Preview: Phoenix Suns (20-12) at Chicago Bulls (14-18)

Posted by on January 7th, 9:44 am

Time: 6:00 pm MDT

TV: FSAZ

Bulls

Bulls

Suns

Suns

The Phoenix Suns begin their five-game, week-long road trip tonight with a trip to Chicago to take on a Bulls team that looks like a ruin of its former self. For the second time in just two years, Derrick Rose has injured his knee and is set to miss the rest of this season. Without their superstar point guard, the Bulls have slipped from one of the East’s projected elite to a sub .500 team. Somehow their 14 wins are good enough to hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, while out West, the Suns have 20 wins, but sit only seventh in the conference standings. The Bulls may be headed even further south in the standings though. Early this morning, Chicago finalized a trade to send leading scorer Luol Deng to Cleveland in exchange for Andrew Bynum’s contract and three future draft picks. Chicago will reportedly waive Bynum for the purpose of saving salary. Mike Dunleavy will likely fill Deng’s starting role at small forward.

While the suddenly even more depleted Bulls may seem like an easy victory to start the road trip, the Suns are also at less than their full strength. Eric Bledsoe is still ailing from a knee sprain and will be out of the lineup until at least this weekend. The Suns are no strangers to Bledsoe being hurt as he missed a string of six games earlier this year. Phoenix will once again call on Gerald Green to step into a starter’s role and carry some of the scoring load, something he’s been willing and able to do this season. Green is coming off a big game filling in for Bledsoe at home against the Bucks. He scored a team-high 24 points in that game while also grabbing five steals. For a deeper look at how the Suns will fair tonight in frigid Chi-town, let’s ask three big questions.

Can the Suns take advantage of the wounded Bulls?

There’s no doubt that Chicago is at far less than their full strength heading into tonight’s game. But animals are often at their most dangerous when they are wounded. And if there’s any coach in the NBA who can get his guys to play like wounded animals, it’s Tom Thibodeau. It’s almost a certainty that Thibs will have his team playing extra hard tonight, despite Deng’s absence. Deng’s replacement, Dunleavy, is coming off a 20-point performance in the Bulls’ home win over Atlanta on Saturday. Dunleavy and his teammates will be up for tonight’s game in front of their home fans. It’s up to Phoenix Coach Jeff Hornacek to make sure his squad doesn’t over look their weakened opponent.

Can Phoenix keep Chicago off the offensive glass?

If the Suns have a weakness, it’s rebounding. Their fast pace of play and propensity to get out on the fast break leads Coach Hornacek to go with a small lineup for long stretches of games. While these small lineups still compete on the defensive end, they tend to get crushed on the offensive glass. The Bulls are a Top 10 offensive rebounding team by both the per-game and Hollinger stats. The Suns on the other hand are bottom 5 in the NBA in offensive rebounds allowed. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are both beasts on the offensive boards. Keeping them from extending possessions and getting easy put backs will need to be a point of emphasis for the Suns if they hope to keep Chicago from hanging around in this game.

Will the Suns’ shooters show up?

Lately, Phoenix has been either hot or cold from deep. The Bulls are 26th in opponent 3-pt% (.375), but teams are taking on 17.8 threes per game against them. The Suns average 26.1 attempts from downtown per game. Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, and Channing Frye will all be in the starting lineup tonight and, and each of them is capable of making the Bulls pay from deep. Chicago will be using a brand new starting lineup tonight, possibly making their defensive rotations a step slow. With a focus on ball movement, the Suns should be able to find plenty of open looks from beyond the arc and put Chicago on its heels.

Ryan Weisert

Ryan Weisert is a staff writer for ValleyoftheSuns. You can also find him at his sports and pop culture blog Spectavius.com.

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Tags: Chicago Bulls · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Al // Jan 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Sun’s bigs are going to have their hands full these next 3 games. Bulls, Minn, and Memphis have bigs that can rebound all day…

  • 2 Foreveris2long // Jan 7, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Al I think you are money as our power forwards will likely get exposed in a big way.

  • 3 john // Jan 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I think Frye is the key for the Suns over the next few games. If he can play like a big on the defensive end and secure the rock, the Suns should have a fairly easy time ratcheting up at least two more wins. If Frye decides he wants to grab the board only if it happens to fall in his lap (as is all too often the case), the Suns might be lucky to get one win.

  • 4 EBJM // Jan 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Just curious what those of you who wanted Deng thought about what the Bulls received for him.

    The Bulls will get the Kings’ pick if it falls outside the top 12 in 2014 or outside the top 10 picks in 2015, 2016 or 2017. The Bulls also got the 2015 and 2016 second-round picks the Portland Trail Blazers owed the Cavs. In a final piece, the Bulls will be able to swap draft positions with the Cavs in 2015 as long as the Cavs’ draft pick is outside the top 14 picks.

    Would anybody have been happy if the Suns did a similiar trade with Okafor?

  • 5 john // Jan 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    If the Suns could have received what the Bulls did for Deng in exchange for Okafor, I would have been THRILLED. The truth, however, is that Deng is a far more valuable player than Okafor. Deng is an All-Star. Okafor, when healthy, is a solid big.

  • 6 EBJM // Jan 7, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I’m sorry John, what I meant was would you have sent Okafur and three of the Suns 1st rd picks to Chicago for Luol Deng?

  • 7 Foreveris2long // Jan 7, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    EBJM, No I would not have sent 3 1st round or two 1st and a 2nd round pick for Deng. It is just my personal bias but if I unload 2 1st round picks it will be for a power forward. There should be some pretty good swingmen available in the upcoming draft.

  • 8 john // Jan 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Haha, yeah, that makes a lot more sense. That’d be a tough call. Glad I don’t have to make it. If it were me, I think I’d pull the trigger if it was okafor and two picks.

  • 9 sunsn7 // Jan 7, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    A Len sighting! Gotta put this on dvr and check it out. Hope to come back and read some solid takes by our resident Suns fans! ;)

  • 10 Dave:f32 // Jan 7, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I know some of you think Thaddeus Young is a SF but

    Thaddeus Young, PF
    6’8″ 230

    Amare Stoudemire, PF
    6’11″ 245

    Not much more difference. Height is 3 inches taller yeah and 15 lbs heavier but i think Thaddeus Young is primed to play PF in the Suns rotation, with an option to put him at SF.

  • 11 Dave:f32 // Jan 7, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Alex Len looks raw but he definitely has alot of potential! He will be a solid player one day hopefully. He just has to learn the NBA game and make the proper adjustment that all rookies go thru coming from college to the pros.

  • 12 Chicago Bulls 92, Phoenix Suns 87 – Frigid start to a road trip // Jan 7, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    […] Defensively, Chicago was tough as always holding the Suns to just 40% shooting from the floor. Though neither team forced many turnovers, the Bulls were clearly the more engaged and active team defensively. For more on the Suns’ loss in Chicago, let’s answer our three preview questions. […]

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