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Preview: Suns encounter Golden State buzzsaw

The Warriors have won 13 of their last 14 games, and four of those outings they dropped at least 140 points. Uh oh.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host the Golden State Warriors

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable starters

Suns - Tyler Johnson, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton

Warriors - Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins

Warriors

OffRtg - 116.0 (1st), DefRtg - 108.6 (13th), NetRtg = 7.4 (2nd)

This is an easy answer, if you didn’t know, but the Warriors are still the easy title favorites. When you have five All-Stars starting together, it gets near the point of unfair doesn't it? That’s the way it seems with how dominant Golden State has looked since Cousins was inserted into their rotation.

What I want to focus on with the Warriors, though, is the implications Durant carries once July 1 arrives. All indications are that Durant is leaning towards leaving. And if he gets three straight championships, he might want a new challenge to pursue.

The arms race to recruit Durant is getting crazy, too. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen New York and the Los Angeles Clippers clear enough cap flexibility to obtain two max slots. So, really it’s a preference for Durant of wanting to join likely Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles or Kyrie Irving in New York. In the league’s history, I can’t remember these type of implications being put on one decision.

Seriously, Durant’s choice will singlehandedly change the dynamic of the NBA along with Anthony Davis’ eventual trade.

Since we’re in the business of predictions, how do I see it going for Durant in six months time? Honestly, I think he’s been New York bound since this season even began. When factoring in Durant’s business partner, Rich Kleiman, and his connections, Durant wanting to take over the Big Apple seems like an easy decision.

Until Durant makes his decision, he will be the domino that holds up one of the most elite free agency classes in recent memory.

By the way, if you thought the Big Four of Golden State’s was unfair, now insert Cousins into the picture. Yeah, for opposing teams, that’s not a fun sight to see. How do you guard all of these options? It beats me.

With Cousins, who will be the X-factor for the Warriors tonight, they are 7-1 and own the second-best defensive rating over that span. And with Cousins’ versatility on offense, they have the potential to explode for 140 or 150-plus points.

Who knows, with the firepower Golden State possesses with their starting unit, we could be in for another flame throwing act on the court versus Phoenix.

Suns

OffRtg - 104.1 (28th), DefRtg - 113.7 (29th), NetRtg = minus-9.5 (29th)

For this tilt against Golden State, the debut of Tyler Johnson headlines it from the Suns’ point of view. In 10 starts for Miami this season, Johnson averaged 10.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.6 blocks. Johnson is also flexible enough to play on or off the ball with no issue, as we saw plenty with Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson.

The addition of Johnson also speaks to Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones going even further in the direction of forming an identity. This identity is one filled with players who have plenty of scrappiness in their repertoire. Johnson now joins Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, Kelly Oubre Jr., De’Anthony Melton, and Richaun Holmes as players who are more than willing to dive for loose balls or do the dirty work needed to win.

Johnson, who will be the starting point guard tonight, is an upgrade over Melton and Elie Okobo. It also allows those two rookies to split time behind Johnson as Jamal Crawford falls further into the background as a mentor.

Looking ahead towards the offseason for a moment, Johnson’s contract now will play a huge role. Adding Johnson into the picture with Oubre Jr. and Holmes’ cap holds, the Suns now only have $15 million in cap space. That goes against what owner Robert Sarver said in October on 98.7 FM after he fired Ryan McDonough. Sarver mentioned they were preserving max cap space, but that no longer is the case unless a few moves are made. (Spoiler alert: I’ll have my thoughts on the Johnson trade and it’s implications for this offseason this weekend on BSOTS.)

Deandre Ayton is the X-factor for the Suns tonight as this will be his first go-around against Boogie. How will that matchup go for the Bahamian big man? That will be one of the most critical one-on-one bouts to follow along with, if you are expecting Phoenix to keep this one close.

Prediction

This has the makings of another blowout loss for Phoenix. The Suns have already lost 15 games by 20 or more points this season, an egregious number but one that shows they are far away from going against elite teams. Golden State scored 132 points on Phoenix last time, and it could be even more now with the addition of Cousins.

Especially if Booker can’t go as he’s questionable with right hamstring tightness, it could get ugly early.

Expect big-time outings from Durant, Curry, and Cousins as the Warriors go on cruise control late. As the Suns know by now, this never-ending gauntlet of the Western Conference never lets up.

Warriors 137, Suns 115