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Aftermath: Dragan Bender wins face-off over Marquese Chriss, plus Knight and Jackson notes

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The Suns forward made a big impact in a Suns win over the Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did the Suns win a game, they have finally and completely settled the debate over who is better between Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, right?

The debates on Bright Side and among Suns fans across the globe have raged for nearly three full years. Everyone took a side, at least for the first year, staking their claim on either the unskilled athletic freak or the unassuming gangly Croatian. Chriss fans couldn’t see the potential of Bender, while Bender fans derided those silly Chriss fans.

All that debate devolved into a barely-smoldering pile camp fire by the end of year two.

When Chriss was traded, few even blinked an eye, and when Bender was benched for much of this season in Phoenix, the remaining inhabitants of Bender Island either sold their land entirely or at least moved away. Gilligan’s Island had more heartbeats than Bender Island these days.

On Monday, they had a face-off.

Bender wins, right?

Playing against each other Monday night, Bender tallied one of his best games of the season — 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks in 27 minutes — while Chriss was a non-factor off the Cavaliers bench with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 0 assists/blocks/steals/threes in 10 minutes.

Neither set the world on fire, I know. But watching that game you can come away with the knowledge that Chriss has not developed in any way (possibly regressing, in fact) across three different franchises while Bender is at least looking a little more like an NBA rotation player.

It’s quite possible that neither Bender nor Chriss, both top-8 selections in the 2016 Draft, will even have an NBA contract next season. Both had their 2019-20 options declined, and they weren’t even that expensive.

Neither has made the Suns and interim co-GMs James Jones and Trevor Buckstein regret regret that decision.

Season numbers for each:

I mean, that is one massive plate of pu pu right there in their third NBA season. On the good side for the Suns, check out Bender making 70% of his two pointers this year!

I’m just calling the contest over: Bender wins.

Knight returns

The other player traded along with Chriss was a long-injured Brandon Knight. He also resurfaced on Monday, now starting for the reeling Cavaliers himself.

The two were re-traded as a package at the deadline to the Cavs ALONG WITH a first round pick as a salary dump for cap relief.

Knight was in incredibly bad -31 himself, and got on yet another player’s poster as the victim — this time after breaking down Suns defenders on the way to an acrobatic drive for a layup only to see Josh Jackson fly in from the perimeter to SO emphatically block it that Josh was able to come down with the ball and start the fast break himself.

Watch Josh Jackson highlights right here — probably his best game of his career — and you can see Knight at least once...

Woo hoo for J-Jack!!!

Oof for B-Knight.

Knight finished the game with 10 points, 0 assists and 2 rebounds in 25 minutes. Again, -31 on the scoreboard.

Final tally of the Chriss-Knight-Melton-Anderson swap

Remember that four-player trade last summer?

Ryan Anderson rode the bench for the Suns and has now ridden the bench for the Heat. After playing the first 11 games of the season in an ill-fated attempt to provide spacing and a modicum of rebounding, Ryno has seen action in only 13 of the last 69 games for the two franchises.

Anderson was traded to the Heat in February for Tyler Johnson who made a significant impact for the veteran-thirsty Suns until twisting his knee a few weeks ago. Johnson made less than 40% of his shots in a Suns uniform, but had a 4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio that settled down the Suns offense and helped them beat the conference leading Bucks and Warriors.

The best player from that exact trade might end up being 20-year old second round pick De’Anthony Melton.

Here’s the four way comparison:

Melton leads the group in games played, starts, minutes, assists, steals, blocks (and turnovers and personal fouls). And he’s likely the only one who’s contract will remain intact for the 2019-20 season.

Knight and Chriss are free agents this summer, while the Heat will realize almost $6 million in hard cap relief (possibly more if you consider luxury tax implications) by simply releasing Anderson this summer.

Suns win! Suns win!

The Suns now have 18 wins on the season, still one game ahead of Cleveland for the second-worst record in the league and the guarantee of their pick landing no lower than top-5.