The offensive playtype the Phoenix Suns need to incorporate more

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

As we head into another NBA season, fans are always fascinated to see how their teams will evolve in their aspirations to get better. That’s even more poignant for a team like the Phoenix Suns who are desperate to take advantage of their championship-contending opportunity.

The NBA, sport in general, doesn’t stop for anyone. The capacity to grow comes through personnel changes, individual player development and/or game style adjustments from the coaching staff. Over the offseason to date, the Suns appear destined to run it back with little alteration in the most valued and important roles within the organization.

The Phoenix Suns need to find a new point-of-difference in their game style given the team’s minimal roster changes over the offseason.

The Golden State Warriors just proved that you can win the NBA championship without a dominant forward. Prior to that, recent NBA Finals MVP winners include Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant.

They did that through a unique style offense, led by the a unique offensive juggernaut in Stephen Curry. While Phoenix may not have the deadly three-point snipers the Warriors have, they do have a multitude of options that could lend itself to more offball screening.

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The ‘off screen’ playtype is categorized as a player running off a screen before receiving the ball, then shooting it immediately or dribbling into a shot (regardless of where that is on the floor). Phoenix actually rank highly in possession quantity in this playtype, but they do it so efficiently that it should probably be utilised more.

Golden State averaged 10.3 ‘off screen’ possessions per game during the 2021-22 regular season, while Phoenix averaged 5.4 possessions. However, the Suns scored 1.02 points per possession, just above the Warriors exact one point.

We’ve long discussed Devin Booker’s increased usage rate, ball-handling and playmaking. But why not go back to what made him an elite player to begin with – one of the prettiest, fluid jumpshots in the league.

In the previous five seasons before last, Booker’s lowest off screen possession average was 2.3. It fell to exactly two last season, that despite holding almost the same points per possession as Curry (1.05 and 1.03 respectively). It then fell to exactly one possession per game for Booker in the playoffs, yet he shot 77.8% on these plays and scored a ridiculous 1.80 points per possession.

With Booker, Cameron Johnson and Landry Shamet, the Suns have the elite shooters at their disposal to diversify their offense into more off screen plays. Doing this will also increase their three-point attempts, having finished fifth-last in the league last season.

This is not to say that the Suns should become Golden State 2.0 and completely retract from what’s been so successful over the past two seasons. But there’s no harm in adding versatility through elements that have proven successful elsewhere, especially when that team’s leading scorers are guards.

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The Suns half-court offense became stagnant at times during the postseason. Why were Booker’s off screen possessions reduced to practically nothing despite being so efficient on the rare few? This is the kind of aspect that Phoenix and coach Monty Williams can learn from in their growth as a franchise moving forward.