Pistons vs. Suns preview: Jaden Ivey faces a tough test in Chris Paul

Detroit Bad Boys

The Phoenix Suns have won seven of their past nine games as they visit a Detroit Pistons team who is on the second end of a back-to-back. The Pistons were able to handle business on Friday as they posted a come-from-behind win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Detroit will be looking for its first consecutive victories since late November when they were able to beat the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz in two straight games. Being on the second end of the back-to-back already puts them at a disadvantage, and they’ll have a tough task facing a Suns team who seems to have figured something out as it is forced to deal with the absence of star guard and Michigan native Devin Booker.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m.
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +4.5

Analysis

Booker is allegedly on the verge of returning after missing 21 games with a groin strain, but he’s not quite ready yet. The Suns had a definite rough patch this season, falling from seven games above .500 just before Christmas to three games under .500 on Jan. 16. They might not be the championship contenders they were a couple seasons ago as Chris Paul has lost a step and Deandre Ayton seems destined for a new home eventually, and seeing his defense slip in the meantime.

That relocation could happen soon, and these Suns might look very different as soon as the end of the weekend. Kyrie Irving’s surprise trade request came down Friday afternoon and quickly the Suns were mentioned as a team interested in trading for the disgruntled star point guard from the Brooklyn Nets.

But it’s unclear what the Suns would send Brooklyn’s way as any team who acquires Irving would seemingly be comfortable handing him a new contract in the offseason and a starting guard spot. That gets complicated on a team with Paul and Booker unless they’re prepared to send Paul packing to play with Kevin Durant on the East Coast. Acquiring Irving is a gamble, but sending out a team leader like Paul for Irving seems like playing with fire.

However, while we wait for Booker to get healthy and whatever the Suns decide to do at the trade deadline, they currently have plenty of guard minutes to offer, and plenty of those are being filled by former Piston Saben Lee.

Lee is currently on a two-way deal after a couple successful 10-day deals. He’s averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 assists in just over 17 minutes of action in 12 games with the Suns.

From the Pistons perspective, tonight will be an interesting matchup for rookie and newly minted starting point guard Jaden Ivey. Ivey is coming off perhaps his best game of the year in the win over the Hornets. Ivey scored 24 points on just 11 shots, was perfect from the perimeter, and showed he is making great strides on how to use his electric speed effectively. He also dished seven assists to just one turnover.

But having LaMelo Ball defend you is not quite the same as having a veteran like Chris Paul assigned to give you hell. Ivey is going to have to navigate Paul’s man defense while also needing to be on the lookout for help defense from Mikal Bridges and Ayton in the paint.

Speaking of Ayton, that Duren vs. Ayton, who many Pistons fans were keen to sign as a restricted free agent before the draft, should be a fun one. And we’ll see Killian Hayes vs. Saben, too.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (14-39)

Jaden Ivey, Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren

Phoenix Suns (28-26)

Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Torey Craig, Deandre Ayton

Question of the Day

Who is trading for Kyrie Irving, and what is it going to cost them?

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