Mike D’Antoni once ran rotations that were only eight deep. He found the best eight players and said, “Go.” Here is to hoping that the Phoenix Suns can have a legit eight-deep rotation soon enough.
The Phoenix Suns, as the roster is constructed now by James Jones, is the deepest it has been in many years. There is talent at all five positions, and that talent has shown itself to be successful with several very nice wins so far this season.
But that depth is not that great.
Sure, Aron Baynes has shown himself to be a worthy-enough backup center, but he is not a player that can be counted on for 30 minutes a game for 82 games.
Yes, Kelly Oubre can drop 25 points on an opponent on any given night, but he is no (at least yet) third scorer on this team, and is probably best suited to be the fourth scorer in general – and if so, that team would be exceptional.
Overall, does this roster have a true, eight-deep rotation that along with Monty Williams‘ new system, can carry the team through a successful regular season and playoff run?
Well, then, how many do they have?
Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, and Deandre Ayton.
Each of them are all very solid unto themselves, and when Monty finally gets that entire core together for an extended period of time, wins should soon start following.
However, beyond that core, it get’s a little dicey.
Does this team have a legitimate backup point guard?
Does it have a legitimate backup shooting guard?
Sure, Elie Okobo has had nice moments in flashes, Jevon Carter is pure energy off the bench, and Tyler Johnson is a decent-enough veteran who can play both positions. But are any of them depth talent that can be counted on game-in and game-out?
Not at all.
Behind Kelly Oubre, who can Monty Williams truly count on to backup his starting small forward and provide solid, efficient minutes off the bench?
Well, according to basketball-reference, the Phoenix Suns have only one other true small forward, in Mikal Bridges.
I hate to say this, but so far in his career…eh.
Bridges is currently averaging eight fewer minutes per game than he did his rookie year, so I do not want to look at per-game stats as a direct comparison (although the fact that he is averaging so many fewer minutes per game in and of itself is telling).
So, while he is averaging more points, rebounds, and steals per-36 minutes this season than last (11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.2 steals as of December 21), and his Defensive Rating is much higher than it was last season (107 as opposed to 115 – you want a higher number of offense but a lower number on defense), his 3-point shooting (which is hugely important in Monty’s offense) has taken a huge hit.
Already poor as a rookie (33.5% after shooting 40.0% in college), and even while playing with Ricky Rubio this year, his 3-point percentage has dropped to 27.7% on the year.
Not only that, but he is obviously not nearly as confident in the shot as he should be as his per-36min average attempts per game has even dropped by over half this year from last season which was 4.7 attempts to this year’s 2.8.
Like Okobo, should fans have optimism in him? Absolutely. But is he part of a true eight-deep rotation right now?
Not a successful one, no.
At power foward, Dario Saric might be a part of an eight-deep rotation – but only if he were coming off the bench.
Saric is good, but he is not a legitimate starting power forward in the NBA – and the single trait that he was expected to carry with him to the franchise – his 3-point shot – has failed him this season (34.6%).
His overall scoring has been wildly inconsistent as well as he has reached double-figures in scoring only 14 out of 28 games, and at least 20 points only twice.
Defensively, he has had two amazing 17 rebound games thus far, but has reached double-digits seven times out of 28 games, and has also grabbed just 5 rebounds or less a whopping nine times.
Further down the depth chart, Cameron Johnson shouldn’t be a PF, but he is, plus he is a rookie.
Like the other younger players on the roster, can he too be counted on in the future?
Sure! He’s shooting 40.7% from 3 on 123 attempts thus far this season so it is obvious that his shot followed him from college. I think too that it is fair that he is counted on to some degree this season, and down the line might actually be a very needed member of an eight-man rotation.
Not just yet.
How about at center:
It is fair to say that Deandre Ayton should be in this eight-man rotation.
But Cheick Diallo? No way.
Aron Baynes could be though.
He probably should be.
But he should also never start.
I am 100% willing to count him as part of the eight-deep right now because of his fantastic start to the season, however it is because he should be only coming off the bench – not because of the games that he has started.
Hopefully when Ayton is back full-time and playing starters minutes, and Baynes can go back to playing his career-average of only 15 minutes per game, that the Ausie’s production will be exactly what the team needs off the bench.
Which all basically leaves the Phoenix Suns with a five-deep rotation (Booker, Ayton, Rubio, Oubre, and Baynes), with one potential in Saric – although only if he were coming off the bench.
On this, the 8th day of pre-Christmas, Suns fans should wish for a roster that goes at least eight-deep, with rotational depth at every position. Right now, the roster does not have it. Hopefully James Jones has a way of pulling that off – and quickly.