Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA League Pass)
Spread: OKC -13.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Oklahoma City Thunder are seeded No. 3 in the Western Conference to date, but it will hope to pad its lead some with a victory in Phoenix tonight. The Thunder are 13.5 point favorites over the Suns.
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Phoenix is riding a seven-game losing streak and is just 2.5 games out of the cellar in the West. It had to be expected this would occur when Eric Bledsoe’s season ended prematurely. The Suns just have not been able to make up for his 20 points and six assists, though Brandon Knight has done his best to do so. Knight is averaging 19.7 points and 5.1 assists per game. The problem is that the Suns were already sort of a two-man team, and there is little help for Knight.
Markieff Morris is all but traded, if the Suns can find a taker. He has complained and whined his way to 11 points and five rebounds per game, but teams are not going to be chomping at the bit to add a psychological case who averages a PER of 10.6 (average for a position is 15). With Phoenix’s No. 3 player a forward at below replacement value level, and its No. 1 and No. 4 scoring options (Bledsoe and forward T.J. Warren) out for the season, it is difficult to see the Suns getting back on track.
Warren sustained a broken foot and Bledsoe whose knees are going to need surgery after suffering a torn meniscus. Phoenix basically had to throw in the towel on the season after losing those two, and Phoenix will have a shot at a pretty good lottery pick given how poorly it is currently performing.
Phoenix most recently lost 98-89 to the Utah Jazz. The Suns did 17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists from Morris, which is likely some form of showcasing him for a trade. But Morris was just 6 of 22 from the field, and he is shooting 38.9 percent from the field on the season. He is just 30 percent from three-point range. His value as a stretch-4 seems minimal with that lack of efficiency, and he is just not worth the risk to most teams. It is easy to envision all teams passing on Morris and the Suns remaining stuck with him until the asking price is lowered to next to nothing.
Morris has his nights of looking like a star, and it has to be wondered if he could develop some consistency. If teams look at Morris and see the guy who had 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists against the Raptors on February 2nd, then a team may bite the bullet and hope he develops into the guy whose level of play befits his skills and God-given gifts. That has not happened yet.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are in their own quagmire with its two stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook due to hit free agency. It is quite possible the Thunder go from being a contender to a cellar dweller, if both Durant and Westbrook choose to go elsewhere. Durant has led the league in scoring four times, and Westbrook did just last season with Durant missing much of the 2014-15 campaign.
Truthfully both Durant and Westbrook are franchise talents. Maybe everyone knows that already, but Durant and Westbrook both post PERs of 28, and Durant is averaging 27.7 points, 8/1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. The Lakers will have $63 million to spend and could easily accommodate both players with a max contract. Golden State will have the money for Durant should he choose to go there.
It could be a case of L.A. quickly ascending to where it was during peak-Kobe Bryant years, or Golden State becoming so good that no one can stay in the same gym as them. It should be an exciting year of free agency with many stars hitting the market as the NBA looks to form its next collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, the cap is expected to rise dramatically, which will give cap-strapped teams the sudden ability to flex their rosters some.
For right now, the Thunder are enjoying its place at No. 3 in the West, and being viewed as a legitimate contender. Fans may be in for a prospect far bleaker if the Thunder lose both its franchise cornerstones.