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Preview: Suns and Kings square off as development is prioritized on both sides

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How are the young guys performing? That’s the biggest issue for each team at the moment compared to wins and losses.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Sacramento Kings

When: 7 pm AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable starters:

Suns - Tyler Ulis, Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss

Kings - De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson, Skal Labissierre, Willie Cauley-Stein

Phoenix Suns

OffRtg = 100.7 (30th), DefRtg = 110.8 (30th), NetRtg = -10.1 (30th)

According to a team source, the Suns have still not made a decision yet on if Devin Booker will play in their final four games of the season. He’s only played in 54, by far a career-low, but over this final stretch, there’s no need to jeopardize his hand injury to possibly reaggravate.

I imagine we should know a clearer status possibly before tonight’s game, but if he doesn’t suit up by Wednesday, I’m putting heavy doubts in him seeing the floor again until 2018-2019.

Alongside missing T.J. Warren due to a sprained knee, the likes of Jackson and Chriss have had to blaze their own path without their help scoring recently. However, the results are surprisingly showing progress, especially one of rapid acceleration out of the Suns’ No. 4 pick in the 2017 Draft.

In the month of March, Jackson not only tallied 36 points against the Warriors but he broke the 20-point mark three times.

Compared to what I originally expected when he declared out of Kansas, Jackson has way more offensive potential than I ever realized. He has a lot of moves he hasn’t even been able to show off yet, but it surprised me to say that his offense translated faster than his defense.

Sure, we still see the flashes of two-way brilliance, which happens more often than it did a few months ago, but Jackson is becoming above-average already at finishing through contact at the rim.

If Jackson is able to naturally add on more lean muscle mass to his frame this summer alongside an improved handle and steps taken on his jump shot, we could be in line for a breakout in Year 2.

I’ll keep making this comparison until I’m proven wrong: Jackson, especially in his recent acceleration of development in playmaking, is on pace to become very similar to Brandon Ingram in terms of production by next season. Sure, his form on his shot is nowhere close to Ingram’s fluidity, but I’m confident in his work ethic to get to becoming at least a 30-32% shooter from deep soon.

With steps taken recently from Jackson, Chriss, and even Ulis, it’s a step in the right direction for the Suns from this vantage point.

Even though Phoenix just recently broke the franchise record for most consecutive losses in a season, it’s hard to ignore the steps being made by part of their young core.

Sacramento Kings

OffRtg = 101.3 (29th), DefRtg = 109.5 (29th), NetRtg = -8.2 (29th)

Unlike Phoenix this season, the Kings have actually been too good to finish as a bottom three team this season. Even though management was expecting to get their hands on possibly Luka Doncic, their young core led by Fox is 6 games ahead of the Suns in the reverse standings.

Whether it’s Fox, Bogdanovic or even Buddy Hield in his new sixth man role, Sacramento’s guard rotation has stepped up and created magic together way earlier than many expected. Also, those three are proving to be a potent trio against weaker teams on nights when they all get going at the same time.

As it relates to Fox, who I had No. 5 on my board last season, he has proven immediately that his speed, especially in transition, is a major weapon he deploys on opposing teams. Fox also has shown off the clutch gene more than once, most recently Sunday against the Lakers.

If the Kings were to get some sort of lottery luck, No. 6 for best odds, they could get their hands on either Deandre Ayton or Marvin Bagley III to cap off their core by pairing Fox with an elite big down low. That sounds like a scary idea if that were to come to fruition because I feel Sacramento is way closer to making a surprise run towards contention than many realize.

Maybe that’s just me buying into Fox possibly finding his perimeter shot sometime, which at the moment is currently shot due to fatigue, but there at least is a foundation for hope taking place over there. Compared to the last decade prior, I wasn’t able to say that at all.

Prediction

Outside of Troy Daniels still likely playing above Davon Reed, I imagine we see the Suns go even younger in tonight’s contest. 222 out of 240 possible minutes were allocated in Oakland Sunday to players on the Suns’ roster who were pros for two seasons or fewer.

That’s absolutely crazy and shows exactly where the Suns are as they reach the finish line of this treacherous season.

In a matchup featuring far and away the two worst teams from an advanced metrics standpoint, expect another competitive outing out of these Suns.

Does that translate to a win? I don’t think so over the more talented guard rotation of the Kings, but this should come down to the final few possessions as we hopefully see Jackson and Fox go back-and-forth scoring all game.

Kings 111, Suns 108