Suns’ Offseason Additions Already Making their Bench more Dynamic

Phoenix Suns, JaVale McGee (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, JaVale McGee (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

James Jones made quiet, yet dynamic fringe additions to help fortify the Phoenix Suns bench unit this past offseason. The two largest were JaVale McGee and Landry Shamet.

The Suns currently sit at 16-3, the second best record in both the Western Conference as well as the NBA, amidst a torrid 15-game win-streak where that second unit has come up viably time and time again.

Phoenix Suns First Bench Addition: JaVale McGee

An experienced and ever-active paint presence, the seven-foot veteran McGee signed a one-year, $5 million deal in free agency this past summer. He possesses both the athleticism and physical attributes needed to impact the game whenever Ayton rests or strays into foul trouble.

Of the Suns’ five lineups that have spent more than 60 possessions on the floor together, three feature McGee at the five. Those lineups including him have a differential of +15.3 PER, and defensively they allow just 97.4 points per 100 possessions (97th percentile).

For context, last season’s lineups including Ayton allowed offensive rebounds 25.7 percent of the time, and in turn, garnered their own offensive rebounds 24.9 percent of the time. When Ayton was off the floor though, the Suns allowed offensive boards 22.6 percent of the time and grabbed their own just 21.6 percent of the time.

But coming into the Knicks game last night, the Suns allowed offensives 22.7 percent of the time (87th percentile) and retained their own 92.8 percent of the time (76th percentile) with McGee.

In rim protection with Ayton off the floor last season, teams also shot 67.6 percent at the rim (15th percentile) and were average in percentile for points in transition per 100 possessions with 2.7 points per contest.

This season, with McGee on the floor, teams have an effective field goal percentage of just 49.3 percent (82nd percentile), shoot just 58.6 percent at the rim (89th percentile), and are in the 78th percentile for points per 100 possessions in transition (4.0 per) on a 2.0 percent higher frequency.

The Suns are also a +5.1 percent in frequency at the rim this year, as well as a +4.4 percent converting there.

McGee is now averaging near career-highs in points, assists, and is already posting career-highs in both rebounds and defensive rebounds per 36 minutes.

The trend is clear. His presence makes the Suns more dynamic and  formidable in Ayton’s off minutes, making him a fantastic supplement.

Phoenix Suns Second Bench Addition: Landry Shamet

Landry Shamet came to the desert via a trade with Brooklyn, but after that, the Suns were quick to extend him with a four-year, $43 million deal.

His acumen and skillset as a roadrunner in transition, perpetual motion in the half court, floor spacing, and near-elite shooting made him extremely appealing for Monty Williams, and have since made him the perfect fit in the point-five offensive system.

Off the bench, Shamet brings a dynamic of pace as well as off-ball movement that adds to what bench-mate Cameron Johnson already brings in activity. On the season, he has nine games with multiple 3-pointers made, including five with over three.

The manner in which Shamet gets his shots off in terms of quickness of release as well as doing so often in the move is most invaluable. He is shooting 37.8 percent from deep on 4.4 attempts a night—also bringing a brand of shooting on the move that was nonexistent with last year’s Suns team.

In a point-five system, having a perpetual motion guy only makes said system that much more effective. They use him off pindowns, dribble handoffs, and staggereds, and Shamet knows how to be effective in each scenario.

Past his shooting though, he also adds more passing talent to this roster filled with players capable of making good-to-great passes, as well as an ability to operate in a viable secondary or tertiary playmaking role.

He is adept at attacking angles with respect to how hard defenders close out on his touches behind the arch, making his pump fakes, sidesteps, and blow bys frequent occurrences in generating good looks.

Phoenix Suns Bench Dynamic as a Whole

I call this group “The Run and the Fun,” and now with these two key cogs integrated into the rotation, the Suns have four viable names that consistently show up when factoring in both Cameron Payne and Johnson.

In terms of four-man lineups that have played at least 12 games together, the Payne-Shamet-Johnson-McGee foursome was fifth in plus/minus coming into the Knicks game.

That is ELITE. It also suggests that not only can Monty afford to play near full bench lineups for stretches, but it’s fair to expect the lineups to serve in place of the starters, if not also extend leads more often than not.

Even more, of the teams in the top-10 here, that Suns squad is the only group in the top-five consisting of all bench players and one of only two all bench foursomes in the top-10.

Yes, these units do typically spend time with one of either Paul or Bridges on the court, which goes a long way in effectiveness. However, the synergy their four play with still carries most of the weight here.

But Shamet and McGee specifically have already meshed with the core and the Suns have seen great returns on their investments, with the trajectory for more pointing upward.

Next. Mikal Bridges Goes off on the Media. dark

We saw the effects both Payne and Johnson had on the Suns postseason run last year, and now with two more experienced individuals that fit in naturally, expect those bench lineups to come up big yet again. They’ve sustained a level of play that is appropriately viable, and will help take this team to another level.