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Preview: Suns look for a jolt against Orlando as homestand continues

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As other teams in the Western Conference surge and the trade deadline nears, the Suns need to figure out what the rest of this season will be.

Phoenix Suns v Orlando Magic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns host the Sacramento Kings

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Who knows what rock bottom is anymore. I’ve written and talked about various points in the season when it looked as if things couldn’t get any worse for the Suns, and then they respond by playing pretty well for a while, only to ultimately lay an egg and make me question whether that new dud is rock bottom all over again. They’re not even a normal below-average team, because their highs are much higher than that and their lows are as bad as anyone’s.

Monty Williams told Doug & Wolf the team grouped together for a players-only meeting following a loss to the Kings on Tuesday in which the Suns blew a 21-point lead.

“Our guys meet seldomly but they have had a meeting. It was something that was between them, I can’t take the liberty of talking about it,” Williams said, “but yeah they meet, they meet all the time. They meet on the bus, they meet on the plane, they talk about our team constantly.”

Williams offered a bit more today at shootaround, noting, “the calling of the meeting is something that doesn’t matter, it’s what happens in those meetings.”

When asked about the meeting, Devin Booker called the notion a “false rumor,” despite the fact that it was his coach who confirmed it happened the day before on the radio. Booker was asked specifically if he called the meeting, so perhaps that’s what he was calling false, or he just chose a poor way to give a Russell Westbrook-type “next question” to the media.

Phoenix Suns

14-23, Tied for No. 13 in the Western Conference

110.2 ORtg (15th) - 112.0 DRtg (20th) = minus-1.8 netRtg (19th)

Projected starters: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., ???, Deandre Ayton

While much of the focus this week turned toward this players-only meeting and the aftermath of a bad loss to the Kings, the bigger tangible story is the oncoming change to the starting lineup.

Williams said he would give “deep thought” to the starting lineup during the two-day break between games and determine what was truly best to win games right now. The coach admitted he hadn’t seen the results he hoped for, especially on defense, when the team’s brain trust decided to move forward with Ayton and Aron Baynes starting together.

In 104 possessions with Ayton and Baynes on the floor together this season, the Suns are a plus-5.8. Those results are colored by a few stretches, it seems, and an example of why it’s dangerous to take too much from small samples.

Even if Williams re-inserts Dario Saric into the starting lineup or tries Mikal Bridges with the starters, the “Bayton” lineups could see continued time. They allow the Suns to match bigger teams, simplify Ayton’s defensive responsibilities, and maximize the impact Baynes can have on the second-year big man.

Orlando Magic

18-20, No. 7 in the Eastern Conference

106.1 ORtg (25th) - 106.0 DRtg (5th) = plus-0.1 netRtg (14th)

Projected starters: Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch

No one pays any attention the Magic. Even after they were the center of the NBA universe for about an hour last trade deadline, the fact that they were the franchise who took a chance on Fultz evaporated into the dead air of small market sports organizations. What a shame.

The player who was probably subject to more conspiracy theories and internet joke trolling than anyone in the NBA the past 24 months is finally playing consistent minutes — and making an impact.

“I’m three years in,” Fultz told Sports Illustrated recently. “I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen a lot. You don’t always have to learn by going through something. You can learn through somebody else’s mistakes or somebody else’s errors. That’s what I’ve been learning from.”

Suns fans will have their first close look at Fultz tonight at Talking Stick Resort Arena after many dreamt of Phoenix being the franchise to take a chance on him. The Magic’s offense is 6.6 points better per 100 possessions with Fultz on the floor despite their bench being the main source of scoring for the team. He is shooting a promising 63 percent at the rim despite the jumper still being cold.

Fortunately, Orlando has enough veterans that they don’t need Fultz to be the alpha and omega for their team. The young guard is coming along, and that’s huge.