Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#523 Sacramento Kings -1.5 vs.
#524 Phoenix Suns 230
Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 10:05pm EDT
Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#523 Sacramento
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NBA basketball is back and the Sacramento Kings will tip-off the regular season on the road at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday evening with a Western Conference clash versus the Phoenix Suns.

This game will be a measuring stick of sorts for the Suns, who will be up against another up-and-coming team that turned some heads last year. Sacramento contended for a playoff spot for the better part of the 2018-19 season and exceeded expectations with a young roster, finishing in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. Phoenix is trying to do the same this year with a retooled roster that features a couple of familiar faces. Can the Suns pull off an upset on the road against the Kings in their first game of the regular season on Wednesday night?

Suns expected to nearly double wins in 2019-20

New Suns head coach Monty Williams will try to fix a losing culture in Phoenix and he will enter the season with just six players returning from last year’s team. The Suns will have more of a veteran presence in the locker room with 2019 FIBA World Cup MVP Ricky Rubio starting at point guard, but they are still the youngest team in the NBA with an average player age of just 24 years old. FiveThirtyEight projects Phoenix for 36 wins, which would nearly double their win total from last season.

Devin Booker continues to have playoff aspirations and he will look to continue his development as one of the most lethal offensive players in the NBA. The 6-foot-6 guard from Kentucky is fresh off the best statistical season of his career but he should be even better this year. He averaged 26.6 points and 6.8 assists per game on a 46.7 percent shooting from the field, which all marked career-highs, but Booker also shot a career-low 32.6 percent from deep on 6.5 attempts per contest. He will be joined in the starting lineup by Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Dario Saric, and second-year center DeAndre Ayton. Ayton was underwhelming in his rookie campaign, but still finished with 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while also adding nearly a steal (0.9) and block (0.9) per contest.

Critics were quick to jump on the Sun's front office after the draft when they selected Cameron Johnson from North Carolina with the No. 11 overall pick. However, the rookie appears ready to make an immediate contribution for the Suns, especially from beyond the arc. Johnson finished the preseason 9-for-20 from beyond the arc and could earn minutes as a floor spacer next to Ayton. Speaking of floor spacers, Phoenix added another big man that can shoot the rock. Former lottery pick Frank Kaminsky was seen as a reclamation project when he signed a two-year, $10 million deal, but he was another bright spot in the preseason. Aaron Baynes, Mikal Bridges, and rookie Ty Jerome will likely round out the Suns’ rotation.

Kings hope to earn postseason berth

Despite being ahead of schedule on their rebuild, the Kings remain a long shot to make the playoffs in 2019-20. According to FiveThirtyEight, Sacramento owns just an 11 percent chance of making the postseason and they are projected to an identical 39 wins in a tough Western Conference.

Sacramento’s ability to make the leap will likely depend on the development of De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, who are expected to take the next step in their respective development. Bagley, in particular, is set to make big strides in his sophomore season and he seems poised for a bigger role under new head coach Luke Walton. He flashed his potential in the final 15 games of the regular season as a rookie, averaging 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Fox is trying to make his first All-Star team posting 17.3 points and 7.3 assists per game as a sophomore. Fox also improved his efficiency across the board, while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from deep in 31.8 minutes per game.

A lot was made of shooting guard Buddy Hield’s comments last week, but he ultimately signed a four-year contract extension worth $86-million prior to the start of the regular season. Thanks to some favorable terms, Hield’s contract is considered a win-win. Sam Amick broke down the deal in detail for The Athletic. His annual salary will start at $24.4 million, but will decline by $2 million per season over the next three years of the deal.

Fox, Hield, and Bagley will be joined in the starting lineup by veterans Harrison Barnes and Dewayne Dedmon, while Bogdan Bogdanovic will be the first man off the bench. Bogdanovic showed off his skills at the FIBA World Cup, but still needs to prove he can be a star at the NBA level. The Kings also added a few key pieces to their second unit with veterans Cory Joseph and Trevor Ariza.

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The Kings come into this game favored by only 1.5 points, so Vegas is giving the Suns some early season respect. Phoenix still has a young roster and they will need to learn to close out games, but having Rubio and Booker will certainly help their cause. Rubio remains plus-defender and a steady hand at the point guard position, while the additions of Saric, Kaminsky and rookie Cameron Johnson should give the Suns much better spacing around center DeAndre Ayton. The Kings come in with some added expectations, but they still might be a year away from being a playoff team. Take the Suns to cover the spread in this Western Conference battle on Wednesday evening. 

Prediction: Phoenix Suns +1.5

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With two young teams playing each other on the first game of the season, this has all the makings of a high-scoring affair. The Kings push the pace and they should be even better offensively with Bagley in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, the Suns' offense should also be more efficient with Rubio running the show. Take this game to go over the projected 232.5 points on Wednesday evening.

Prediction: Over 232.5
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.