The Phoenix Suns are bad.
With a record of 12-50, the team with the worst record in the league last year (21-61) may just outdo themselves and be even worse, despite rostering last year’s number one draft pick in DeAndre Ayton and one of the league’s most talented young stars, Devin Booker. As turbulent as this season has been for the Pelicans, the lack of progress in Phoenix offers some humbling perspective.
New Orleans will unfortunately be making the trip down south after a losing stop at the Staples Center. Anthony Davis had another abbreviated performance, playing 21 minutes before sitting out for the entirety of the fourth quarter. Holiday and company clung to a chance at victory nonetheless before ultimately falling at the hands of a clutch LeBron James.
Winning games is not the most appropriate outcome for the Pelicans at this point in the season, but against Phoenix it may be inevitable. The worst team in the West is coming into this game off the heels of a victory, something they had previously not done since January 15th. Their victory over the Miami Heat snapped a brutal 17-game losing streak. Frustration was mounting halfway through that streak, and there is little reason to believe it has diminished.
Youth is everywhere for the Suns. Booker is 22. Ayton is 20. Josh Jackson is 22. Kelly Oubre Jr. is 23. Mikal Bridges is 22. The five best and most valuable players on this roster have seen nothing but losing at the NBA level. Granted, Oubre Jr. played in some big games for the Wizards, but it was still the Wizards, who I cannot in good faith equate with winning. James Jones is a rookie general manager and Igor Kokoskov is a rookie head coach. This is one team, it is very early and the sample is admittedly very limited, but it does stand as an example of how ugly tanking can get.
It is impossible to know how much of a difference even one above-average veteran contributor would make on a team that ranks 28th in offensive efficiency and 29th in defensive efficiency. But it is not hard to imagine this Pelicans roster taking the floor without Jrue Holiday and yielding similar results. Without Holiday leading the way, would a young player like Cheick Diallo be able to shoot over 74 percent from the field for an entire month?
The product on the floor for the Pelicans has been surprisingly good since the Davis trade request sent the season into a tailspin. They are 4-5 in their last nine games, which comes out to a winning percentage of .444 that this Suns team would love to be able to claim as their own.
The result of this game matters only in its implications on the NBA Draft Lottery, and the same can be said for the rest of both teams’ seasons. But the matchup of Holiday and Booker, who is still averaging a cool 24.6 points per game should be exciting, and another chance to see DeAndre Ayton, who has no intentions of taking it easy on anyone, is welcome. All things considered, it could be worse.
And Pelicans fans should note that this entire situation could be worse. Will tommorow night’s premiere of The Shop episode with Anthony Davis loom large over this contest? Absolutely. The sun isn’t shining nearly as bright in Phoenix at the moment. At the very least, New Orleans has smoke.
Where To Watch
What: New Orleans Pelicans (27-336) at Phoenix Suns (12-50)
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
When: Friday, March 1, 2019, 8:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO