’s on the verge of doing it again. Let’s hope the Kings leadership has more patience and thicker skin than the Memphis group did.
No Booker (hamstring, big toe). T.J. Warren is questionable (ankle).
Can the Suns even keep up with the Kings?
Four of the Suns five most common players in Booker and Warren’s absence are 22 or younger, with only Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford bringing veteran production.
At point, it’s Elie Okobo’s turn and WHO KNOWS which Elie will show up.
Since his 19-point, 4-assist performance against the Clippers last week, Okobo has posted a grand total of 12 points and 6 assists in nearly 60 minutes of play. If Okobo can regain his aggression the Suns could surprise the Kings. But otherwise, it could be a long long night.
Here’s Okobo talking about his G-League stint getting him more prepared for the NBA than he was in the first few weeks of the season.
I really hope the Suns recent hard-nosed play leads to a win over the over-achieving Kings.
We shall see.