Well, this is a double feature here. First of all, let me welcome Rashaan Malik as another new staffer, and second of all, let us answer some of the bigger questions ahead of this must-win game with the Jazz. We agree on some, we don’t on others, but, I think you will take one thing out of this: The Jazz front court is scary
1. Who will the Suns miss more (if both have to sit out), Channing Frye or Grant Hill?
Adam Koscielak: Channing Frye, without a doubt. Not because he’s a better player than Grant, but because his lack creates a bigger hole. The Suns have been weak at the power forward position all season long, and with Morris, you just don’t know which ‘kieff you get. Is it the hustling, calm, composed, deep threat, or is it the confused rookie, turning the ball over in the silliest of ways. I’d say Grant’s replacement, whether we say it’s Shannon or Josh (depending on what role we envision Grant in) is much more consistent. Add that to Utah’s wicked front court depth, and a weak power forward spot might be the Suns demise.
Rashaan Malik: Grant Hill, no debating ’bout it. Hill has the biggest role defensively on the Suns. Hill could very well be our ONLY defensive liability on the court. Against a high-scoring Utah team, we need all the defense we can get. Losing Frye would not lose us much, at most, a 3-point threat, which we have a multitude of even without Channing. It has become obvious at this point that Shannon Brown & Sebastian Telfair can shoot the 3 and replace that “threat” Frye usually brings onto the court. As for Hill, we have no other defensive liabilities, not to mention the midrange game Grant brings to the game. Recently, Morris has been stepping up needed and should continue as he has a history of stepping up in the biggest games (See: Kansas, 2011 NCAA Tournament). Also, Warrick has been a great asset for us in Frye’s absence. I expect him to continue that. So Frye will not be missed as dearly as Hill will.
2. If you had to choose one Suns player to have a big game tonight (except for Marcin Gortat and Steve Nash) who would you pick?
Adam: My hopes say Markieff, my love for wacky story lines says Ronnie Price, but my common sense (which I have to go with here) says Jared Dudley. The Jazz have been having problems with the Suns’ pick and roll, and the most consistent benefactor of Marcin Gortat’s and Steve Nash’s duet is Jared. Connect that with a relentless desire to win, and a lot of heart and hustle, and it’s just one of those… Jared Dudley-esque games.
Rashaan : Of course I want all Suns’ players to have a big game every night, but for this specific night and I had to choose one particular player, it has to be Robin Lopez. Lopez’s efforts have shown over the past couple weeks and the wins show what a difference he makes. Ever since the all-star break, Lopez has become a “hard” player. (See: Lopez Ejection Against Clippers). The presence he gives could not be replaced by any player on the Suns roster. Also, if Lopez proves to be a force, he could/should/can neutralize the post play of the Jazz offense. Taking out either Millsap or Jefferson offensively will be detrimental to the Jazz’s chances of winning. Although I believe his defense matters to the team more tonight, some offense wouldn’t hurt either.
3. Who is the matchup nightmare for the Suns in this game?
Adam: Paul Millsap. Look, he’s 6’8″, he’s long, he steals the ball nearly two times per game, and he’s going to be guarded by a flustered rookie. I don’t expect anything less than a 20 point performance with a lot of clutch plays down the line. Remember, this guy ate Channing Frye alive in the last game, scoring 25 points and stealing the ball 6 times, what can Morris do?
Rashaan : Paul Millsap… Especially with the Channing Frye’s absence (our best power forward defender), Millsap will be a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Remember when Millsap scored 25 on Frye? Imagine what he’ll do to our rookie (Morris). It’s a scary thing to think about.
4. More Important in this Game:
a) Bassy Telfair or Shannon Brown?
Adam: Bassy. Look, Shannon is going to have to hit open shots and create off the dribble. Bassy is going to have to run the second unit and at least keep the Jazz bench at bay, if not take advantage of them. If Bassy can bring his A-Game, whether it’s scoring or passing, then this is a ball game. If the second unit goes into Mike Woodson-ISO mode, this one is over, unless Mike Redd can turn the clocks back… Again.
Rashaan : Obviously, both are important to the Suns’ success. But think about it like this? No team can take away shooting, but any team can take away athleticism. Brown is rarely on the court with the second unit, therefore, he always has J-Dud to rely on, but Bassy is on the 2nd-unit, where the only pure scorer is Michael Redd. Our key to the game is to outscore the Jazz bench, Telfair can help us achieve just that…On both sides. Telfair brings the energy and passion to the game that we are missing on our roster, thus, leading to “sticky” defense. Plus, his shooting on the other end could not be understated. We need both, but Telfair will need to step up.
b) Michael Redd or Hakim Warrick?
Adam: Pick your poison. Redd has to score in bunches, Hakim has to deal with Derrick Favors, who is big and strong, while Hakim is… Umm… Lean and mean? It’s going to be a tough night for both of them, so I can’t help but say that it’s a toss-up in terms of their importance, for Redd, offensively (and defensively on Burks, if that’s his cover) while Hakim, primarily on D and the boards.
Rashaan : Hate to be redundant, but I’ve said with Hill out of the lineup, our defense is GONE. KAPUT. ZIP. NADA. NOTHING. We have the scoring already, there’s no doubt Gortat, Nash, J-Dud, & Brown will find a way to muster up some offense but what happens to our defense? I love Gortat. He’s a great a post-defense guy. But let’s not forget the Jazz have their own version of the “Twin-Towers” : Millsap and Jefferson. Gortat can take out Jefferson, but who neutralizes Millsap? It’s obvious we need Warrick for his defense. We have the offense, but we need the D. All in all, I’ll take the Lean, Mean Machine Hakim Warrick!!!
c) Josh Childress or Robin Lopez?
Adam: Once again, I come back to the front court depth of the Jazz, and say Robin. Let me make it clear, I love Josh. I love the fact that he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet much, but still makes a major impact for his team. He’s fourth in the team in offensive rating (Nash, Gortat and Dudley being tied for first), all while hustling his butt off – in fact, his defensive rebounding percentage is identical to Robin Lopez’s. Compare their heights, please. Buuut, the Jazz bench isn’t really as strong on the wings as it is on the front lines. Enes Kanter is a bull of a rookie, and if he were eligible for basketball reference’s Offensive Rebound Percentage leader board, his 14.1% would’ve placed him third only behind DeMarcus Cousins and Joakim Noah. Add to that the fact that Robin is an inconsistent defensive rebounder, and suddenly it turns out that the Suns are at a huge disadvantage on the boards… Unless Robin can box Kanter out properly, which is why he’s more important in this matchup.
Rashaan : See Question 2… Robin Lopez