Phoenix Suns: Igor Kokoskov must improve his rotations

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker Mikal Bridges Igor Kokoskov T.J. Warren (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Devin Booker Mikal Bridges Igor Kokoskov T.J. Warren (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

After an 8-26 start, it’s safe to say everyone on the Phoenix Suns has struggled so far this season. Coach Kokoskov’s biggest problem has been poor rotation management.

Igor Kokoskov was put in a very difficult situation for his first head coaching job. He’s being asked to run a team, mixed with rookies and veterans, with no point guard, with very little chemistry, as successfully as possible while developing the youth.

It’s been a very rocky start. As the front office hinted throughout the offseason, this was the season the team wanted to start putting it together, win some games, and make their mark as a threatening young team on the rise. For this to happen, the idea was to have a solid blend of veteran presence and young talented players.

This resulted in an opening day lineup of Isaiah Canaan, Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Deandre Ayton. How anyone could look at that lineup and expect to win games is a completely different problem, but it was likely there was a push by management to run out this lineup with more veterans than youth in hopes for wins.

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Before long though, it became obvious minute distribution should change. Ryan Anderson showed he had no place on an NBA court, Isaiah Canaan was the worst starting point guard in the league, and minutes were scarce for rookies outside of Ayton.

Now, with Canaan, Ariza, and Tyson Chandler gone, with Ryan Anderson out of the rotation, it seems as though the team has caught on that this season should be strictly for developing players. Yet the team still struggles when it comes to distributing the minutes reasonably.

During their recent game with the Washington Wizards, this became fully evident. Most notably, Jamal Crawford played 33 minutes, including throughout each overtime.

Again, in a year crucial for player development, the team plays Crawford substantially more minutes than Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton and as many as Mikal Bridges.

If Kokoskov were using Crawford effectively, trusting him over the rookies and Jackson to run an efficient offense and play smart, it would be more justifiable. However, when your offense consists of Booker and Warren isolating for the best shot, Crawford serves no purpose. He often stood and watched on offense, and he offers absolutely nothing defensively in comparison to Melton, Bridges, and Jackson.

He had three overtimes to make this adjustment, but he only changed the lineup when Ayton fouled out. Melton was having one of his best games as a professional but failed to play when it mattered, even as the backcourt continued to give up basket after basket to Bradley Beal.

As the season carries on, it would be smart to have Elie Okobo take some of Crawford’s minutes. Being able to play Melton, Okobo, or Booker at point guard gives the team 3 different looks it could go to.

As for the wing situation, Kokoskov has quite the task ahead of him. Balancing Warren, Kelly Oubre, Jackson, and Bridges will be a difficult challenge, and there will be nights that one plays much less than they like. But pairing three of those wings together with Booker at point is a better option than Crawford playing heavy minutes, especially on nights like Saturday when Booker is struggling to score but distributing the ball well.

Booker’s minutes also must be handled smarter, as he has gotten hurt throughout the past few years and just returned recently from his latest injury. 55 minutes is absurd to ask of a recovering player, much less relying on him to carry the offense while paired defensively with Crawford.

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These minutes must change, starting with experimenting with Booker, Melton, and Okobo all playing point throughout games. Playing around with the wing combinations should be fun for a creative coach like Kokoskov, and it’s important as the team continues to decide who will be a permanent piece long-term. It all starts with Kokoskov reducing Crawford’s minutes, which have become high in number with little value given.