Portland Trail Blazers (28-36) at Phoenix Suns (22-44)
March 12, 2017, 6:00 PST
Watch: KGW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (out), Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Suns injuries: Alex Len (day-to-day), Dragan Bender (out)
SBN Affiliate: Bright Side Of The Sun
We exchanged Q&As with Owen Sanborn of Bright Side Of The Sun to get ready for Portland’s contest against Phoenix tonight. The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a playoff push, while the Suns appear to be headed toward a top selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. Let’s now take a look at some of the storylines coming out of Phoenix as the season heads into the final stretch.
Blazer’s Edge: The Suns have a real chance to play spoiler this spring. Phoenix's record doesn't do their talent level justice, because guys like Devin Booker are capable of single-handedly changing the outcome of a game. How important is it for the Suns' culture to compete until the season's conclusion, or is it time to lock up a top-three pick?
Bright Side Of The Sun: I am probably in the minority here due to the modern NBA’s tanking culture, but I have been loving every minute of this youth movement/resurgence. I understand the value a top 3 pick brings, but I believe fan bases are sometimes too fixated on what lies ahead rather than relishing in what they have in front of them. I like that you used the word “culture” in your question because that has been a big point of emphasis for Coach Watson ever since he was named head coach. Although his instilling of culture hasn’t translated to wins, I do think that the way that the team is playing — and more importantly, operating— right now is a good indication for a leap in the future.
BE: Speaking of top selections, who do you think is the best fit for the Suns?
BSOTS: I’ll be honest … I haven’t invested too much time into diving into the draft prospects just yet (my hoop interest swings dramatically towards the NBA), but I do think the Suns will be looking for an athletic swingman that can play off of both Bledsoe and Booker. Josh Jackson fits that bill from what I have seen, and I hope GM Ryan McDonough leans in that direction if given the opportunity. I was championing that the Suns take Jaylen Brown at #4 last summer.
BE: Some of the names on Phoenix's roster might be unfamiliar to fans in Portland, can you tell us a little bit about Alan Williams and Tyler Ulis?
BSOTS: Alan Williams has become one of my favorite players to watch in the league because every time you watch him you cannot believe how effective he is. The dude will come into a game for 15-17 minutes and before you know it, he has put up 12 points and 11 rebounds like it was nothing. I am fairly certain that Zach Randolph has double the vertical leap that he does, but the ball still finds him anyway. Tyler Ulis has charmed the Suns fan base with his playmaking ability and full-court pressure on opposing ball handlers. His instincts and technique are so in sync that he is able to compensate for his minuscule (and I mean minuscule) frame. The prospects of whether or not he will ever be a full-time starter remains to be seen, but I can imagine that he is a pain in the a** to deal with.
BE: The Suns have some big decisions to make over the summer, how do you see the Alex Len situation playing out?
BSOTS: I think that the Suns don’t really know how they are going deal with the Alex Len situation. It will likely depend on the other offers (if any) that he is able to garner from other teams. I hope that they let him walk — I don’t think he does anything particularly well.
BE: Recent indications from the front office show that Phoenix is targeting the 2020 season for legitimate contention. Eric Bledsoe will be on the wrong side of 30 at that point, can they really afford to wait that long?
BSOTS: “Contend” is such a loose word. What does “contending” mean when front offices say it, you know? Will the Suns be a top five team by 2020? I would put my money on no. But that’s OK! Not everyone can be the Warriors, Cavaliers and Spurs, and making the playoffs consistently and being relevant (as you guys are in Portland) is valuable in itself. I just hope that the front office is patient and continues to build from within like they have focused on this season.
BE: In your opinion, who makes an All-Star roster first? Devin Booker or C.J. McCollum?
BSOTS: Tough one. I think Booker has a greater likelihood of being voted in by the fans at some point in his career, but CJ is hands down a better player as of now. The problem for CJ is that he is either in his prime or very close to entering it, while Booker is only scratching the surface of his talents. That said, I’ll go with CJ on this one. I think he gets in next season.
Make sure to stop by Bright Side Of The Sun for more coverage on tonight’s contest. Thanks again to Owen Sanborn for answering our questions.