There are still options on the board, but actions reinforce the Booker/Beals backcourt philosophy.
And we go!
NBA Free Agency 2023 has begun, and with it comes the first dominoes to fall as the Phoenix Suns attempt to rebuild their top-heavy roster in pursuit of the first title in franchise history. “The most important summer in Sun history”, right? It always is.
I’m pumped. I know it’s a challenge to be anything but especially considering the three best players on the Phoenix Suns are Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. But after the first day of free work, I am extremely excited about the construction of the shift schedule. We knew navigating free agency and trying to sign quality veteran minimum deals would be a challenge, but we also knew Phoenix is a free agent destination.
What excites me the most is that I feel like Phoenix addressed the majority of their issues. The majority, I say! Not all. Most notably, they added size, athleticism and perimeter shooting from the second team unit. Those qualities, or lack thereof, hurt them in the postseason against the Clippers and Nuggets. They were too shallow, too small, too dependent on KD and Book, too shy from deep (they attempted a league-low 25.8 threes in their 11 postseason games).
However, I can see the forest for the trees.
This is not a perfect team or the perfect situation to be in. With the decisions that have been made, it is clear that – at least at this point – The Suns don’t have a true playmaker at the helm. Or even get off the bench. The traditional philosophy of a designated and skilled playmaker, something Phoenix has been accustomed to over the past four seasons with Ricky Rubio and Chris Paul, has gone the way of the dodo.
During Bradley Beal’s introductory news conference, Frank Vogel repeatedly mentioned the concept of pushing the ball with either Booker, Beal, Durant or Cameron Payne as the initiator of the offense. He said “a multi-ball attack in most possessions” will be the modus operandi.
“I’m very comfortable with Beal and Booker as the starting backcourt, but we’re going to explore that fifth spot, potentially being a Cam Payne or a point guard, and we’re going to explore maybe being a ‘3’. ‘4’- type defensive position,” Vogel said. “Those things will play out in camp. I love the idea of getting those guys on the floor with a point guard and bringing it up to him and letting them attack. But I know they can also do it on their own.”
– The pace we want to play with, I think most possessions will have different ball handlers every time. It’s going to be an attack with more ball handlers, but I’m comfortable with those guys,” he added. “But I love what Cam Payne brings to the table.”
The Suns echoed those sentiments with how they operated on day one of free agency. They chose to go with more options and wing players than address distributors. They brought back Damion Lee and Josh Okogie and added Yuta Watanabe (6’9″), Keita Bates-Diop (6’8″), Drew Eubanks (6’10”) and Chimezie Metu (6’9″).
No point guards in sight. Welcome to the “positionless basketball” approach.
For those who need the security blanket of a true point guard, or for those who fear the Point Book will wear him down physically, there are still options on the market.
The market is drying up quickly, and Phoenix could potentially land one of those players, even though D’Angelo Russell is off the roster as he re-signed with Lakers. They fill the need for a traditional point guard and would be the clear 5th starter, which is currently something the Suns are without. Or is it Cam Payne?
The other side of this argument is that bringing in a starting point guard would nullify the positionless basketball approach, thus pushing Devin Booker into the small forward position and Kevin Durant into the four.
You have to ask yourself: Which one would you prefer? Booker running the point and KD on the three or Booker trying to create against bigger bodies and Durant being called upon for defensive rebounding? At this point, the Suns select the former and will experiment with the fifth starter.
They have given themselves flexibility. Josh Okogie, who plays bigger than his 6’4″ frame (he has a 7″ wingspan) can play the three, putting KD at the four. Or bring in Yuta Watanabe or Keita Bates-Diop to play the four, and KD gets to operate on the perimeter on both sides of the floor.
I know this is the aura of change and the smell of new cars that makes me feel like this team improved as much as they did. But go back to the team that lost to the Denver Nuggets. Look at that lineup. Look at the minutes played and who played them. This team is better, there is no doubt about that.
Can we start the regular season next week?