Preview: Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns

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Time: 6:00 p.m. MST

TV: Not on television

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The Phoenix Suns close out the preseason with a trip to Denver, the site of the embarrassing 118-98 loss that concluded their 25-57 season in 2012-13.

Goran Dragic will likely rest his sprained left ankle for a second consecutive night, but here are a few things to watch for as the Suns say goodbye to their exhibition slate Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets.

Is the Kendall Marshall era coming to a close?

It might be hard to quantify Marshall’s time in the Valley as an era, after all the Suns’ 2012 first-round pick has played in only 48 career games. However, 48 games may be all the time he sees in purple, black and orange.

Phoenix currently has 18 players on its roster and must trim down to at least 15 before opening the season Oct. 30 against the Portland Trail Blazers. With several guaranteed contracts on the books this season, that number probably won’t dip below 14 or 15.

But if Tuesday’s DNP is any indication, it could be Marshall on the chopping block, rather than fellow point guards Ish Smith or Dionte Christmas.

It’s hard to believe head coach Jeff Hornacek would sit the former UNC standout two consecutive games given the potential opportunity for competition at hand, but if Marshall doesn’t suit up at the Pepsi Center, the writing might already be on the wall for his departure. It especially will say a lot of he is limited or doesn’t play with both Goran Dragic (ankle) and Eric Bledsoe (thigh) potentially limited themselves.

Has Markieff matured?

The game might not mean anything in the standings, but as far the Markieff Morris character study goes, Wednesday’s contest should be awfully revealing.

Morris was kicked out of the Suns’ 88-76 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday after his elbow connected above the neck of Serge Ibaka, which by NBA rules results in an automatic Flagrant 2. The third-year pro’s absence didn’t have much of an effect on the game itself, but it will be interesting to see if it has anything lingering effect on the way Morris handles himself moving forward.

The timing of his ejection was awfully intriguing, given that just last week Morris stressed his desire to bring back a mean streak in 2013-14.

“For me, it’s just being more physical [this year],” Morris said. “That’s the only way I can affect the game on the defensive end. I just got to hit people. That’s just what I’m going to do. Someone tries to set a screen I’m running through it; ain’t no going around nothing. I’m going through everything.”

The question now, as least it pertains to Phoenix’s preseason finale in the Mile High City, is whether or not Morris is mature enough to harness that mean streak in light of Tuesday’s second half departure.

If he’s not, well, the Nuggets have three professional power forwards — Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and J.J. Hickson — who will have no problem taking full advantage.

Going Green?

Jeff Hornacek appeared on Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Tuesday and told the two radio hosts that of the five starting spots, the small forward position was still very much up for grabs.

And that was before Gerald Green went off for a team-high 15 points in a win over Oklahoma City, albeit from the shooting guard slot due to Dragic’s ankle injury.

P.J. Tucker makes arguably the most sense to open the season as the starting three, both from both a leadership and defensive standpoint. The 28-year-old is instant spark plug and has no problem guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player — a trait that no other player on the Suns’ roster really possesses.

With that said, Green, who was acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers back in late July, has looked impressive on more than a few occasions during the preseason and provides Phoenix with an offensive dynamic Tucker simply can’t bring to the table.

Wednesday’s lineup might not be all that indicative of the one Hornacek trots out on Opening Night — especially given Dragic’s expected absence — however could one final performance in Denver tip the scales in Green’s favor?

 

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