Coming into this season, the bench was one of the most significant question marks for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns top sixth man from a year ago, Cameron Johnson, is now a starter, and no replacement was signed with Jae Crowder still on the roster. If we add in the loss of JaVale McGee, it looked like the bench might be the weakest link.
After two poor performances to start the season, the bench of the Phoenix Suns made the difference in back-to-back blowout wins.
Following poor performances in a come-from-behind victory over Dallas and a tough overtime loss to Portland, the bench had done little to instill confidence. However, over the last two games, both blowout victories, there were signs the bench could yet be okay for James Jones, Monty Williams, and the Phoenix Suns.
Defining a poor bench performance
I want to clarify what I mean by a poor bench performance because against the Mavericks, it was the heroics of Damion Lee in the fourth quarter who helped propel the Suns to the opening night win. However, as a whole, the substitutes weren’t good enough, and it’s problematic anytime the Suns get less than 30 total bench points.
In the win over the Mavericks, the bench chipped in a combined 27 points. By comparison, Christian Wood had 25 himself off the bench. If not for Lee’s performance down the stretch, the Suns wouldn’t have won. However, had the bench simply scored six or seven more points then the heroics of a buzzer-beater wouldn’t have been necessary.
The bench was even worse against Portland, with six players combining for 24 points. While the Trail Blazers bench was no better, the Suns needed more bench production on a night when Johnson, Mikal Bridges and Chris Paul combined for 28 points.
Fortunately for the Suns, after two underwhelming performances, the bench has come alive in the last two outings.
Bench improving in last two Suns outings
The bench stepped up big time against the Clippers. Of course, they benefited from the Suns jumping out to a 15-point first-quarter lead, but they still had to come out and perform as they did.
Seven players played off the bench, with five playing significant minutes and making major contributions. Combined, the Suns substitutes scored 39 points helping offset strong performances from John Wall and Kawhi Leonard off the bench for the Clippers.
Most recently, against the defending champion Warriors, the bench again brought a performance the Suns needed. Led by Jock Landale’s 17 points, the bench scored a season-high 43 points in the 134-105 rout of Golden State.
Our sample size is tiny at this point, and just how good the Suns bench is will be determined over time. However, if the last two games are any guide, the bench might be better than expected which, given the strength of the Suns starting five, maybe all the team needs.