[table id=26 /]
Enemy: Valley of the Suns
Brandon Jennings vs. Steve Nash
Jennings most significant advantage over Nash, his speed, is nullified largely by his East-West tendencies and inability to finish inside at a high rate. In virtually every other comparison of these two, Nash comes out miles ahead. One of the finest shooters the league has ever seen, Nash is up over 50% from the field again, while hitting 38.1% of his threes and 91.7% of his free throws. Most impressive is Nash’s ability to finish at the rim. He’s an amazing 75.8% at the rim this season. He’s only attempted 99 shots at the rim, but that goes to show how patient and careful Nash is. When he knows he’ll have success, he ventures inside and finishes.
John Salmons vs. Vince Carter
Think back to the blockbuster trade that landed Carter and Marcin Gortat in Phoenix. At the time, did it really seem like Gortat would be the better player of the two? That’s certainly how the story has played out. Carter has not feasted off fastbreak outlet passes and Steve Nash setups the way many wings that came before him did. He’s averaged just 13.4 points on 41% shooting since coming over from Orlando. He’s certainly still capable of doing some impressive things, but he’s gone the way of Rashard Lewis it seems: more name than numbers. Yet still, he’s better than John Salmons. Sigh.
Carlos Delfino vs. Grant Hill
Hill exploded for his highest point total in six years last Sunday against Indiana, dropping 34 points on the Pacers. But because it isn’t six years ago, Hill managed just 15 points on six for 19 shooting over his next two games. Very smart and surprisingly athletic for all he’s been through, Hill is a key cog in the ever-potent Suns offense. When he’s able to expand his range out past the three-point line, as he did against the Pacers, he’s certainly a threat offensively. In that regard, he’s very different than Delfino, whose range seems to only be outside of the three-point line.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Channing Frye
Frye can stretch a court as well as any four/five in the league, but will likely have a hard time shaking free of Mbah a Moute if Milwaukee’s undersized power forward is able to go Friday night. Mbah a Moute missed the Bucks game Tuesday evening with a case of the flu.
Larry Sanders vs. Robin Lopez
Despite good size, Lopez isn’t much of a threat as a rebounder, scorer or shot-blocker. He’s more big body up front than anything else. It’s the high energy rebounders who really know where to be and how to attack the glass that give Sanders problems at this stage in his career, but Lopez doesn’t fit that mold. Sanders should offer some sort of shot-blocking presence inside, hopefully giving the Bucks something more than they had when Phoenix dominated at the rim and in the paint when these teams met in Arizona.
Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling, Earl Boykins, Earl Barron and Jon Brockman
Aaron Brooks, Jared Dudley, Hakim Warrick, Marcin Gortat and Josh Childress
The Suns feature a deep, potent bench with multiple facets. The trade deadline addition of Aaron Brooks amped up the second-unit’s speed even further, while landing them a more reliable shooter from deep than the departed Goran Dragic. The aforementioned Gortat feasted on the Bucks inside in Milwaukee’s trip to Phoenix earlier this season and will once again not have Andrew Bogut to worry about inside. Barron played 12 games earlier this season with the Suns and will surely be out for revenge against his former employers. Expect no less than 30 points and 20 rebounds. But not really.
Prediction: Suns 107 – Bucks 99
Phoenix is currently ninth in the West and has their sites set firmly on that eighth position. While the Bucks dream of making the playoffs out East, it’s probably more pipe dream than realistic goal at this point. With so much on the line for Phoenix, they likely have their minds set on this being a very winnable road game that they can not afford to drop. If Phoenix doesn’t take the Bucks seriously, they certainly can lose. But I expect them to be focused and prepared Friday night.