The Phoenix Suns have struggled lately, dropping four of their last five games.
After a strong start, the Suns have hit their first big snag this season following back-to-back losses to the Nuggets that featured Devin Booker suffering a hamstring injury.
Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams has had to get creative with his rotations during the skid, but there are still some more changes with which he should be experimenting.
In both of those losses to Denver, Dario Saric was also out due to health and safety protocols, forcing the Suns to use lineup combinations for the first time this season.
Since the Suns returned from their COVID layoff three players have seen an increase in playing time, Frank Kaminsky, Abdel Nader, and Jalen Smith who returned after testing positive for COVID himself.
This has meant that guys like Langston Galloway, Jevon Carter, and E’Twaun Moore are not seeing their roles increase even with Booker not playing. That should simply not be the case, and while none of those guards, except for possibly Galloway, have played lights out this year they should still be receiving more run than most of the bigger guys.
If Nader, in particular, continues to receive more time than each of those three it would be confusing. In the three games that he has received legitimate playing time the Suns have a negative 19.2 net rating with Nader on the court. That includes a 93.5 offensive rating which is the worst on the team of all players averaging over five minutes a game over that stretch.
For a team like the Phoenix Suns, who currently attempt the fifth most three-pointers in the league at 38.9 a game, shooting should be a priority. If that is the case then the Suns should want someone like Galloway who is shooting almost 49% from three this year on the court to take those shots, even both Carter and Moore have proven to be more reliable deep threats than both Kaminsky and Nader.
Another important result of playing with more guards is that it will lead to the team playing at a faster pace. This is why I am not so quick to give up Jalen Smith’s minutes and believe that he should actually take over a larger role in place of Kaminsky while Saric is out.
You would be surprised to know that in the albeit limited time that Smith has played this season the Suns have a faster average pace than any other player on the roster at over 105 possessions per 48 minutes. In case you were wondering the second highest is Galloway, at just over 102.
While playing fast does not mean playing well, a quicker pace helped guys like Booker, Cam Johnson, and Mikal Bridges last season, and can lead to more free throws which the Suns desperately need. If replacing Kaminsky’s minutes with Smith will pick up the pace then it is something the Suns need to try while Saric is still out.
When you have two rotation players out, particularly one like Booker, there is not going to be a solution to all of the problems. However, that means there should be increased experimentation to find what works best so that when everyone is healthy the team can operate at peak efficiency.