Following a one-game sojourn to Charlotte, the Sixers return to Philadelphia for a three-game home stand this week, looking to maintain their undefeated record within the friendly confines of the [redacted] Center. Tonight, we get an up-close-and-personal look at the Phoenix Suns, who have the worst record in the Western Conference at 3-12 on the season.
Of course, these two franchises have recent history, having joined together for the 2018 draft night trade that sent Villanova star Mikal Bridges to Phoenix in exchange for Zhaire Smith and the 2021 Miami first-round pick. Curiously, it was after making this franchise-altering move, and right before the beginning of the regular season, that Phoenix ownership decided to fire general manager Ryan McDonough. In his place, owner Robert Sarver installed NBA veteran James Jones, who was playing as recently as the 2016-17 season. Jones’ major moves in the role thus far have been to buy out Tyson Chandler, freeing him up to join Jones’ long-time teammate LeBron James in Los Angeles, and signing Jamal Crawford to iso and shoot 40.4% from the field.
In a league where talented point guards are crawling out of the woodwork, the Suns simply do not have one. Process-er Isaiah Canaan has started all 14 games he has appeared in, averaging 28.4 minutes per game, which was perfect when the Sixers were trying to tank, but seems ill-advised for a Suns franchise that just fired its GM for taking too long to build a good team. Much of the ball-handling responsibility has fallen to young star Devin Booker, who leads the team in scoring (22.7 ppg) and assists (7.3 apg). Granting Booker some Harden-esque skills as a lead ball-handler would be a justifiable and worthy outcome to this current roster deficiency. The matchup with Jimmy Butler hounding Booker should be a fun one to watch tonight.
First overall pick Deandre Ayton has played well in his rookie season, averaging 16.3 points on 60.3% shooting, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. I can’t wait for Joel Embiid to crush his spirit into subatomic particles after Ayton painted a literal picture of himself dunking over a prone Embiid.
Deandre Ayton wasting no time starting a stir in the NBA.— Ross (@LegionHoopsRoss) August 13, 2018
His painting taking a shot at Embiid. pic.twitter.com/3FhuzKdKCd
Elsewhere on the Suns roster, Bridges briefly moved into the starting lineup for two games while Trevor Ariza was away for a family matter. The former Sixer-for-20-minutes is settling into his role in the NBA, shooting 37.0% from three and averaging 1.27 steals per game in just 19.7 minutes per night. Ariza, a guy Sixers fans have suggested as a potential target, has struggled mightily this season, shooting just 36.8% from the field and 34.2% from behind the arc.
Finally, Chandler’s departure has opened up more minutes off the bench for Process favorite and professional hard-dunker Richaun Holmes. The young big man has been playing between 11 and 18 minutes per night of late, averaging 5.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in the month of November. I hope to see a couple mighty roars on Holmes dunks tonight in garbage time, as the clock winds down on a 20-point Sixers victory.
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: The Center, Philadelphia, PA
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 the Fanatic