Could the Phoenix Suns re-jig Devin Booker’s minutes to form impactful lineup?

Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Early intrigue on the Phoenix Suns season will surround the rotational patterns undertaken by head coach Monty Williams. After a dominant regular season in 2021-22, the Suns largely stuck true to what they knew during the playoffs, that despite some clear issues that ultimately led to their downfall.

Different combinations will present themselves effective as the season progresses, but there’s different lineups that should garner early opportunity due to their success in 2021-22.

Could a major adjustment in Devin Booker’s playing pattern prove the key in the Phoenix Suns remaining efficient with him off the floor?

A month ago I outlined why Cameron Johnson should replace Jae Crowder in the starting lineup, identifying the remarkably limited time of that five-man unit (Chris Paul, Booker, Mikal Bridges, Johnson and Deandre Ayton) given it’s enormous success.

Now, while that’s not a radical idea by any means, this next one may be. With Booker being the their best player, the Suns need to maintain a positive presence while he’s resting. The franchise superstar had a +6.9 plus-minus last regular season, while the team was just +1.8 with Booker on the bench.

To be fair, a positive net rating with Booker on the bench is a good result. It could be better though, especially if the team wants to reduce his workload later in the season and prior to the playoffs.

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Of the five-man combinations without Booker in the lineup, and to have played at least 40 minutes together during the season, the best lineup was Paul, Bridges, Johnson, Crowder and Ayton. They had an offensive rating of 123.5 and a defensive rating of 88 – an overall net rating of 35.5.

What’s more surprising was the success of this unit during the playoffs, having played a little more together when Booker was out for three games during the first-round. Phoenix had a net rating of +12 over 55 minutes, while the team had a negative net rating over the course of the playoffs.

Unless Booker is out injured, which is a greater issue in itself, it will be tough for this lineup to be used more than it was last season. The only way it materialises is if they change up Booker’s playing pattern – instead of playing most if not all of the first and third quarters, Booker would need to be the first player removed before re-entering toward the end of each of those quarters.

Is it worth the Suns disrupting the consistent pattern of their superstar to improve their chances with him off the floor? Probably not. The Golden State Warriors actually tried this with their superstar Stephen Curry last season, but Steve Kerr reverted back to Curry’s normal minutes come high-stakes games.

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Still, it will be interesting to see if Williams can conjure more than 40 regular season minutes for this five-man unit. It is a team game after all and combinations that work together should be given more opportunity to flourish.