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Preview: Suns try to keep slim playoff hopes alive against Pistons

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No Drummond for Detroit and no Oubre for Phoenix changes this matchup drastically.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host the Detroit Pistons

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable Starters:

Suns - Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Dario Saric, Deandre Ayton

Pistons - Derrick Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Christian Wood, John Henson


Suns

OffRtg = 109.7 (17th), DefRtg = 110.5 (17th), NetRtg = minus-0.7 (15th)

Kelly Oubre Jr.’s meniscus tear continues the trend of horrible luck for the Suns in 2019-20. When Phoenix’s trio of Oubre, Booker, and Ayton play together they are 9-13, a 35-win pace over an 82-game sample.

If not for Ayton’s untimely suspension and Oubre now missing time, there’s no doubting the Suns are right in the thick of the race for No. 8. They might even be in the position Memphis has been all season before their recent downturn.

In Oubre’s absence, the Suns’ former No. 1 overall pick needs to show how dominant he can truly be as a 1B to Booker’s 1A. Ayton is certainly calming early concerns rounding into form recently with dominating two-way performances. Over the last 11 games, Ayton looks the part of a franchise-changing big man once everything is figured out.

If the Suns hope to stay afloat with their slim playoff hopes over the next six weeks, Ayton needs to maintain this production while maybe even taking it up another level. Without Oubre, we now get a big sample size where Ayton will be a high-volume scoring option. Interestingly enough, here’s how Ayton has fared in three games not featuring Oubre this season:

  • 26 points, 21 rebounds, 2 blocks on 11-15 FGA
  • 26 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks on 8-22 FGA
  • 25 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks on 11-22 FGA

Will this trend continue where Ayton averages around 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocks the rest of the season without Oubre? If so, it might be time to have a legit debate about what Ayton’s ceiling could be surrounded by more Mikal Bridges types instead.

Pistons

OffRtg = 108.8 (T18th), DefRtg = 111.8 (21st), NetRtg = minus-3.1 (23rd)

Detroit was one team I expected would blow it all up after this season if the Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin experience didn’t pan out. Well, with Griffin’s injuries piling up, that thought was put into overdrive recently selling Drummond off for peanuts. After almost dealing Luke Kennard to Phoenix as well, it’s obvious the Pistons are starting back over from step one.

Ripping the whole foundation down to the studs, assuming Griffin is also traded this offseason, leaves this organization Sekou Doumboya and maybe Christian Wood as their primary building blocks. That’s bleak, and means Detroit is going all-in on the draft over the next few seasons.

Speaking of Wood, did you know he actually was a member of the Suns at one point? The journeyman big who has found a home in Detroit was on Phoenix’s Summer League squad in 2017. I remember the time he put Marquese Chriss on a poster dunk during practice, which caught everyone off guard. Wood is dripping athleticism, but the talent never surfaced until 2020.

Meanwhile, Doumboya has sky-high potential as a key piece for Detroit throughout the 2020s. The young international wing has all the tools needed to make a huge jump here soon. When watching Doumboya play, he reminds me an awful lot of Pascal Siakam. If leaps happen soon for the Pistons’ big, watch out.

Prediction

This should be a game where the Suns roll, honestly. Detroit is in the midst of a complete tailspin after trading Drummond, so Phoenix is catching them at the perfect time.

Ayton and Booker have their way with the Pistons as Phoenix cruises to a double-digit victory. Whenever that happens, Ricky Rubio usually puts together a solid outing as well.

Suns 119, Pistons 104