What: Portland Trail Blazers vs Phoenix Suns
Where: Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
When: 7:00 p.m. PST.
Listen: KPOJ 620 AM in the Portland area
The Portland Trail Blazers will be facing off against the conference rival Phoenix Suns at home tonight in their second preseason game of the 2016-2017 NBA season.
Both teams feature a lot of young, up and coming talent that is best seen in the preseason.
Here are 5 things to look out for in tonight’s Western Conference showdown.
1. Former Trail Blazer Earl Watson is New Head Coach of The Phoenix Suns
The 37-year-old former point guard played out his final year in the NBA as a member of the 2013-2014 Portland Trail Blazers game. Immediately following his retirement on October 2, 2014, Watson joined the Austin Spurs of the NBA D-League as an assistant coach. He later joined the Phoenix Suns coaching staff as their new assistant coach under at-the-time head coach Jeff Hornacek. After a poor start to the season, Hornacek was released and Watson took over as the interim head coach. The former UCLA Bruin starts the 2016-2017 season as the Phoenix Suns’ head coach, effectively becoming the NBA’s first head coach of Hispanic decent.
2. C.J. McCollum vs Devin Booker
If there’s one thing that can be depended on tonight, it’s that there will be a whole lot of scoring from the shooting guards. Portland’s 25-year-old C.J. McCollum will be matched up against Phoenix’s 19-year-old Devin Booker. Both players don’t exactly have a knack for defense, but on offense these two are just about as good as they come. McCollum turned it up last season, averaging 20.8 points while shooting an efficient clip from both the field and beyond the arc; .448 fg% and .417 3fg%. Booker had a somewhat inconsistent season, as expected from a 19-year-old rookie, but when he was on, he was on. You can expect head coach Earl Watson to give Booker the green line, building some confidence going into the regular season.
3. Rise of the Phoenix: T.J. Warren?
There was a whole lot of hype generating out of training camp in Phoenix surrounded third-year small forward T.J. Warren, and it’s starting to look like the hype is real. The Suns were left with a bit of a vacancy at the small forward position with P.J. Tucker planning to miss some time with a back injury, which opened the door for the 23-year-old Warren. While injuries have become a common theme in Warren’s first two seasons in the NBA, he’s looking in the best physical shape of his career. After posting efficient numbers in the Suns’ first two preseason games, things are on the up and up for the North Carolina State product. He looks fluid on the court, putting in strong efforts on the defensive end while dropping buckets at a high rate on the offensive side. It’ll be interesting to see if Maurice Harkless, who showed some serious promise at the end of last season, can slow him down.
4. Where in the World (Or Depth Chart) Is Evan Turner?
Evan Turner’s first game in a Trail Blazers jersey showed some promise, but also raised some questions. It’s too early to get proper answers to those questions, especially when Terry Stotts is the head coach, but tonight should add just a little more reinforcement to where we’ll see Evan Turner in this Portland Trail Blazers lineup. Might Turner find himself starting tonight’s game at small forward, replacing Maurice Harkless who started against the Utah Jazz in their preseason opener? Or will he continue his Jack-of-all-trades off-the-bench work that was displayed in Monday’s game? It’ll be interesting to see where Turner lands over the course of the preseason, and every game will be a telling piece to the puzzle. Whatever the case may be tonight, it’s pretty evident that Portland has major depth across all positions. This will provide some serious flexibility with lineups this season.
5. Suns Seeing Double at Power Forward
The Phoenix Suns sure did make some interesting moves in the 2016 NBA Draft. First, they selected 18-year-old Croatian PF Dragan Bender with the 4th pick of the draft. Then, minutes later, Phoenix made a deal with the Sacramento Kings for the draft rights of 8th overall-selected 19-year-old PF Marquese Chriss out of the University of Washington. The thing that really intrigues me is that both players possess a somewhat similar skill-set. Both players are a bit of a mystery, but were also both considered the two best power forwards in the draft. Both posses decent ability on the offensive end through scoring, passing, and ball handling. The main distinction between the two? Bender possesses the skill to defend perimeter players, but lacks some interior strength and aggression. Chriss is the opposite, locking down the paint on the defensive end while struggling to stretch out on perimeter shooters. Both players are young, show a lot of promise, and are considered to have gobs and gobs of potential. Tonight, they battle for minutes against one of the NBA’s most unique front courts in Portland.