Note: Due to logistical issues I am writing this before the start of the Rockets-Spurs game on Tuesday night. Should anything crazy happen in that game, this should explain my lack of discussion regarding said crazy happening.
First off, the facts. The Suns are 8-20 and their only wins in December have been at home against the Knicks and in LA against a decimated Lakers squad. Phoenix wasn’t expected to be great with their young core and new coach Earl Watson, but the team has enough veterans to make you wonder what they’re trying to accomplish.
Obviously, Devin Booker appears to be the next can’t-miss superstar. The former Kentucky Wildcat has impressed with his shooting ability and some clutch plays last season. However, he’s gotten off to a rough start this year due to a combination of being expected to do more in addition to opposing defenses focusing their attention on him. His raw numbers are higher, but his shooting percentages are all down from last season.
The Suns also feature Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, a pair of 19-year-olds that still need time to grow. Alex Len still feels like an unknown despite being in the league for three years. T.J. Warren has been a solid scorer off the bench, but he’s just returned from a head injury and is 1-6 in his two most recent games. He’s averaging 16 points per game on the year.
But even with this cadre of young talent, the Suns also have an equally substantial veteran presence on the roster. Tyson Chandler, P.J. Tucker, Jared Dudley, and Leandro Barbosa are all on the wrong side of 30 and getting minutes with this squad. The last two guys in the rotation are Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, both in their primes by age. A mix of younger and older players is usually a great recipe for a playoff team, but the Suns have struggled. With this roster, it seems like the Suns should be sellers at the deadline, especially if they continue to languish at the bottom of the West.
That being said, they’ll be a tough test for Houston due to it being a back-to-back on the road. The Suns have the youth to give Houston fits just like Minnesota did, but also the veterans to help the team close out games late. Tucker and James Harden have had some great battles, and Dudley and Barbosa are still solid scorers off the bench. I think the Suns should have issues guarding the Rockets, but if Chandler and Len can pack the paint and Tucker keeps Harden in front of him, this game could be real trouble for the Rockets.
Tip-off is at 8pm CT.