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Talking Suns with SB Nation's Kevin Zimmerman

Kevin Zimmerman, an NBA writer for SB Nation and the editor of Valley of The Suns, swings by to preview tonight's opponent.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
From a national POV, the Suns have been a really hard time to get a feel for over the last year and a half. What's the mood around this team right now? Are they better or worse than the group that came out of nowhere to win 48 games last season?

Those of us in Phoenix have a hard time trying to grasp what this team is about this season, even moreso than last year. The roles haven't clicked yet and Jeff Hornacek just made a change to the starting lineup (last game, P.J. Tucker returned to the starting small forward slot in place of Marcus Morris). The Suns' highs have been better than last year's highs, especially on the defensive end, where their depth has given the guards and ability to hound. On the other hand, the lows have included bouts of poor effort, which wasn't ever a problem last year. There are more moving parts and a little less "us against the world" mentality to this team compared to last. It's still a work in progress.

The most notable guy missing from last year's team is Channing Frye. How important was he to what the Suns did and how have they tried to replace him?

Losing Frye was huge not only in that he was a floor spacer that isn't being replicated anytime soon but that he was also essentially the backup center. Phoenix is trying to survive with Miles Plumlee and Alex Len playing meaningful minutes. Frye and Goran Dragic were one of the most efficient pick-and-roll duos in the league last year, but this season the guards have found a lot more opponents helping on defense when they drive off pick-and-rolls or otherwise. They have to beat more than two defenders at the rim. Both Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have been learning over the past few weeks that they need to think about passing out of drives more than they were a year ago.

Phoenix has replaced Frye with Markieff Morris at power forward, and while he's not a three-point threat, the Suns have been attempting to get him involved in the pick-and-roll of late. Morris can hit the midrange jumper but he's also capable of making a secondary pass off the catch or drive -- his assists must continue for the pick-and-roll to get anywhere close to where it was with Frye.

How is the 3 PG experiment working with Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas? Are there enough basketballs to go around?

So far, there haven't been enough basketballs. When everyone was healthy, the Suns could count on one of the three guards having a poor game, and it's been interesting that Dragic and Bledsoe have played their best games since Thomas' ankle injury (his status is still up in the air). Hornacek has tinkered with a three point guard lineup, which has been successful at points, however. The idea, even when the three aren't playing with one another, is that all three guards can be more aggressive with their defense. When that happens, the Suns have been dangerous (see the win against Golden State as a good example of that).

One guy whose playing the best basketball of his career is Gerald Green. How effective has he been this season and what type of contract is he looking at this off-season?

We came into the year thinking Green was the odd man out considering the added guard depth and the addition of T.J. Warren. Yet, he's been one of the most consistent players, if there's ever such a thing for Gerald. Sure, he takes bad shots, but the Suns will live with it because he's so good at making those bad shots. He has the ability to single-handedly shoot Phoenix to success, and there's not much of a defense that can stop him if he gets hot (I mean, unless somebody can jump as high as he can). Green has been a little better making plays for his teammates this year as well.

As far as his future contract goes, it's hard to see Phoenix re-signing him if he garners a whole lot of interest, again because of how much depth and youth there is in the backcourt. His value is really hard to gauge. Can he play with the same recklessness on any other team in the league? Who wants to take that risk and pay him well to find out?

Given the Suns firepower, you would not expect them to be. If Hornacek needs a big stop in the 4rth Q, which guys is he turning too?

Hornacek likely turns to his smaller lineup late with P.J. Tucker at power forward and Markieff Morris at center, though Miles Plumlee has come on of late as a solid defensive option against bigger lineups (though for the sake of this game I don't know if having Tucker on Dirk will happen at all). The starting lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker has been solid late in games -- people won't believe this, but Isaiah Thomas has played some solid defense in spurts as well. Phoenix is at its best when playing with tons of ball pressure and a lineup that can run off turnovers.

Phoenix is currently the No. 8 seed out West. Asides from the Thunder, which is the obvious call, what team below them scares you the most?

That's a difficult choice, but something about the Kings scares me with Boogie playing well. I think Sacramento has more talent and more to prove than anyone else. I'm not sure the Pelicans have enough of a plan to maximize what they have there. But hell, maybe the Nuggets are evening starting to come on, so it could come down to any of those teams.

Thanks for stopping by, Kevin! You can find him on Twitter @offensivelyfoul.