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Preview: Suns face B-Team Warriors without Curry, Durant, and Thompson

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Tonight’s matchup will not feature the Warriors’ heavy hitters, so will the Suns catch them by surprise?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host the Golden State Warriors

When: 7 pm AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The last time Phoenix and Golden State locked up, Steve Kerr allowed his players to coach themselves to a near 50 point win. It ruffled some feathers in the visiting locker room, but this time around, there won’t be many players for Kerr to coach in this one.

Not only have Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson been out, but so are main bench pieces like Omri Casspi and Jordan Bell is still limited himself.

Even though there won’t be any star power in Talking Stick Resort Arena tonight, especially if Devin Booker can’t go with a hand injury, expect a competitive game this time around versus Golden State’s B-Team.

Probable Starters:

Suns - Elfrid Payton, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, Alex Len

Warriors - Quinn Cook, Nick Young, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia

Warriors

OffRtg = 113.6 (1st), DefRtg = 103.4 (6th), NetRtg = 10.2 (1st)

Golden State has been firing on all cylinders once again this season, but they finally have some stiff competition in Houston. Even though James Harden and Chris Paul are making things interesting during the regular season, will it even matter once we reach the postseason?

Not only are the Warriors waiving the white flag for the top seed, but they are allowing all of their main weapons to get fully healthy. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the Western Conference for the fourth straight season.

From a team building perspective, general manager Ryan McDonough always mentions Golden State when mentioning archetypes of contenders they have studied. When he looks at this roster and how it was constructed, it’s the blueprint for today’s pace-and-space mania alongside versatile, switchy wings with infinite length.

It’s the best of both worlds and that seems what McDonough is trying to achieve for this roster as well.

Bob Myers, the general manager of the Warriors, grew this contender from the ground up after drafting Curry, Thompson, and Green in succession. Durant soon followed once he realized how much of a juggernaut they could become and the rest is history.

For Phoenix, they sure hope (insert Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic) is the final piece that has a similar effect on their roster alongside their two other pillars in Booker and Josh Jackson.

Even though Suns fans won’t be able to see Golden State’s Big 3 in action, I’m totally here for a Nick Young vs. Troy Daniels battle from deep.

This version of the Warriors actually lost last night in Oracle Arena to Sacramento, 98-93.

Suns

OffRtg = 101.6 (29th), DefRtg = 110.4 (30th), NetRtg = -8.8 (30th)

If you have been following those advanced metrics right above here throughout this season, you would notice that they have been steadily dipping and rising in bad directions. Not only has the Suns’ defense turned into being systematically broken, but their offense has been bouncing in and out of hot spurts for a few minutes at a time.

Not only is that not a recipe for success, but it’s a recipe to be a historically bad team in terms of point differential and blowout losses.

In the tank era, which I believe started when Philadelphia hired Sam Hinkie, Phoenix has now given those teams company in the worst possible way.

Hinkie’s Sixers had two separate seasons where they lost 14 or more games by 20+ points or more. So far this season, the Suns have leapfrogged up into second place after their latest dismantling in Utah.

With 15 losses by 20+, the Suns have a chance to match or exceed the 2014-2015 Sixers for most ever in an 82-game season with 18 such occurrences. Tonight’s game shouldn’t end that way without their main weapons, luckily, but it shows just how far away this roster truly is from competing for a playoff spot unless there’s a roster overhaul.

One area that I will be watching for is how Bender and Chriss (if he isn’t suspended for what he did to Ricky Rubio on Thursday) get going on offense. Not only have both gone into a major shell on that end, but they are simply not producing consistently.

Both will have a size and speed advantage on the Warriors’ bigs, but will it even matter? Bender still is tentative on drives even against much smaller guards and Chriss seems to think on the fly what he’s going to do with the ball.

Looking ahead towards the future, 2016’s offseason might be the critical blow to this regime unless Bender or Chriss take significant steps next season. For two top eight picks to still be this far behind is very worrisome, that’s for sure.

For a team who desperately needs to hit lottery luck for the first time ever to pair a third pillar alongside Booker and Jackson, they thought they already did so when they traded up with Sacramento on draft night two years ago.

There’s no denying at this point that Chriss and Bender are the two biggest names to watch for improvement moving forward. It could easily decide for each how long they remain on the roster while Booker inches closer toward wanting to win now by the day.

Prediction

The Suns definitely have a strong shot of upending this after dark version of Golden State tonight, but will they actually do so?

I’ve been waffling back-and-forth on this, but if Booker doesn’t play then it won’t matter, I don’t believe.

With the Warriors already sitting out all of their stars, sans Draymond, Phoenix could sit out Booker to help them not stumble down the final stretch to achieve the best odds at No. 1 on lottery night.

Expect a fun, competitive battle between the Suns and last year’s champions that go down to the wire.

Unfortunately, I still don’t trust this team against this Warriors squad.

Warriors 101, Suns 97