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Preview: Baynes-less Suns host recovering Pelicans on TNT

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We finally get a TNT game for the surprisingly good Suns, but they will be without most of the guys responsible for the good start.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns

When: 8:30 PM — LATE START ALERT — on Thursday night

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Why can’t we have nice things?

After a promising 6-4 run last spring with new-found NBA veterans, both those veterans went down to injury and the Suns reverted back to their old losing ways.

Now, after a promising 7-4 to start off this new season, once again those key veterans have gone down to injury and so far the Suns have reverted back to their old losing ways.

It’s time for Monty Williams and crew to prove their mettle. They need to win games anyway with what they have left rather than wallow in self-pity and retreat into a shell of nothingness that sends Suns fans back into hibernation!

SB Nation’s Tom Ziller wrote this morning in his daily NBA newsletter called Let’s Basketball that Warriors fans deserve better than what they’re getting this season. These are the same Warriors fans who have enjoyed five consecutive NBA Finals appearances including three championships, and now have to watch ONE SEASON of a terrible team due to injuries. You’re worried about those fans Tom? How about other teams’ fans who are STILL LOSING? How about saying the Suns fans don’t deserve this crap of teasing us with winning only to go right back to abject losing!?

Suns Injury Update

Per the Suns injury report, center Aron Baynes is still listed as OUT for the game due to a right hip flexor strain. That’s painful, I know. And won’t go away real soon. This was the injury they needed the LEAST right now. What with the Masked Urinator on the shelf for another 13 games still, they needed Baynes to stay healthy to give the Suns some modicum of size and interior defense.

The Suns will be missing some very important players tonight on TNT.

  • Frank Kaminsky III (left hip contusion), Cameron Johnson (right knee soreness), Dario Šarić (right knee contusion) are probable
  • Ricky Rubio (back spasms) is doubtful
  • Aron Baynes (right hip flexor strain), Ty Jerome (right ankle sprain), Deandre Ayton (league suspension) are OUT

Ugh. I’m so damn tired of the basketball gods taking good things away from the Suns. I mean, seriously?!

First, the gods made sure the Suns got the ‘worst signing of the summer’ with their big free agent splash.

Then, the gods figured they would inject a subconscious suggestion to Deandre Ayton to finish this yummy drink!

But lo and behold, Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes (Ayton’s backup) balled out to start the season! The Suns were good anyway! They were damn good, as a matter of fact.

So... yeah... we can’t have that anymore, can we basketball gods!?

Baynes (hip flexor) and Rubio (back spasms) have been afflicted with lingering injuries that don’t require surgery but make it impossible to play the game of basketball. We now get treated to the daily injury-report-watch to see if two of the Suns best players will ever play for the team again.

Suns Update (Otherwise known as “what’s left”)

Well, what’s left — at least to our eyes so far — are a host of players that suddenly forgot how to play basketball around the still-excellent Devin Booker.

Here’s some real analysis we did yesterday on the state of the Suns:

This will be a true test for coach Monty Williams to figure out a rotation that can be effective.

The truth is that Igor Kokoskov got a worse team to go on a 6-4 run last spring. That 6-4 run had the following rotation:

  • Point guard: Tyler Johnson, Jamal Crawford, De’Anthony Melton
  • Shooting guard: Devin Booker, Troy Daniels
  • Small forward: Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson
  • Power forward: Dragan Bender
  • Center: Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes

Today’s rotation against the Pelicans will look like this, if Rubio sits out as expected:

  • Point guard: Tyler Johnson, Jevon Carter, Elie Okobo
  • Shooting guard: Devin Booker
  • Small forward: Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (R)
  • Power forward: Dario Saric
  • Center: Frank Kaminsky, Cheick Diallo

Four of the same players. Tyler Johnson and Mikal Bridges have struggled to make shots this season but are otherwise the same players as last spring. Oubre and Booker have looked great so far but will have to be even better now.

The supporting cast is, to me, better everywhere except at center. Frank and Cheick are decidedly not Ayton and Holmes.

But I would rather have Carter, Cam and Dario than Jamal, Melton and Bender. Wouldn’t you?

Let’s see what magic Monty Williams can pull out of this roster until the injured/suspended players get back.

So far, this team has been bad, but more bad on offense than defense. They have the league 24th ranked offense and 18th ranked defense the last two games for a net rating of minus-7.9 points. They will need to pick up those offensive numbers big time.

Pelicans update

They’re dealing with their own injuries in Nawlins.

  • Lonzo Ball (adductor), Jahlil Okafor (ankle) are questionable
  • Derrick Favors (lower back spasms), Josh Hart (ankle), Zion Williamson (knee) are OUT

That’s most of a starting lineup right there, and the Pelicans are understandably losing games.

However, while the Suns are suddenly struggling, the Pellies are starting to win. They have won three of their last four games, though two of those wins were over the struggling Warriors and Blazers.

In those last four games, the Pelicans have the league’s 11th ranked offense and 17th ranked defense, for a plus-2.8 net rating.

The Pelicans depth chart at this time:

  • Point guard: Jrue Holiday, Frank Jackson
  • Shooting guard: JJ Redick, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (R), E’Twaun Moore
  • Small forward: Brandon Ingram
  • Power forward: Kenrich Williams, Nicolo Melli
  • Center: Jaxson Hayes (R)

Holiday and Reddick are averaging over 21 points per game in these last four games, and Ingram played in the last one and put up 21 of his own. The offense has been well-balanced, with 9 different players posting 10+ points during the stretch.

Prediction

Let’s assume the Suns were in shock for two days, missing Rubio and Baynes unexpectedly for an important back-to-back. Rubio was a late scratch on Monday and Baynes suffered his injury mid-game.

I’ll believe that Monty Williams will get the Suns ready, mentally and physically, to beat a beatable New Orleans team on Thursday night on TNT.

Suns win 110-105