Phoenix Suns: 3 Position Battles to Watch in 2021-22 Season

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Phoenix Suns, Frank Kaminsky, Jalen Smith.
Phoenix Suns, Frank Kaminsky, Jalen Smith. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

Phoenix Suns Battle for Third String Center: Frank Kaminsky vs Jalen Smith

Jalen Smith barely played last year, and when Frank Kaminsky did—things turned ugly almost every time out from a defensive standpoint. That makes this a battle for not just the third string center spot, but also one for future standings with the team.

The Suns used the No. 10 overall pick during the 2020 NBA Draft to select Smith, proving that at least at some point, they valued him substantially. But that clearly changed while the 2020-21 season played out, as he suited up for just 27 games—far and away the fewest amongst any other lottery player.

Smith did play exceptionally well during the Summer League, even making the All-Summer League First Team. But as a second-year player already taken so highly during the prior draft, a performance like that is something to be expected rather than celebrated. At the end of the day though, Smith remains incredibly young, making his potential upside still a notable asset which the Suns carry.

Kaminsky instead knows his way around the block. Playing his sixth NBA season last year, Frank “the Tank” averaged 6.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He logged only 15.2 minutes per contest, splitting backup reps with Dario Saric.

But once Saric’s injury occurred during the NBA Finals and Ayton’s foul troubles arose, coach Williams had no choice but to thrust Kaminsky onto the court more often, where he struggled exponentially. Without much agility or strength, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis all took turns abusing him down low en route to victory.

So basically, this position battle features two players with completely opposite assets. On one hand, Smith maintains heavy upside, but also comes as an incredibly high-risk person to play due to his slow development and inexperience. But on the other, Kaminsky plays consistently—just not very well.

Given the minimal expectations for both guys as back-end rotation fillers, only one or two improvements from either player could easily decide this one, making it the team’s least noteworthy, but perhaps most competitive face off.