The Phoenix Suns have gone east to take on the Philadelphia 76ers in a Saturday afternoon matchup. After an opening night loss to the Bucks, the Sixers have won three straight games and are looking to extend that winning streak. The Suns started off the season with an impressive win over the Warriors and have gone 1-3 since, including two straight losses to the San Antonio Spurs. They’ll be looking to end the Sixers streak and get themselves back to .500 on the season.
Who: Phoenix Suns (2-3) at Philadelphia 76ers (3-1)
When: 1:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
Watch: NBA League Pass, NBC Sports Philadelphia
What to look for from the Sixers
After the trade of James Harden, the Sixers have to find a way to get Robert Covington, Marcus Morris, and KJ Martin into the rotation without throwing off the winning chemistry. Covington and Morris shouldn’t be that hard to fit in but it may come at the expense of Kelly Oubre’s minutes. Oubre has been a bright spot to start the season for the Sixers. He’s averaging 20 points per game to start the year but the most important part for Oubre is that he’s shooting 45.5% from beyond the three-point line.
Against the Raptors, MVP center, Joel Embiid had 28 points and 13 rebounds in 35 minutes. Embiid will have to deal with Jusuf Nurkic, the starting center for the Suns, who won’t be lighting up the scoreboard but at 7’0″ and nearly 300 lbs., Nurkic is one of the rare centers that can physically stand in against Embiid. For Embiid, he won’t have a problem and will be scoring when he wants to, the physical toll is something to keep an eye on, especially early in the season.
Guard Tyrese Maxey had a poor shooting night against the Raptors on Tuesday, shooting 7-16 from the field and 0-3 from beyond the three-point line. Those off nights will happen and Maxey isn’t the type of player to dwell on it so he’ll be looking to get back in the flow early. Tobias Harris has quietly been averaging 20.5 points to start the season and shooting 47.1% on three-pointers. The outside shooting of Oubre, Harris, and Maxey, at least to start the season, has helped the Sixers on their three-game winnings streak.
The new Sixers will get their minutes but head coach Nick Nurse has to be careful of disrupting the quality play that he’s been getting to start the season. It’s going to be tricky for Nurse but it’s a good problem to have for a head coach.
What to look for from the Suns
Phoenix has lost two straight games to the San Antonio Spurs this past week and they’ll be looking to get themselves back in the win column against a very good Sixers team. Guard Devin Booker is listed as questionable with an ankle injury as he missed three straight games after their opening night win against the Warriors. He returned against the Spurs on Thursday night and was superb filing up the stat sheet with 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 13 assists. In his two games this season, Booker is averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 10.5 assists while shooting 57.5% from the floor and 53.3% on his three-point attempts. While it’s only two games, the Sixers can’t afford to let him start off hot.
All-World forward Kevin Durant is just doing Kevin Durant things, to start the season. He’s averaging 27.4 points per game, which is right in line with his career average of 27.3 points per game. He’s also grabbing 6.8 rebounds and handing out 4 assists per game, all in line with what he’s been doing for his entire career. While his shooting percentage is up at 53.7% his three-point shooting and free-throw shooting are both down. He had 26 and 28 points in his past two games against the Spurs, both losses, and hasn’t been having success leading a stacked Suns team to victories.
After those big two, the Suns can still get plenty of punch from Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen, with Nurkic and small forward Josh Okogie both getting close to 10 points a game. The Suns have been getting quality minutes from eleven different players this season, the problem is the quality. The team isn’t that deep and if they’re missing Durant or Booker, the issues are glaring. It’s going to be a problem for a team that has high expectations for the season.
Where in the world is Jaden Springer
Jaden Springer has used the past two seasons of G-League basketball like it was his college developmental years. He’s improved his shooting, defense, awareness and his overall game. This year, in the preseason, he shot 7-8 from three-pointers and looked to be building off his close to last season which saw him named G-League Finals MVP when he averaged 27.3 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 47.4% on his three-point attempts. Springer looked like he was ready to contribute to the Sixers and they’re in desperate need of someone who’s developed quite an exciting defensive game.
Where’s he been, you may ask? You can usually find him at the end of the Sixers bench. It’s almost like Doc Rivers was back on the bench, coaching the Sixers and had no desire to play a talented, young player. Springer, at 6’4″ and 202 lbs., has developed well and just recently turned just 21 years old. While the Sixers exercised his fourth-year option this past week, Springer has seen a total of 22 minutes on the floor. THat’s not going to cut it this season, as the team needs to have better defenders out there. He’s shown that he can score, rebounds, and block shots. He’s quick to the ball and even quicker off the ball. He’s exactly the type of young player who should be getting minutes over someone like DeAnthony Melton, who hasn’t really shown much in his year here.
Hopefully, the Sixers start to use a more expanded rotation so that they can develop some chemistry with the newly acquired players as well as integrate Springer into the mix. Running some small ball lineups wouldn’t be the worst thing, in order to keep Embiid healthy throughout the year.
Prediction: Sixers 119 – Suns 112