The Phoenix Suns’ “Big 3” are finally set to take the floor together when Devin Booker returns on Wednesday. It’s been tough sledding for the Suns with Booker in and out of the lineup, in addition to Bradley Beal missing the first two weeks of the season.
The Suns’ backups have had to step up into roles that they weren’t entirely comfortable in, while playing more minutes than expected. Now with Booker and Beal joining Kevin Durant, those role players can slip back into the lower usage roles they’re accustomed to. Not everyone will continue seeing the floor though, as Booker usually soaks up 30 plus minutes by himself.
At least one player may see their minutes completely dry up.
Through 10 games, there’s enough evidence for head coach Frank Vogel to make an informed decision on who should be locked into the rotation, and who will be the odd man out.
Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon are two of the players who have secured rotation spots for the foreseeable future due to their early season play.
Allen is off to a career best start, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. He’s also hitting 2.7 threes per game at a crazy 48 percent clip. He’s proven that he can play in a variety of lineups, so whether he ends up as the fifth starter or sixth man, he’ll be an effective rotational piece going forward.
Gordon hasn’t quite gotten off to the start that Allen has, but his ability as a ball handler, particularly in a second unit that is starved for one, should keep him in the lineup. Out of all the Suns bench players, his role has probably been changed the most due to injuries.
He’s nearly 36-years-old, but has been forced to play close to 30 minutes a night for the injured Suns. As he settles back into a bench role, look for his percentages to go up as his minutes dip a bit.
After those two it’s a little less obvious who plays, but Keita Bates-Diop deserves to hold his spot for the time being. For a couple of games there, it seemed like he had locked down the fifth spot in the starting lineup, but then Vogel went ahead and brought him off the bench in the last game.
Still, KBD has been a revelation after not playing much early on. He’s knocking down his threes at a respectable rate, but more importantly he’s been a great and versatile defender. His combination of size, defense, and shooting will keep him in a big minutes role, if not a starting one.
Yuta Watanabe has played less minutes per game than most of the Suns rotation, but that doesn’t mean he’ll automatically be warming the bench. Perhaps no one on the Suns will benefit more from the entire big 3 being healthy than the three point sniper. Less is more for the Suns backups, and with Yuta focusing just on 3 point shooting again, he’ll carve out his own unique role playing off the stars.
That leaves Josh Okogie or Jordan Goodwin as the player most likely to lose their spot. Okogie was awesome to start the year, but his three point shooting has fallen off a cliff as the season has gone on.
There’s the possibility that his weaknesses on offense are minimized when sharing the floor with the big 3, but with the way teams have started defending him, it might not matter as the Suns are playing 4 on 5 on offense at times.
Goodwin on the other hand, has seen his three point shooting improve over the last week. He never lost confidence in his shot and that’s an important attribute to have when you’re being left open. He’s still not quite a true point guard, but he’s definitely more comfortable with the ball than Okogie.
They’re both great defenders, with Okogie being better, but it’s not enough to outweigh Goodwin’s offense. Goodwin should remain in the rotation, while Okogie will likely end up seeing the biggest hit to his minutes.
That won’t be the end of the season for Okogie, or whoever gets the short end of the stick in the upcoming games. Vogel has shown a willingness to tinker with lineups in this young season, and all these players have shown that they can be impactful. They will undoubtably get another shot at some point, whether due to injury or underperformance, and will have to be ready when the moment comes.