What: Phoenix Suns host the Charlotte Hornets
When: 1 pm AZ time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Suns - Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, Tyson Chandler
Hornets - Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Dwight Howard
OffRtg = 105.5 (14th), DefRtg = 105.7 (14th), NetRtg = -0.2 (T14th)
A few weeks ago, Charlotte was a team in despair. ESPN was reporting they were gauging the market value for Kemba Walker, but owner Michael Jordan brought those claims back saying he would only be moved for an All-Star type of player.
Ever since that statement from Jordan, no Kemba rumors have been seen anywhere. At this point, it’s looking like the rumors won’t pick back up until this summer, which actually helps a team like Phoenix more if they were actually interested in acquiring him.
Around Kemba, Charlotte has done an awful job of team construction. They gave out awful contracts to Batum, Kidd-Gilchrist, Howard, and Marvin Williams. The main reason Kemba’s name was thrown in was to help move those bloated salaries.
I imagine this summer we will see the Hornets finally pull the plug on the Walker era if say a point guard like Collin Sexton is available with their lottery pick.
Back on this season’s Hornets, though, they are struggling. They have had recent success by outpacing teams in track meets with the first team to 125 winning, but that’s not sustainable. Especially with the lack of overall talent outside of Walker.
One player who has not received his fair share of minutes is rookie Malik Monk. The former Kentucky guard was actually in Phoenix for a solo pre-draft workout, but he fell to Charlotte on draft night much their chagrin.
Unfortunately for Monk, he has barely seen the court. He’s only appeared in 37 games, averaging 12.7 minutes played.
Lucky for Charlotte, their issues could be masked against this Suns roster today.
OffRtg = 103 (25th), DefRtg = 109.4 (27th), NetRtg = -6.3 (29th)
As was reported yesterday by ESPN and AZCentral, Marquese Chriss will not be with the team today. According to ESPN, Chriss was suspended 1 game for a verbal altercation with a Suns assistant coach, but general manager Ryan McDonough says it is more of a “cooling off period” for 2016’s No. 8 overall pick.
Add that to the already long list of negatives that have occurred for the Suns so far, and it doesn’t even include playing six different point guards this season.
Chriss only played 14 minutes on Friday, as Dragan Bender put together one of his best games. Even though it was out of hand for nearly all 48 minutes, Bender displayed his unique passing skills often.
This is how you extract more offensive value from Bender (outside of just weak side spot up shooting): give him minutes at the 5 + give him on-ball usage as a passer from beyond the break and let him pick out cutters. High-level passing/decision-making upside: pic.twitter.com/Y5k63GkzSd— Cole Zwicker (@colezwicker) February 3, 2018
This is what I hope we continue to see with Bender. If Triano utilizes him more often at the 5, it opens up so many cutting lanes for the likes of Jackson, Warren, and Booker. We saw just that happen late against Utah, as Booker had back-to-back cuts with feeds from the 7-foot Croatian.
Bender ended up with a line of 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 block. The only other names to do that so far this season are as follows: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Lillard, Nikola Vucevic, Nikola Jokic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Delon Wright.
If the Suns hope to win today, Bender will have to be aggressive. Without Chriss in the lineup, Bender will be relied upon to be more of a floor runner in transition and as a rim protector.
I imagine we will see good outings out of Booker and Jackson, which has been consistent all throughout 2018, but an x-factor like Bender will need to put together another strong performance to help Phoenix pull off a win against Charlotte.
The last game, I predicted a Suns win and was way off. With all that is happening right now, including Charlotte’s offense currently on fire behind Kemba, I don’t see how the Suns can stop them consistently.
We will see a Booker vs. Kemba scoring duel, with some great moments from Jackson, but will anyone else help carry the burden?
Unfortunately, I have a feeling for another blowout incoming.
Hornets 124, Suns 107