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Local product Nico Mannion gets 1st start for Warriors vs. Suns

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball ahead of Nico Mannion #2 of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of the NBA game at Phoenix Suns Arena on January 28, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Starting your first game against Chris Paul is one hell of a “welcome to the NBA” moment.

That’s what Golden State Warriors point guard Nico Mannion got to do against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, making his starting lineup debut against one of the greatest to ever do it at his position, with Paul still playing at an extremely high level.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr made what he called a “very easy” call in resting starters Stephen Curry and Draymond Green for the 120-98 loss. After a defeat in Portland the night prior, the Warriors didn’t get to their hotel in Phoenix until 3:30 a.m.

Kerr said starting the local product who went to Pinnacle High School and the University of Arizona “felt right,” and he didn’t let his coach down.

“He didn’t look scared at all,” Kerr said postgame. “He looked like he belonged.”

Mannion finished with nine points, four rebounds and six assists. He also shot 3-of-10 from the field with five turnovers, which comes with the territory of a floor general’s first start.

Mannion’s athleticism is a bit underrated. While he’s below average for his position considering all the athletic freaks that play the point guard position, he’s got some quickness and a good handle to go with it.

That allowed Mannion to get to his spots at a decent level against the Suns’ defense, and when a rookie point guard shows an ability to do that, it’s a good first step forward that lets them get settled in.

That’s where Mannion’s playmaking ability and savviness can guide him toward production. Mannion made a handful of smart plays in Phoenix on Friday.

This is straight from Curry’s playbook, relocating to the corner after a pass:

Mannion played solid defense, where he can hold his own and is consistently engaged.

The second-round pick signed a two-way contract with the Warriors and spent some time in the G League’s bubble before returning back to the main roster. If he plays like he did on Friday and knocks down shots, he certainly has a future in the league that Golden State should secure the rights to.

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