The Phoenix Suns have been a bad team for some time now. Their owner, Robert Sarver, tends to get in his own way. They’ve seen productive young players wash out and regress, and they’ve made splashy free agent signings that haven’t paid off and instead set the team back. If the season ended today, they’d have the second worst record in the NBA and will have yet another chance to add a blue-chip prospect to the roster. They’ve lost eight of their last nine games.
All that said, there’s reason for optimism. Devin Booker appears to be really, really good. He’s scoring like crazy, and doing so efficiently. It’s not paying off in terms of wins, of course, but he looks like a real star:
Devin Booker's last 3 games:— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 31, 2019
48 PTS (19-29 FG) 11 AST
50 PTS (19-29 FG) 10 REB
59 PTS (19-34 FG)
2 points shy of joining Wilt, Elgin Baylor, MJ & Kobe as the only players with 3 consecutive 50-point games! pic.twitter.com/krnWVFhxeh
Cavs fans have seen an elite scorer stuck on bad teams before. Would Booker be able to defend at a high enough level in games that mattered? There’s no way to know, but there’s also pretty clear evidence he could be an offensive force at any level of play. So what if he can’t make a team good, or average, all on his own? DeAndre Ayton has had an impressive rookie season. They probably aren’t ready for a Sixer-style jump next season, but they should take steps forward.
The Cavs do not have a young star like Booker, Collin Sexton’s improvement notwithstanding. They do seem to have a leg up on building positive habits, and the presence of Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and a few others with championship experience. Like the Suns, they’ll factor in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, but both teams could use players like Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter as well. Who would you rather be moving forward? Hard to say no to Booker and Ayton, but we’ll check back after the lottery.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (19-58) vs. Phoenix Suns (17-60
When: 10:00 pm ET
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena — Phoenix, Arizona
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: Matthew Dellavedova (OUT — concussion), Kevin Love (QUESTIONABLE - shoulder soreness), J.R. Smith (Not with team), John Henson (OUT - wrist)
Suns status updates: Deandre Ayton (QUESTIONABLE), Richaun Holmes (QUESTIONABLE), T.J Warren (OUT), Tyler Johnson (OUT), Josh Jackson (OUT)
Cavs expected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, Brandon Knight, Cedi Osman, David Nwaba, Tristan Thompson
Suns expected starting lineup: De’Anthony Melton, Devin Booker, Miles Bridges, Dragan Bender, Deandre Ayton
Three keys to the game
- Is Kevin Love going to play? If he does, the Cavaliers are probably favorites in this game. Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance, Jr. are back, and if the Cavs get decent play from two of Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Cedi Osman they’re likely just the better team. We’ve seen enough games this season where the Cavs hang with good teams, but we’ve also seen a lot of games this year where they just weren’t competitive at any point in time. The future is Booker’s, but anyone trying to win a game today is probably going with Kevin Love.
- Which team wants to win the most? It’s not out of the question that the Cavs could catch the Chicago Bulls, who have two more wins than they do. Or, framed a different way, it’s not impossible for the Bulls to catch the Cavs. It’s not out of the question that the Suns could catch the Cavs, who have two more wins than they do. Neither front office, in Cleveland or in Phoenix, wants that to happen. We’ll see if there are any late scratches or guys rested.
- Will Devin Booker remain unconscious? The guy’s on an insane scoring run. If he keeps it up the game is likely to be a lot more fun to watch. Do I want to see him destroy the Cavs? Not really. Is it fun to watch a young player come into his own? Yes.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Booker can’t keep it up, and the Cavs win 111-98.