EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Which Suns opponents have players sitting out NBA restart?

Jul 29, 2020, 9:15 AM | Updated: 9:19 am

We know the odds aren’t great for these Phoenix Suns.

With eight games left, they must somehow make up 2.5 games on four other teams that, like them, are currently out of the NBA playoff picture. They also must make up at least 2.0 games on the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

To do that, Phoenix has got to hope those teams falter down the stretch of the 2019-20 regular season — just in order to enter a play-in round with whomever is the No. 8 seed.

Some people with better math abilities than me have determined the Suns have something like a 1% shot of playing more than eight games to wrap up this year. Running off eight straight wins might be their only shot at a postseason berth. They must do so with the availability of Kelly Oubre Jr. (knee rehab), Dario Saric (ankle) and Aron Baynes (conditioning) in question.

But if you want to talk about how Phoenix’s odds are improving enough to make this interesting, I got you.

That’s because — as we guess whether the Suns themselves will have starting forward Kelly Oubre Jr. — we know a few of their opponents won’t have some of their better players. Here’s a look at which opponents and which playoff competitors will be missing which players for the NBA restart.

Washington Wizards (July 31)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Bradley Beal — Right rotator cuff injury

Davis Bertans — Upcoming free agency

What it means for the Suns:

The Suns will begin their eight-game journey with a little bit easier path. They will face the worst team in the 22-squad restart bubble that will be missing its top two scorers. And Washington will be doing so on the fly, as both Beal and Bertans were healthy enough to play before coronavirus interrupted the season.

Beal’s 30.1 points and 6.1 assists per game and Bertans’ 15.4 points per outing will be sorely missed. So will their combined 17.1 three-point attempts per outing, which sure changes things for the NBA’s third-best three-point shooting squad (37.2%).

The duo combined for 51 of the Wizards’ 140 points in a Nov. 27 Suns loss that stands out as one of Phoenix’s worst defensive performances of the year.

Not only was Beal playing well despite his injury, he was on a historic tear. He was averaging 36.5 points per game since the February All-Star break, a mark that since the NBA/ABA merger has only been topped by Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Washington’s next-best scorer this year? Rookie forward Rui Hachimura (13.2 points per game).


Dallas Mavericks (Aug. 2, Aug. 13)

Willie Cauley-Stein — Upcoming child birth, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported

Courtney Lee — Calf injury during hiatus

What it means for the Suns:

At the end of January, Mavericks forward Dwight Powell went down with an Achilles injury, taking away star Luka Doncic’s favorite rim-rolling big man. Dallas in a trade acquired Cauley-Stein to replace Powell in that role, and the Suns met them fresh into their integration of the big man.

It didn’t go well for the Mavs. Phoenix pulled off a 133-104 victory on Jan. 28, and coach Monty Williams used that game to nitpick about pick-and-roll coverages. Bets are they will take a look at that tape as a refresher heading into the restart.

Dallas went 11-9 after that game until the season stopped March 11, and Rick Carlisle’s team is moving forward with floor spacers like Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber in the frontcourt, plus some run from 7-foot-4 center Boban Marjanovic.


Los Angeles Clippers (Aug. 4)

Montrezl Harrell Personal

What it means for the Suns:

Phoenix will at least get an opponent with several key players taking their time getting back into shape.

Harrell remains away from the Clippers on an excused absence and his return date isn’t known, but he isn’t the only Clipper who could miss the Suns game, the third on the teams’ respective schedules.

Lou Williams, who left the bubble and was forced into quarantine after dropping by the Magic City strip club for some lemon pepper wings, is in quarantine at present. That means the perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate will miss the first two seeding games. He could return against the Suns if Los Angeles is ready to throw him right back into game action, but that is to-be-determined.

Center Ivica Zubac had coronavirus and has since joined the Clippers in the bubble. He only played in the final scrimmage game.

Guards Landry Shamet and Patrick Beverley are also late to join the team in the bubble and will be working back into shape.


Indiana Pacers (Aug. 6)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Domantas Sabonis — Plantar fasciitis

What it means for the Suns:

Indiana lost one of its best players when Sabonis left the bubble over the weekend to get treatment on his foot. It is not known if or when he will be able to return to the bubble, but obviously a return would include quarantine time.

As for Victor Oladipo, who missed most of the year recovering from a quad tendon injury, the guard initially considered sitting out but changed course and was up-and-down in limited scrimmage action leading into seeding games.

The Pacers did just fine without their best player, going 39-26 this year. Oladipo appeared in 13 of those games, but he wasn’t his old self. He averaged 13.8 points and 3.0 assists while shooting just below 40% from the field and 30% from deep.

Either way, Nate McMillan’s team will ride its physical brand of basketball that ranked No. 7 in defensive rating before the hiatus, as well as former Suns forward T.J. Warren’s best year yet. Losing Sabonis takes away the second-best scorer, and it should help the Suns match up.

Not having a dual-big lineup of Myles Turner and Sabonis to deal with is a lucky thing for Phoenix, especially if Saric (ankle) and Baynes (conditioning) aren’t available by this date.


Miami Heat (Aug. 8)

No opt-outs/major injuries to this point


Oklahoma City Thunder (Aug. 10)

No opt-outs/major injuries to this point


Philadelphia 76ers (Aug. 11)

No opt-outs/major injuries to this point


Play-in challengers

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Portland Trail Blazers (29-37)

Trevor Ariza — Visitation time with son

Caleb Swanigan — Personal reasons

What it means for the Suns:

Not much. Portland have big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back after they have spent months on the mend from injuries. Though chemistry and the time off might be an issue, Portland will look more different — probably in a good way — than most every other team.

New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)

Zion Williamson — The rookie forward cleared quarantine and is working back into shape, though his status for the Thursday opener is not yet known.

Sacramento Kings (28-36)

Marvin Bagley — The second-year pro and No. 2 pick in 2019 will miss the seeding games after suffering yet another foot injury.

San Antonio Spurs (27-36)

LaMarcus Aldridge — Right shoulder surgery recovery

Trey Lyles — Appendectomy

What it means for the Suns:

It’s good news that San Antonio will be without its best player and yet another athletic, shooting power forward. Lyles started 53 games for the Spurs.

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