Portland Trail Blazers (1-1) vs. Phoenix Suns (1-1)
Saturday, October 31
Moda Center | 7:00 p.m. PDT | Local TV/Radio: KGWHD; 620 AM
Portland injury report: Cliff Alexander (Doubtful), Gerald Henderson (Out) | Phoenix injury report: None
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun | Blazer's Edge Night 2016
After handily defeating the New Orleans Pelicans, the 1-0 Portland Trail Blazers look to build on a successful start to the season when they visit the Phoenix Suns Friday night for the first of two back-to-back contests.
The Suns will be hoping that their match up with Portland brings better results than their season opener against the Dallas Mavericks, which they lost handily 111-95.
Since the 2015-16 season just tipped off, we thought we'd check in with Dave King from the Phoenix Suns SBN affiliate site Bright Side of the Sun for Q and A session on what we can expect from the Suns headed in to a back to back with Phoenix on Friday and Saturday night.
Hi Dave, thanks for taking the time to chat! Let's get right to it. After last year's drama with the Dragic/Thomas/Bledsoe experiment, the Suns return with a variation of the two point guard attack, pairing Bledsoe with Brandon Knight. Are the two ball dominant guards able to coexist in Jeff Hornacek's offense?
Yes, two ball dominant point guards can coexist. It just has to be the right two ball-dominant point guards, and it apparently has to be two and not three of them. In 2013-14, the Suns were able to succeed with the pairing of Bledsoe and Dragic to the tune of a 23-11 record with a top-10 offense and defensive rating. When your franchise has hovered around/under .500 for five consecutive seasons, 23-11 looks pretty damn good. But that was only 34 games, because of Bledsoe's injury, so the Suns doubled-down with insurance in Isaiah Thomas. Boom. Melt down.
Now they reboot with Bledsoe/Knight, but there's no spark yet. Both look a bit confused. Okay a lot confused. There's still time to figure it out, but Wednesday night's game didn't appear to bring them any closer than last year's few games before Knight got injured.
We will see pretty soon if Knight and Bledsoe can find chemistry in this lineup together. If not, we've got another long, long season coming in the valley.
Speaking of the offensive system, the Suns have been one of the faster teams in the league over the last two seasons, in terms of pace of play. Do you see them successfully maintaining this style of play even after all of the personnel changes since opening day last season? Bonus question: With all of the aforementioned personnel changes, which player is most likely to have a breakout season?
Yes, I think the Suns intend to run, run, run on offense. I asked Coach Hornacek about this before Wednesday's game and he confirmed that hasn't changed. And judging by their lackluster half-court offense Wednesday night, expect them to run some more. That's how they are going to get their easiest scores. New acquisitions Sonny Weems and Devin Booker (rookie) love to run, so it might have to turn into a track meet to get to 100.
Phoenix made one of the surprise moves of the offseason, adding Tyson Chandler (and nearly luring LaMarcus Aldridge along with him). Long known as a pro's pro, how do you see Chandler impacting the Suns defense/locker room? Do you think he can have a positive impact on Alex Len, Markieff Morris, et al?
The Suns are counting on Chandler to lead them to the land of maturity. Last year there wasn't any of that, and it's needed as badly as water in the desert. Alex Len is already playing a lot more confidently. He's got all the skill he needs to be successful in the league - the key for Len is making quick decisions and believing in his choices. Chandler can help with that. He's already in Len's ear every day, talking to him about proper positioning on both offense and defense. Chandler's offense is quite limited, but that's exactly what Len needs: someone to simplify his own game plan. Just play big. Bigger than the other guy. Stay tall, catch high, finish high.
Regarding Markieff Morris, Chandler has already made an impact by helping Morris re-adjust to the Suns after the summer trade of his brother and his own trade rumors. Chandler's been replaced too, so he can impart the wisdom to play for your teammates and coaches. Don't worry about the front office. There's turnover every season.
But Markieff mailed in game one - the first game that really mattered since he declared "my future is not in Phoenix" - so there's a bit of worry he's been biding his time to dog it now that the games count. I'm quite curious to see which Markieff we get this weekend against the Blazers.
3-point bomber Gerald Green is gone, but rookie SG Devin Booker is in. Booker was considered to be one of the top shooters in the draft, though he is not nearly as athletic as Green. How will he fit in the offense and will he be able to replace some of Green's scoring punch?
Few NBA players are as athletic as Gerald Green, but a great many of them are more cerebral. Booker has already shown a veteran's ability to make the right plays when given the chance, while Green was always a question mark. Booker scored 14 the other night, the first 18 year old to score that many points since Amir Johnson in 2006.
Yes, Booker can replace a lot of Green's scoring, but the issue is that he's just 18 and still gets abused on defense too often. Veteran Sonny Weems is the one who gets most of Green's minutes, at least to start the season. Weems is not a scorer, but he runs the floor really well, passes well, and brings strong defense on the other end.
Vegas has the over/under on Phoenix's win total at 36.5. As an outsider this seems to be a bit low, though maybe in the right ballpark. As someone who watches the team night in and night out, how many wins are you predicting this season? With Utah and the Pelicans expected to be better (and OKC at full health) will the Suns sniff the playoffs?
The Suns can sniff the playoffs for sure, but they will have to grow up and learn how to succeed together real quick. They cannot afford to start slowly and spend the rest of the season playing catch up. There is a real need to start strong and hold the lead for a playoff spot from there.
Yet I have some real concerns here. Going into opening night, I thought this team was a sure-fire "over" on that Vegas win projection. But after that game, I'm skeptical. Friday's game can't come soon enough, even though it's against a Portland team that appears a lot stronger than most people expected.
Dave, thanks for joining us and sharing your insight. Looking forward to tip-off!