Houston at Phoenix
Time: 9:30 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: HOU -12.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Houston Rockets are 11-4 and have won seven of its past 10 games. It will travel to face Conference foe Phoenix tonight in the second game of a TNT NBA Double-header.
The Suns have struggled as losers of its past three games and possessors of a 5-10 mark this season, and the Rockets will be heady double-digit favorites in the affair, with NBA oddsmakers listing the Rockets as 12.5-point favorites.
The Suns have been a disaster outside of the strong play of Devin Booker. Tyson Chandler is also ill and has faced a couple injuries, but the biggest pleasant surprise has been T.J. Warren. Warren has emerged as the No. 2 option within the offense in averaging 18.7 points and six rebounds a game in just under 30 minutes a night. The Suns also have been pleased with 27-year-old rookie Mike James, who has started at the 1-spot ahead of the highly touted Tyler Ulis. James is a steady point guard and has averaged 12 points and three assists per game, while Ulis has contributed just six and three, playing about 21 minutes a night.
The Suns main problem is its atrocious defense and inexperience. The Suns are battered on the interior despite having both Chandler and Alex Len, and Marquese Chriss has been disappointing on the defensive end, despite his 1.33 blocks per game. The Suns simply have poor rotations and do not really help one another out, and its perimeter defense is barely passable.
Rookie Josh Jackson has struggled to make a massive impact despite being so touted in this year’s NBA Draft. Jackson is averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game but shooting just 37.9 percent from the field, struggles typical of a rookie. It is easy to envision Jackson and Chriss eventually becoming a very dynamic and talented 3/4 combo for the Suns, but those days may be a bit away still.
Second-year forward Dragan Bender still is trying to come into his own as a player, and he’s averaging six points and four rebounds per game in 21 minutes a night. His game, prospects, and story, is eerily similar to colossal bust Darko Milicic (if no one has taken notice yet).
The Suns are a team loaded with prospects, but so few are anywhere close to maturity—perhaps outside of team leader Devin Booker. For now, the Suns are toying with how to best fill a team in around Booker, and trading Eric Bledsoe for Greg Monroe was the first move to make that happen.
Bledsoe seemed only to inhibit Booker’s growth, and he was shooting just 40 percent from the floor while absorbing 13.3 field goal attempts per game. The Suns want to hand this team to Booker, but before it becomes anything, it will first have to learn how to defend as a team. These issues run through the poorer, younger teams in the NBA, and the Suns certainly are no exception in allowing a league-worst 115 points per game.
Houston had its six-game win streak snapped the last outing in a 129-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors at the Toyota Center. The Rockets are just 4-3 at home this season, while the team has gone 7-1 on the road. James Harden is still the leader of Houston’s attack, with Chris Paul only having logged one game this season due to injury.
How Paul will gel with Houston is still something of a mystery, particularly with how much Harden handles the ball and how well the Rockets do with it in his hands. Harden is averaging over 10 assists per game this season while tallying 30.7 points per game, good for a PER Of 29.2.
Shooting guard Eric Gordon has rejuvenated himself and found the magic he had early in his career as a Los Angeles Clipper, and the 2-guard is averaging 22.1 points per game. Where will Paul fit into this charade? Is he not necessary to enhance the team’s defense and give it the best shot at a title? It is just difficult to say how that will happen, with Houston already playing so well and only room for so many guards on the floor. Can Gordon’s minutes really decrease simply because Paul has to be added to the fray?