The Phoenix Suns have won their last two preseason games, taking advantage of home court to beat the Kings and the Jazz. Alex Len sat out the last game for the Suns with an ankle injury, but in 23 minutes against the Jazz he was a monster. Len scored 21 points in 23 minutes, going 7-10 from the floor and 7-7 from the free throw line. That ankle injury may keep Len out, although I'm hoping he plays to give Lauvergne and Jokic some more experience.
Who: Phoenix Suns (2-1) at Denver Nuggets (3-1)
When: 7:00 pm MDT
Where: The Can, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
How to Watch: BUY A TICKET, FIND A STREAM
Enemy Intel: Bright Side of the Sun
Not suiting up: Emmanuel Mudiay Danilo Gallinari, Darrel Arthur, Randy Foye
Key Matchup #1 - Will Barton vs. T.J. Warren
Warren is the Suns leading scorer during the preseason, and leads the team in minutes played. P.J. Tucker will likely get the start again, but don't expect Coach Hornacek to keep him in the game for too long. He doesn't need to find out what Tucker brings the team; Warren is still a bit of a mystery. What we do know about Warren is that he is a physical, powerful small forward capable of getting to his spot and scoring. Warren is listed at 6-foot-8-inches and 215 pounds, which is generous. That gives him 2 inches and nearly 50 pounds on Barton, who is the opposite of Warren.
Where Warren wants to bump and push, Barton is more of a speed and agility player. They can give each other problems on both ends of the court. Warren will have to chase Barton around screens and watch out for cuts, while Barton will have to box out and defend in isolation. Playing at altitude will help Barton, but only if he's able to help his teammates rebound so that he can get out in transition.
Remember, preseason basketball isn't always about efficiency or star players. Watch and see how the role players do in the opportunities they are given - this is the one time where mistakes don't affect the win-loss columns.
Key Matchup #2 - Brandon Knight vs. Kenneth Faried
Knight and Faried won't match up often during the game. Knight is the de facto point guard for the Suns, and Faried is going to be getting a lot of minutes at power forward and center. Knight and Faried were both selected in the 2011 draft, with Knight going No. 8 to the Detroit Pistons. Knight isn't a bad player, but he hasn't been great so far in his career. He's a league average point guard, and is still young with room to grow. Kenneth Faried seems to be more enthusiastic about the game of basketball under Michael Malone's care, and The Manimal is beginning to shake off the cobwebs from two seasons in purgatory. Faried is a ferocious dunker, able to throw down with two-hands from a variety of launching platforms.
Knight's best skill in the NBA so far in his career? Being the point guard version of Shawn Bradley - everyone wants to posterize him. Here's his latest form of abuse, courtesy of Clint Capela.
With Faried playing at home, in front of the Denver fans, there's a higher probability of Faried converting a power jam, and for Knight's sake, I hope he flees baseline and gets out of the picture.