Charlotte Bobcats vs Phoenix Suns game preview

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Gametime: 7 p.m. EST

Once again, Al Jefferson will make a return to the floor following rest after ankle concerns. He's missed the past four games but Steve Clifford expects to start him if he feels as good as he did during the shootaround this morning. Clifford didn't say if he would have any minutes restrictions but instead just gauge Jefferson's capabilities as the game goes on.

The Bobcats are coming off a close win over the shockingly bad Brooklyn Nets and could put together a little win streak if they take down the middling Suns.

Though many pegged the Phoenix Suns to be the leaders of the tank brigade, the whole tanking concerns with the Suns and other bottom dwellers have more or less evaporated. Phoenix has impressed on the capable shoulders of Eric Bledsoe, a blur of a point guard. Bledsoe, who was dealt to Phoenix in the offseason during the J.J. Redick trade, has been unleashed from a backup role on the Clippers to the starting job in Phoenix and has smoothly transitioned to a terrific first option scoring threat and a passer. He's been excellent at drawing fouls and hitting shots at the rim above the league average field goal percentage there. His midrange game has also been solid, though he doesn't rely on it much. Bledsoe's quickness, jumping ability and skills at the rim have made him a force close to the rim and opponents have had trouble keeping him out of his favorite zone. He gets 45.2 percent of his shots within an eight-foot radius of the hoop. Most of his offense comes on pick and rolls to create space to dart through gaps between defenders, so the Bobcats will have to be careful not to hedge too aggressively. Bledsoe can change direction without much difficulty, so defenders should opt to go under screens to prevent his penetration and big men should play back on him considering he hasn't been a very effective three-point shooter so far this season.

The Suns also have a decent rotation of complementary scorers, as well. Goran Dragic is still a solid scorer and also a threat to get the ball into the paint. Gerald Green has helped the Suns score from deep and to balance their scoring, which relies mostly on ball penetration by the guards. Their young frontcourt has also been performing well. Markieff Morris is scoring quite efficiently as a threat mostly in the post and spotting up but also cutting, on offensive rebounds and in transition. Miles Plumlee has been a good option in the pick and roll, cutting and in the post. He has a rather sweet hook shot with his right hand, and he has decent touch with his left hand, too.

The Suns have been a pretty effective defensive squad, too. They are about as effective as the Bobcats in holding opponents to poor shooting in the paint. Considering that's the Bobcats' bread and butter, that could be troubling if their interior defense disrupts Charlotte's guard penetration and passing. The weakest parts of Phoenix's defense has been guarding the pick and roll, but they still rotate pretty well.

The good news for the Bobcats is that Phoenix's biggest weakness is rebounding. They're one of the worst defensive and offensive rebounding teams in the league. After watching Andray Blatche clean the glass and nearly lead the Nets to a stunning comeback the other night, that shouldn't be an issue tonight. Though Jefferson will be back, hopefully Clifford manages to get Jeff Adrien on the court to tear up the offensive boards and clog the paint on defense.

The Suns are also rather terrible at not turning the ball over. As a team, they give up the rock on 16 percent of their possessions. Eric Bledsoe can be exploited here as he has a 19 percent turnover rate. The Bobcats, who are fourth-best at holding on to the ball, could benefit from a hefty turnover differential.

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