Before the season began, only the Sixers and the Orlando Magic were predicted to have fewer wins than the Phoenix Suns this season.
The over/under for Suns wins was 21 -- but they enter Monday night’s meeting at the Wells Fargo Center with 26 wins. They beat the Cavaliers, 99-90, Sunday night.
So if you had the over, you’d come out a winner.
The Suns have the seventh-best record in the Western Conference, and if you look at their roster, you’d question how they have 10 more wins than the Sixers in the more difficult of the two conferences.
Let’s look at the head-to-head starting lineups:
Dragic vs. Carter-Williams
Eric Bledsoe was averaging 18 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds before undergoing knee surgery Jan. 10 to remove part of a torn meniscus.
Michael Carter-Williams averages 17.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
Even with a healthy Bledsoe, I would still give the nod to the Sixers’ rookie point guard, because the numbers are comparable but MCW has a five-inch height advantage and his career is in its infancy.
But tonight, MCW will match up against Goran Dragic, who is playing the point in Bledsoe's place. He’s averaging 19 points and six assists, shooting 49 percent from the floor.
Green vs. Anderson
At shooting guard, James Anderson will match up with Gerald Green one game after allowing a triple-double to Kevin Durant, though his coach was still impressed with his play (see story).
Anderson is averaging a career-high 10.1 points -- shooting 45 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range. The jury is still out on Anderson as to whether he’s an NBA starter.
For the Suns, Green starts at shooting guard with Bledsoe out and Dragic moves over to point guard. Green is averaging 13.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists this season.
He’s a six-year veteran best known for his ability to dunk.
Turner vs. Tucker
Evan Turner didn’t play in the Sixers' first meeting with the Suns. Had he played, this would have been a matchup that favored the Sixers at a critical position.
Turner is the Sixers’ leading scorer, averaging 18.5 points. But in his last 10 games, he’s averaged 14.9 points, though he did score a career-high 34 against the Knicks.
The 25-year-old also averages 6.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
For the Suns, P.J. Tucker averages 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. He takes a workman-like approach to his job. Turner is the better player in the small forward duel.
Frye vs. Young
Channing Frye averages 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, and shoots 46 percent from the field. But his 43-percent shooting from behind the arc ranks 15th in the NBA. He’s made 95 threes this season.
Thaddeus Young is getting All-Star consideration, averaging a career-high 17.2 points. He is shooting 48 percent from the field and 33 percent from long distance. He has 36 made threes this season.
In his last meeting with Phoenix, Young scored 30 points to Frye’s eight. I give the Sixers the edge at power forward.
Plumlee vs. Hawes
The center position has Miles Plumlee going up against Spencer Hawes.
The season numbers favor Hawes; the one match-up this season favors Plumlee.
Plumlee averages 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds. On Dec. 28, he led the Suns in scoring and rebounding with a season-high 22 points and 13 boards in their 115-101 win over the Sixers.
Hawes had 12 points and seven rebounds in that game -- they were numbers not far off his season averages of 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds.
In the middle, I call it a draw.
The bottom line is Jeff Hornacek has done one amazing coaching job to have his Suns six games above .500 in the West with a roster that is not even of equal talent to the Sixers' starting five.