The Phoenix Suns of recent vintage have often stunk and occasionally surprised. This year’s team, loaded with expectations thanks to the acquisition of Point God Chris Paul and an 8-0 finish in the NBA bubble, has been good ... but not great. They’re 11-8 and just got Devin Booker back after a handful of games missed due to a hamstring.
The Pels, meanwhile ... well, they’re busy getting manhandled by most teams since the new year, including a destructive 4th quarter takeover by Kings young star De’Aaron Fox in a Monday night loss. And if it’s slipped your minds, these Suns crushed the Pelicans by a 111-86 margin back in December.
There’s also the lack of depth, even before an injured Steven Adams (questionable with left calf tightness) and sitting JJ Redick as he waits to get traded, potentially to a “Northeast” team like Brooklyn, Philadelphia, or Boston. Here’s guessing Redick ends up elsewhere.
Don’t call him Devin — he prefers “Book” or “DBook,” but maybe “Clutch” would be a better name. Book consistently hits big shots against any opponent, including yet another winner Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks.
He’s averaging 22.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. His overall numbers are characterized as underperforming, and his mix into the offense with Chris Paul hasn’t resulted in 150 points per game. Inconsistent quarters dog the Suns, like it does many others (like, say, the Pelicans!). But the future is bright.
Against the Mavericks on Monday, Book finished with 24 points, including the winner that came with 1.5 seconds left. But we, as Pelicans fans, have seen this before. So have Bucks fans ... and Kings fans ... and of course, Clippers fans from last year’s bubble-winner.
If this game is close late, just “Book it.”
Really, just go through and watch this video. Book has somehow been in the league six years (!), but he’s got enough game-winning and game-deciding shots for a 20-year veteran. There’s nobody more dangerous with the time ticking down.
CP3 is on to another team after those first six years with our club. Is this the year he makes an NBA Finals for the first time in his career?
Paul had 34 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and two steals Monday night, tying season-highs in points and rebounds. His slow style, sometimes heavy on isolation offense, fits right in with coach Monty Williams, former Pelican head man.
The two have combined to produce a few statistical markers consistent with who they are: 5th in Defensive Rating, 26th in pace, 6th fewest turnovers, and 2nd best Defensive Rebounding rate. Seems solid.
One of NBA Twitter’s favorite sons has a full-on 10-minute video feature from The Ringer. I encourage you to watch:
Bridges will certainly see time against #AllStar Brandon Ingram again.
Deandre Ayton, #1 overall draft pick from 2018 (*cough*Luka!*cough*), is providing the backbone to the Suns defense. Ayton isn’t as offensively talented and fearless like other ball-handling and creative bigs, but he doesn’t need to be with DBook and CP3 on the roster. Watch for his offensive rebounding and defense corralling ball-handlers, particularly if Steven Adams sits with injury again.
Ayton is averaging 14.2 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. He doesn’t get to the free throw line much and may not block a ton of shots, but he is still developing. This provides another opportunity for Zion to smash the rim. We’ll see if Ayton can stop him.
Zion at the 5
If you care about development, let’s hope Steven Adams misses time against the Suns as a way to see more Zion playing center.
Zion at the 5 got absolutely torched tonight.— Governor, Isle of NAW (@Fish_TBW) February 2, 2021
Pelicans were +6 with Hayes or Hernangomez on the court.
-15 in Zion at center minutes.
Adams ain't the problem.
So far, our own David Fisher has been less than impressed. And he’s got a point.
To all of NBA Twitter: it’s not a given that playing your star wing at the 5 will unlock your team’s best version of itself! In other words, Zion, so far, is NOT Draymond Green on that end, not even close.
At the same time, I say: let’s keep trying it out (for now); this team is not competing for home court in the playoffs nor a WCF appearance.
#sunspelicans for life!
Who: New Orleans Pelicans (7-12) vs Phoenix Suns (11-8)
When: February 3, 8:30 p.m. Central
Where to watch: ESPN, FSNO
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM