Opponent Scouting: Phoenix Suns. 3-2

Going to try and make this a new regular post of a preview before the next game.

Full disclosure. Even though I am a veritable league pass addict, I have watched very little of the Suns so far this year. A lot of my observations are looking the stats and going off of what other people (particularly browsing through the Suns sub reddit) have been saying. Not as much of the eye test. But like any good sports writer I will be arrogantly confident and pretend to be an expert even though I am not./s

The Them: The suns are off to a 3-2 start to the season, and have once again shown that even though they may not be one of the NBA's elite teams, they are feisty as hell, and never an easy out. They have beaten the Blazers twice and also killed the Kings, they have lost to the Mavs and the Clippers, both in (relatively) close games. They are a team who is trying to win games and plays actual NBA players, as such they will just be another good team that the Pistons have to start off the year. They sport an interesting and pretty good balance between their frontcourt and their backcourt. With Eric Bledsoe/Brandon Knight as guards and Markieff Morris/Tyson Chandler at PF and C. These 4 are easily the strength of the team so far. In some ways they are actually a pretty close mirror image of the Pistons. The Starting lineup for the suns has been awesome (similar to the Pistons) but the bench has lagged behind a little bit. (although not as bad as the Pistons' bench has been by any stretch.) Matchups to watch

  1. Drummond vs. Everyone. Particularly Tyson Chandler: The Drummond vs Everyone is just because this is the most entertaining thing going on in a Pistons game regardless of who they are playing. However between Tyson Chandler and Markieff Morris, the Suns have a couple of mean and scrappy dudes up front. Even though Drummond will have a size advantage over both (just like he does pretty much every night) he will have to do real work for every board he gets. Even the Suns wing players (particularly TJ tucker) are really scrappy guys. Mostly though is Tyson Chandler, he is not as good as Drummond, but he is still big enough to contend size wise and he is a really smart Vet. He also is a big contributor to the Suns defense, and pretty easilly the teams best rebounder. Alex Len is also shaping up into a solid player, but he is still a stick person. If Drummond can manage to get Chandler into some foul trouble, or if he turns out to just be too big and strong for Chandler, he could be in for another big night. HOWEVA, if Chandler can stay out of foul trouble he is (somewhat like Rudy Gobert) good enough that he can compete with Drummond on the boards/post. And also is a good enough defender that he can potentially really muck up the PnR with Jackson. Probably the most likely thing to watch though is how Drummond responds to a group of really tuff, physical players who make him work down low.

  2. The Morrii: This is pretty obvious, the Morris twins are playing against each other, and they both are starting for their teams and have major roles. Kieff has not gotten off to the hot start of Marcus, but he has a longer track record of being good so don't read too much into that. And the best part is that they are going to guard each other for at least a few possessions, and both of them are at their best playing iso ball in the midrange. So it will be fun to see them both turn up a notch to go one on one against each other. I hope each coach lets this happen because it will be fun to see, regardless of the result.

  3. Marcus Morris vs. Himself: Marcus will have an even bigger chip on his shoulder than usual tonight. He did not try to hide his displeasure with the Suns organization. If things go south in some way for the Pistons then there is a decent chance he might do something stupid. If things go south and he keeps his cool all game though that would be a sign of some real mental growth. Although the best would obviously be if he had a great revenge game and went off. But regardless, Marcus has avoided dumbassery so far this year, so hopefully he can keep that up.

  4. The guards: This could be an absolute joy to watch. Bledsoe and Jackson are both big strong athletes at the PG. And neither is a great shooter. So they will both be attacking the basket all night. Bledsoe is the best player Jackson will have gone up against this year (shots fired at Derrick Rose) and if he can win the matchup that would be really encouraging. And also two young guards who are on the upswing should mean that both are giving it a little extra which will be fun.

  5. Also the other guards, while it will be a little less intriguing because Brandon knight is not the explosive athlete Bledsoe is and KCP does not have the skills of Jackson, it will still be interesting to watch. It will be a hard matchup for KCP because for all of Brandon Knight's faults, it is simple fact that he can score. And if KCP keeps up his stellar play on D then he could bottle up the Suns #2 scorer. But particularly on D, this will be a matchup that the Pistons will have to win. Between Bledsoe and Knight the Suns have gotten 38 per game. If the Pistons can contain them both then the Suns are lacking in other good options beyond Markieff Morris isos.

  6. Reggie Jackson vs. Turnovers: This has been a battle so far this season, and if Jackson is not on his game tonight it could be a really big problem. Eric Bledsoe is a stellar defensive player, and the suns roll out several other smart and long defenders. And between Bledsoe and Chandler, the Suns are uniquely set up to mess with the Jackson/Drummond PnR. Which means that Jackson might have to do a little more creating himself than in games past. Which means that he might try and do too much. Cross your fingers that he is on his game today.

  7. The Bench vs. Being good at basketball: The last game is an outlier. There is no way it is not. But even if you take away that game, the bench has been pretty bad. And the thing is, you cannot just take away the game against the Pacers. The Suns bench has played pretty well so far this year, although they use a wider variety of mixing and matching in their lineups. (their starting lineup has 13 less minutes than the Pistons' starters so far despite them playing an extra game) Which means that the bench might be in for a hard game if SVG sticks with his current seeming love of full on bench mobs. Because there is a good chance a starter or two will remain on the court for the Suns. HOWEVA, if the bench can hold, that also means that some bench guys will be in against the Pistons' starters. So who knows for sure. Really the bench guys as a collective just need to play better, regardless of matchup. Just God help us all if Steve Blake has to try and guard Eric Bledsoe. Speaking of which...

  8. FREEDINWIDDIE: Ronnie Price is the backup PG for the Suns, and he is uhh, not gifted offensively, however if Steve Blake is caught on the court for a single possession having to guard either of Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight it would be as close to free points as you get in the NBA. Dinwiddie might still get beaten because both those guys are good, but Dinwiddie will at least put up some resistance.

EDIT- 9. New Rotation?: Just saw that SVG has said he is going to stagger minutes more to try and avoid full on Bench mob units. It will be interesting to see exactly what he does. So just watch for that.

So in conclusion..

Cackle with knowing glee if: - Tyson Chandler gets into foul trouble early and there is an odd stain on Alex Len's pants. -Marcus Morris is best Morris. -Reggie Jackson is throwing it to the guys in the blue jerseys and only them. -Brandon Knight has flashbacks to his time in Detroit and has a breakdown and turns the ball over 50 times. -FREE DINWIDDIE 

Run for the Hills if: -Andre Drummond is getting frustrated by Tyson Chandler and starts doing dumb things/whining. - Markieff Morris is best Morris. - Steve Blake is on the floor at the same time as Eric Bledsoe. - Steve Blake is on the floor at all. - Reggie Bullock forgets where he is supposed to shoot the ball.

Opportunities for me to look stupid: - Andre Drummond is truly the destroyer of worlds. - One of the Morrii throws a Punch - Jackson/Bledsoe is hugely entertaining. - SVG murders a member of the bench mob with a pencil.

Think I'm stupid? Let me know! What do you think? We all get smarter!

P.S. This is a new thing, people have given positive feedback to the recaps so I figured I'd do pre-caps as well. I am open to any suggestions for improving this. Also if you have any ideas for other regular posts throughout the season let me know. Also, in answer to my question of whether people want some stuff on the Drive, enough people showed some interest that I will do it. Idk for sure what exactly that will mean, but will probably mostly be simple stuff like regular updates as to how certain players are doing and such, but probably not game by game stuff. Thanks!

Joseph Sinke