There were a few constants in the games Kevin Durant played for the Suns: Durant looked like the all-world player we’ve watched for the last 15 years, the Suns won every game he appeared in, and the same starting five began each game.
Just about everything beyond those three points varied from game to game as Monty Williams was clearly mixing and matching players as he tried to hone in on rotations before the playoffs. We didn’t get a huge sample size with Durant and the other new players in the lineup, but I think there was enough intel to make informed decisions on who should play in this first-round series against the Clippers.
What the Suns’ rotation could look like against the Clippers
Until the last week of the season, it seemed like the only bench player with a clearly defined role was Cam Payne. Monty Williams cast some doubt on that when he threw a curveball and sat Payne for an entire game in favor of Landry Shamet, but I wouldn’t think too much of that. I believe that move was in line with Monty wanting to look at players in different roles as the season wound down. Payne had a good season, is still the clear best point guard on the roster besides Chris Paul, and will be a big part of this playoff run.
The Clippers employ two centers that they play quite a bit, and although they occasionally go without one, the Suns will likely have to call on one of their backup centers in this series. A few weeks ago, I wondered if Darius Bazley would be the best option to back up Deandre Ayton. Unfortunately, the late trade put him too far behind the eight ball, and he didn’t get the minutes to earn the role.
Bismack Biyombo has been entrenched as the clear backup for a few weeks. In that article, I wondered if Biyombo’s offensive issues would be mitigated by playing next to the offensive stars, and that has certainly been the case. Since taking over backup duties, the big man has a stellar 117.0 offensive rating. The Suns should feel very comfortable going with him in this series. On the occasions that the Clippers revert to a small ball with Ayton out of the game, Durant or Torrey Craig can easily slide into that spot.
The wing rotation will probably be the most fluid and matchup dependent on all the positions on the Suns’ roster. Aside from Torrey Craig, who has entrenched himself as a big minute player no matter the opponent, every other backup wing on the Suns’ roster will have their minutes fluctuate.
With Paul George presumably out for the early part of the series, the Clippers will downsize a bit and rely more heavily on Russell Westbrook, with their bench guards like Bones Hyland and Terrance Mann also seeing an increase in playing time. I think this means Shamet, who Monty has a lot of faith in, will get a lot of runs early on in the series. Shamet hasn’t looked great on offense since returning from injury, but he’s still a good guard defender.
The Clippers will become a much bigger team if and when Paul George returns. Ish Wainwright could end up seeing the floor in that scenario, along with an increase in playing time for Craig as the Suns try to throw bigger bodies at them. Ish Wainwright can also be an option at small-ball center.
TJ Warren and Terrence Ross both saw a lot of playing toward the end of the season and should factor into the Suns’ postseason plans, but it’s unlikely the two will ever share the floor. They were predictably a great offensive tandem, and while their 112.5 defensive rating was surprisingly passable, it still wasn’t great. The Suns won’t be pressed for offense, especially as they stagger their stars more, so there won’t be a need to have them both out there. Whoever plays between the two might come down to who’s in a groove that day.
The Suns have constructed a roster of players performing well within their roles no matter their playing time. This will never be more true than in a series where they can potentially face two very different Clipper teams. The Suns will be well-suited to play against both.