The Memphis Grizzlies are coming off of a huge victory yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles vs. the Clippers. For Phoenix, they picked up a victory as well against the New York Knicks at home. Both teams picking up wins, both teams looking to start a winning streak.
1.) The Phoenix Suns gained a lot of attention on a nation scale following a hot start to the season. Looking back, it seems like that hot start fell apart rather quickly. What happened? And where do you think the Suns can salvage their season given the position their in?
Injuries are the easiest thing to point to when it comes to what changed for the Suns between their 7-4 start and the 6-17 record they’ve put together since. Between Aron Baynes, Ricky Rubio and even Devin Booker, nearly every core member of the Suns’ rotation has missed time over the past couple months, and that’s not even to mention the re-integration of Deandre Ayton following his 25-game suspension and subsequent ankle sprain.
2.) The Memphis Grizzlies and Suns are in similar situations in terms of their records and position’s in the Western Conference. A few games back of the eighth seed, and we’ve had this discussion with Grizzlies fans - should the Suns be ‘buying’ of ‘selling’ at the trade deadline?
The Suns have the potential to do both at once. Although, let’s be honest, any time we’ve ever heard that, teams usually fumble it. Most often, they just pick one direction and charge that way. Which will the Suns pick? Most likely is they buy. With a big expiring contract in the form of Tyler Johnson as well as decent assets like Elie Okobo and Dario Saric as well as all their own first-round picks going forward, they have the goods to make a deal.
3.) Memphis and Phoenix are similar in terms of their up-tempo style of play. For Memphis it has taken some time to get the turnovers down due to players that haven’t played in a ‘pace and space’ environment. How has the faster tempo helped (or hurt) the Suns against their opponents?
Playing fast, turning defense into offense, and letting Ricky Rubio fly is the Suns’ best look. When they fail to get stops and have to take the ball out of the basket, the offense grinds down, and that’s when the Suns lose games. Impressively, they’ve limited turnovers most nights and the Rubio-Devin Booker duo has figured out chemistry right away. As Grizzlies fans might remember from the last time these teams faced off in December, the only real issues crop up when opponents can effectively create offense in the half court late in games.
4.) The Suns and Grizzlies are coming off of big wins. For Phoenix it was a victory at home against the New York Knicks. What did you see in that game that you’d like to see translate into tonight’s game against Memphis?
The biggest story of the Suns’ win over the Knicks was Phoenix starting Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes together. The Suns went to that lineup in an effort to shore up the defense and bring an increased level of physicality against a big, strong, veteran Knicks team. It seems that duo will start again against Memphis. That means a fun matchup between Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. on the perimeter, where Jackson will likely have the advantage. Ayton’s ability to play-make with the ball in his hands will be key.
5.) The last question is simple: What are your final predictions? Also, who are some guys from either side that you see having solid games tonight?
As I said, Jackson could play well again if he can get involved in the structure of the offense, something that I know comes and goes for him. Ayton isn’t used to chasing a player like Jaren around screens. On the Suns’ side, it’s been the Booker show for the past week. The potential All-Star is on a five-game stretch of 30-plus point games. Memphis benefited from going up against a hampered version of Booker in the last contest. They won’t this time. Unless Dillon Brooks steps up on defense or De’Anthony Melton uses his tricks from practice last year as a Sun, Booker should have another big game.
A big thank you to Brendon for sitting down with us, and make sure to follow The Bright Side of the Sun for all Suns coverage, and always follow (@sbngrizzlies) for all of your Memphis Grizzlies coverage.