With the NBA’s regular season inching closer, all of the talk in the last number of days has revolved around the new rules on resting star players that the league will be implementing. Starting this coming season, it will be harder for superstars to catch their breath during the regular season.
One organization this is certainly going to impact is the Phoenix Suns. They are a top-heavy roster, and have three players in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal who come under the term star as it applies to this ruling. Resting two of them at the same time will not be an option.
Troubling as that looked for the Suns at one point in time, an update on the exemptions is great news for the franchise, and Durant in particular.
As per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, any player who has played either 34,000 regular season minutes or 1,000 regular season and playoff minutes combined, or who will be 35-years-old or older by opening night, can do the following;
"“The NBA will allow pre-approved designated back-to-back allowances for players who are 35 years old on opening night or have career workloads of 34,000 regular-season minutes or 1,000 regular-season and playoff games combined, sources said.If a team feels that a star player is unable to play in back-to-back games, it must provide to the NBA written information at least one week prior explaining why the player’s participation should be limited.”"
Durant turns 35 later this month, and why this is huge for the Suns is because he has struggled with health issues since the turn of the decade, famously limping out of the NBA Finals in 2019 while with the Golden State Warriors with a torn achilles.
The fear after hearing these new rules was that Durant was just going to have to tough it out all season long, assuming he wasn’t actually injured, before ideally being healthy once the postseason began. The Suns don’t want one of their superstars putting up 45 points in a December game in Washington.
They’d much rather one of the best offensive players in the history of the league was available for a seven game scrap against the Denver Nuggets. The hope being that Durant’s versatility will allow the Suns to try and beat the Nuggets in different ways, or fear repeating the same setbacks as last year.
There are more advantages to Durant being able to sit out from time to time, and they actually include Booker as well. With the game on the line in the playoffs, it may well be that Durant has the ball in his hands. This despite Booker being, in the eyes of many, the greatest Phoenix Sun of all-time already.
But during the regular season at least, this is Booker’s team. At 26-years-old, he has already amassed 573 games played for the organization across the regular season and playoffs. He is the face of the franchise, and the insurance policy that owner Mat Ishbia has if this super team experiment ends up going wrong.
Booker has been pretty durable throughout his career so far, while Beal has begun to pick up some knocks here and there to force him out of games. If Beal misses some time, and Durant is sitting because of rest, the Suns will need somebody to carry the offensive load.
Think of this period of time as the opposite of “Point-Booker”, a chance for the superstar to show the world again how he easily averaged the most points per game during the playoffs last year at 33.7. This will also give head coach Frank Vogel some semblance of order when it comes to how he uses his embarrassment of offensive riches.
In an ideal world the Suns would use Durant as little as possible during the regular season anyway. This is why they went out and got players like Eric Gordon, Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop and Drew Eubanks, as well as bringing back Josh Okogie and Ish Wainright. Add Booker to that group, and you’re going to win some games.
We saw last season how important seeding is for the postseason. The Suns finished last year as the fourth seed and as a result, met the Nuggets in the second round. So picking up wins even when Durant is not around is hugely important, to ensure the franchise gives itself the best chance it can to win a first ever championship.
The 2023-24 season is going to be a balancing act for the Suns, but this news regarding Durant being able to sit more frequently than was previously thought is a huge boost. Some nights this team are going to look unstoppable, while on other occasions when one of their trio of stars is missing, they’ll go out with a whimper.
But having some of the power back in their hands with regards to when Durant does and doesn’t play will be hugely beneficial once the playoffs begin. The next few years are about maximizing the championship window that Durant gives the organization. Getting him some rest from time to time, keeps that window firmly open.