The Houston Rockets (33-18) are set to take on the Phoenix Suns (20-31) at Talking Stick Resort Arena Monday on the heels of an impressive 121-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets took a risk by taking part in an elaborate four-team trade that sent Clint Capela to the Hawks, but brought them one of the NBA’s premier 3-and-D players in Robert Covington. That decision appears to be a smart move so far, but the sample size is small and there’s plenty of basketball left to play this season. The Suns, on the other hand, were awfully quiet and didn’t make any big moves at the deadline. They’ll host a Rockets team that’s riding a four-game winning streak but won’t have Russell Westbrook (rest) available. We broke down the best lineup strategies for the Showdown contests centered around this matchup.
Although James Harden ($20,100) had an off night Thursday and only tallied 36.3 DKFP, he won’t have Westbrook to defer to in this one. The Lakers threw double teams at Harden all night and are a much better defensive team than the Suns. The Beard has always been great against the Suns and is averaging 40.5 points, six rebounds, and 5.5 assists against them in two appearances this year. Expect him to have a bounce-back game and put up some big numbers.
Deandre Ayton ($15,300) has recorded at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in three straight contests and should have a serious mismatch in the post, as he’ll likely be facing 6’5” P.J. Tucker. The big man should have plenty of chances to take advantage of his length as a scorer and rebounder on offense and defense.
Covington ($7.800) had a strong coming out party with Houston, as he popped off for 38.5 DKFP with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Only the Milwaukee Bucks create more open shots from beyond the arc than the Rockets, so Covington should continue to flourish in this system. He could assume more responsibility on the offensive end without Westbrook in the fold. Unless this game turns into a blowout early, he should eclipse 30 minutes against the Suns as well.
Eric Gordon ($6,200) has the second most firepower on Houston with Westbrook out and still scored 15 points in Covington’s Rockets debut while Westbrook exploded for 41. Gordon should continue to have value as a perimeter shooter and as a driver.
As for Phoenix, you should keep an eye on Mikal Bridges ($5,600). The Suns are undermanned on the wing, and Kelly Oubre ($8,600) will likely spend most of his time playing power forward — playing against Covington. Bridges could be given more offensive opportunities if Oubre is stifled. He just has to make his shots.