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Suns announce Durant expected to make debut Wednesday vs. Hornets

Michael Holley and Michael Smith continue their NBA MVP debate as Nikola Jokic powers toward his third straight -- while still never having gotten his Nuggets to the Finals.

By adding Kevin Durant, the Phoenix Suns became instant contenders.

Except we haven’t seen that yet — but we are about to. As expected, Durant is set to make his debut Wednesday against Charlotte, the Suns announced.

Adding Durant to Devin Booker, Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton should make the Suns a contender in a West that feels wide open (even with Denver pulling away from the pack). Durant puts Phoenix on a contending tier because, when healthy this season, he has played at an MVP level averaging 30 points a game with a 67.5 true shooting percentage, plus adding 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists a night. Durant has been out since Jan. 9 with a sprained MCL — his trade to Phoenix happened while he was sidelined — but he has a history of coming back strong from injuries.

There are questions about what Phoenix will look like: Can they defend well enough to win? Is everyone willing to sacrifice parts of their game to make this all fit? Specifically, will Ayton be comfortable with his role shifting, getting fewer post touches and doing more pick setting, being asked to rebound and anchor the defense?

There isn’t a lot of time to get this team’s chemistry right — take a look at the Mavericks to see how it can be a challenge — but if the Suns are going to be the best team in the West we start to see that Wednesday night in Charlotte (against a shorthanded Hornets team without LaMelo Ball).