Phoenix Suns’ secret weapon to keep an eye on in the preseason

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Toumani Camara #2 of the Dayton Flyers is introduced before a college basketball game against the George Washington Colonials at the Smith Center on January 21, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Toumani Camara #2 of the Dayton Flyers is introduced before a college basketball game against the George Washington Colonials at the Smith Center on January 21, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns’ NBA regular season schedule was recently announced, with plenty to discuss off the back of it as the organization seek to win a first ever NBA championship. There is no doubt the Suns are in the inner circle of favorites, although how close they are to the top depends on who you ask.

But before the action can get underway, there is the altogether less exciting prospect of the preseason games the Suns will be playing. They’ll have five games in all, three away from home (Detroit Pistons, Portland Trail Blazers & Los Angeles Lakers), and two at home (Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets).

No player has more to gain, and more reason to establish themselves as the Suns’ secret preseason weapon, than Toumani Camara.

The franchise’s late second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft having already had himself a nice little Summer League run. Yet for some reason, Camara is already being seen as a kind of afterthought with this group, and the preseason games will surely give him a chance to get some run and show what he can do.

If we accept that Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Deandre Ayton and say Eric Gordon are this team’s starting five to begin the season. Then some combination of Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Yuta Watanabe, Josh Okogie, Ish Wainright, Damion Lee, Jordan Goodwin and Bol Bol make up the second unit and beyond. It is easy to see how Camara will get lost in the shuffle.

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But what the Belgian has going for him, is that he’s already shown his skills will translate quite easily to the next level. These are playing hard on the defensive end, hounding opponents who have the ball, and getting out in transition once he has helped to engineer a stop.

That might seem like something that Bates-Diop or Chimezie Metu (another player fighting for minutes) will be able to do for example, and you would be right. But as the Suns’ own draft pick, you can bet they are going to give him some preseason minutes to see if there’s any chance of him usurping one of those other guys in the rotation.

Camara is old for a rookie at 23, and while some might see that as a bad thing, that is not the case here. The Suns need players who are not raw and are closer to the finished article, and Camara represents that. Even if he already is who is going to be (he is the same age as the enigmatic Bol), he will not require the time and effort to mould him into the player the Suns need him to be.

Also working to Camara’s favor here, is the fact that many of the Suns’ established players won’t see many preseason minutes. Ayton and Gordon have just helped the Bahamas to get closer than they’ve ever been to qualifying for the Olympic Games, and so will be given some additional time off.

Booker, Durant and Beal will get some reps, but even if each only plays 20 minutes per night, that opens up opportunities for guys like Camara that won’t exist during the regular season. This is a chance he will surely take, and although preseason games aren’t about winning or losing, you can bet he will play with an intensity that catches established opponents off guard.

Head coach Frank Vogel made his name in the league on the defensive end, and he is likely to love the idea of Camara’s work ethic and desire to fill in around his star teammates each night. That starts in the preseason, and it will give the coaching staff the chance to see how Camara, and others like Bates-Diop, can work in various line-ups.

The calibre of opponent is another sneaky factor that could help Camara establish himself as a secret weapon early here. Whatever about the Pistons, but annoying Trail Blazers rookie Scoot Henderson enough times will surely lead to some defensive plays being uploaded online.

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Beyond that, there are no better opponents than the Lakers and Nuggets to make a name for yourself, even if it is just the preseason. Fans are already starved of NBA action, and if they’re going to tune into any team in a game that doesn’t mean anything, the Lakers and Nuggets are going to factor highly.

So it is all set up for Toumani Camara to come into the 2023-24 season swinging. These preseason games he is going to get people talking because of what he can do on the defensive end, and any sort of offensive output at all is going to get people talking. Just remember we told you so when Camara pops off in early October.