On Throwback Thursday, the Phoenix Suns face off against one of the youngest NBA franchises who are already wearing their inaugural jerseys.
It's Throwback Thursday for the Phoenix Suns tonight, where they are even offering huge discounts to fill up the stadium against a playoff hopeful.
Fans will enjoy throwback ticket prices starting at just $8, the same price that fans paid during head coach Jeff Hornacek's final season (1991-92) as a member of the Suns. Tickets are available at Suns.com/throwback.
Food and beverage items will also be discounted to similar prices from that era, including $2 hot dogs, soda and popcorn, which will be available at concessions throughout the arena.
The Suns will also feature an old-school feel during in-game entertainment, across its digital and broadcast platforms, and on select merchandise in the Suns Team Shop.
There's been no mention of the coach or players wearing the short shorts from back in that era.
The arena should be sold out tonight thanks to that, and with the New Orleans Pelicans as the opponent the crowd should be 90+% Suns fans. Could be a real good night to show the team we can make it a home court advantage.
Al McCoy will be calling the game on the radio, just as he was doing back in 1991-92.
- What: Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans
- Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
- When: 7:00 PM
- TV: FoxSports Arizona
- Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM
The team who threatened to fumble their golden opportunity to build a championship contender around The Brow has risen steadily in the power rankings this year, and even built up momentum when Anthony Davis was out of the lineup for two weeks.
How are the Pelicans still in this thing, threatening to make the playoffs ahead of the Thunder?
One big factor has been Tyreke Evans, the former NBA Rookie of the Year who languished off the ball in Sacramento, and even New Orleans last year. But this year, he's been given the opportunity to run the show a lot with Holiday out of the lineup, and has positively flourished.
Evans has put up 16.8 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game this season. Those are Eric Bledsoe numbers. Where Evans comes up short of Bledsoe, though, is on the defensive end. New Orleans, overall, plays really poor defense. They just make up for it on the offensive end and with clutch shooting.
Evans has always been best as the primary ball handler, despite his poor decision making that forced him off the ball in Sacramento. Now this season in New Orleans has to be considered the best of Evans' career.
Add in all the playable talent found overseas and in the D-League by GM Dell Demps, and you've got a recipe for unexpected success in NOLA even when Anthony Davis was out.
But ultimately, this is Anthony Davis' team. The Brow is just 21 years old, putting up 25 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and a sprinkle of everything else on a nightly basis. It's just crazy how good this kid is.
Check out more on the Pelicans at our SB Nation brother site The Bird Writes
On Throwback Thursday, the Suns trot out young players of the future.
One of those players no longer considered young (even though he is) is Eric Bledsoe. He's taken a lot of heat this season because he's not a pure pass-first point guard and has many too many turnovers for most people's liking. Some even blame him for the trade deadline, that the Suns picked the wrong player to build around.
However, Bledsoe has heaped that pressure onto his shoulders this season as the primary ballhandler and produced an all-around season only topped by MVP candidates. Sure, some point guards are better shooters. Some are better passers. Some are better defenders. But very few are better at so many facets of the game of the basketball.
- Only LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook have more points, assists and rebounds than Bledsoe.
- Of those four, Bledsoe takes by far the fewest shots but has the second-best 3P% and second-best overall FG%
- Those other three are annual MVP candidates, and Bledsoe is the youngest of the four
- If you drop the criteria to 16/6/5, then non-All-Star Tyreke Evans gets added to the list.
- If you drop the criteria to 15/5/5, then Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant jump into the fray, making a total of just 7 players with 15/5/5 on the season.
- Taking rebounds out of equation to make it more of "pure point" discussion, Bledsoe is one of only 9 NBA players to average 17+ points and 6+ assists per game this year (the prior three, plus John Wall, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul).
- Every one of those other eight players are perennial All-Stars.
- Among all point guards, Bledsoe is ranked 8th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and RPM (ESPN's "Real Plus Minus" that factors in a defensive score)
- He is 4th in Defensive RPM, a factor of points allowed per 100 possessions
- This is his first full year as an NBA starter
Let's give Bledsoe some throwback love going forward. Phoenix fans love affable underdogs, but we should root for Bledsoe anyway. He's not the most amiable, or affable, or eloquent interview out there. And, as an incredible athlete, he's not an underdog.
But in a way, Bledsoe IS an underdog. He's often the shortest guy on the court and he's uncomfortable being the main scoring option. And he struggles with his words when the cameras are in his face.
Let's adopt Bledsoe as the misunderstood but lovable pitbull, and watch his future unfold as one of the best players in the NBA.
The Suns are missing two starters, while the Pelicans are missing a couple of key players as well (Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson)
Out on a limb
With Anthony Davis and Omer Asik in the starting lineup, you'd think the Pellies rim protection is top notch. But alas, it's no where close to that.
Opponents MAKE more shots at the rim against the Pelicans (13.5 per game) than against any other NBA team. The Suns are 4th worst, allowing 12.6 per game. The Pellies and Suns give up the most opponents attempts at the rim too, with the Pellies actually worse by a wide margin (25.9 attempts allowed vs. 23.8).
The key for the Suns will be to attack the rim. They cannot let the Pellies off the hook by taking jumper after jumper.
With Len out, the Suns will need to force the Pellies to bench Asik by playing small. That would shift The Brow to center against Markieff Morris, making Keef's life difficult but opening up the floor for the other guys.
Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Eric Bledsoe filling the stat sheet for the Suns and on Anthony Davis doing the same for the Pellies.
Gonna be a tough game for the Suns, just like all the others for the rest of the season. Let's hope they have a renaissance night on Throwback Thursday and find a way to put another tick mark in the win column.
Suns by 4.