When: Wednesday, Nov. 15 — at 7:00 p.m. AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Arizona’s Family 3TV
Listen: 98.7 FM
Have 10 games ever felt like a decade to you? The first leg of this NBA season has certainly felt like way more than 10 games at this point, aching to see anything resembling a healthy Phoenix Suns squad.
It appears to finally be here as Devin Booker is set to return from a short-term calf strain.
Kevin Durant has played every game, playing 36-plus minutes in eight out of 10 games, and has two off-days before this one.
So all the stars appear to be in their best shape this season.
Only problem is they match up against a white-hot Minnesota Timberwolves team that’s won seven straight after starting the season 1-2. Leading those Wolves is Anthony Edwards, one of the best off-guards in the game.
It might be fair to call Edwards the best off-guard, but only if we’re thinking of Devin Booker, who’s averaging 10.5 assists in his two games played, as more of a point guard than an off-guard.
Edwards has scored 24-plus points in every game but one this season and has 30-plus in four of his last seven; all this on a career-best 48.7% shooting from the field with 6.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.
He and Jaden McDaniels pair together to be one of the most dangerous defensive duos on the perimeter funneling into Rudy Gobert at the rim, who’s having one of his best seasons so far. Together the trio are some of the biggest reasons why Minnesota has the league’s best defense early.
Because of the size the Wolves start with (McDaniels stands 6-foot-9 starting at the three), this has to be a Keita Bates-Diop game in my eyes. He’s averaging six rebounds per game over his last four games after totaling six rebounds over his first three games combined.
Though he also just recorded his first turnover of the season, so who knows, maybe his stock arrow is pointed down. (Kidding, of course.)
Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Keita Bates-Diop, Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkic
Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels (unless he’s suspended for his actions in the Draymond Headlock of 2023), Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert
Suns: Devin Booker (right calf strain), Bradley Beal (low back spasms), and Eric Gordon (left shoulder soreness) are all PROBABLE. Jordan Goodwin (jaw contusion) is AVAILABLE while Damion Lee (right meniscus surgery) remains out.
Wolves: (from pre-Warriors game on Tuesday) Jaylen Clark (right Achilles rupture), Jordan McLaughlin (right knee MCL sprain), Leonard Miller (G League), and Wendell Moore Jr. (G League) are all OUT.
What to Watch For
This has never been easier to answer. Watch the three stars and how they feed off each other, how the space reacts to their alignment, and how Jusuf Nurkic’s game changes as a playmaker with a sudden injection of another All-NBA-level scorer.
I expect the Wolves, especially Edwards, to try and attack Booker defensively, just to test how well those lower leg injuries have healed. As long as Booker didn’t rush back, I would think Edwards is in for a rude awakening about how elite of a defender Booker has become.
One feeling I’ve gotten from watching recent Suns games is that the offense is so often one step, one dribble, or one pass behind. Literally. Like when a player takes one too many dribbles before getting off a pass.
Booker is an easy remedy to that because in the two games he’s played, he’s always been one step, one dribble, or one pass ahead. An elite pace pusher, Booker being back on the floor is going to open so much for this offense, especially in the fourth where they’ve struggled so much.
Keys to a Suns Win
Obviously, Booker’s going to have some rust and Beal’s not at 100% yet, so let’s just keep the turnovers to a minimum (in this case, below 20 would be nice) if possible.
It would also be cool to see something resembling a full stagger of the stars with there never being a minute where none of them are out there, but that may have to wait for minutes restrictions to relax.
So with that said, the non-stars like Bates-Diop, Grayson Allen, Eric Gordon (if he plays), and Drew Eubanks cannot afford to take their foot off the gas. Stay aggressive to fill in the gaps well.
Even with all three stars, this is a tough matchup and one that may be difficult for a team reintegrating stars given the physicality the Wolves defend with.
Suns lose 111-106, but not because of a bad fourth.