Phoenix Suns Opposition Analysis: Adelaide 36ers players to watch for

Phoenix Suns, Monty Williams (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Monty Williams (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

We’re just hours away from the Phoenix Suns‘ first preseason game, with the team hosting the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s NBL.

The Suns will clearly enter the matchup as heavy favourites, however, Adelaide do have the capacity to make things competitive and far from a generic walk in the park.

The Adelaide 36ers possess a range of high-level talent for Phoenix Suns fans to watch for as the sides face off at Footprint Center on Sunday night.

Led by head coach and long-time NBL player C.J. Bruton, the 36ers had a disappointing 2021-22 season as they finished seventh in the ten-team competition. There is plenty of optimism about what they can achieve this season though, and with the NBL competition having started this weekend, they’ll be hoping for a quality hitout before returning to Australia for their first game in 10 days time.

Their biggest offseason signing has been Antonius Cleveland, with the 6’5″ guard having switched over from the Illawarra Hawks. The 28-year-old has 30 games of NBA experience with the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks, as well as extensive G League experience. Don’t be surprised if Mikal Bridges gets the primary role on the 36ers’ biggest offensive weapon.

Their most popular player may be 7’2″ Filipino big man Kai Sotto, who returns to the franchise having missed out on selection in this year’s draft. He previously played for the G League Unite and was a consensus four-star recruit. Having gone undrafted, Sotto will be motivated to impress as he tries to forge towards an NBA career.

Another 36ers import is Robert Franks who, like Cleveland, has made the move from another NBL team in the Brisbane Bullets. The athletic 6’7″ forward played seven games for the Orlando Magic during the 2020-21 season. Look for him to go head-to-head with new Suns starter Cameron Johnson.

Adelaide also have a plethora of players with extensive NBL and international experience. That starts with Daniel Johnson, the 34-year-old who’s played 394 games which, in context, is massive given each regular season is less than 30 games. As a stretch big, he’ll give Deandre Ayton a different look to the interior presence of Sotto.

They’re well led by Mitch McCarron, a savvy guard who’s played 198 NBL games and represented Australia at international level this offseason. Sunday Dech and Anthony Drmic also have well over 100 games of NBL experience.

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This should be a hard-fought matchup, but expect the Suns to prove too good given the overwhelming talent differential between the two teams.