One of the major themes of this Phoenix Suns season has unfortunately been the missed time from stars Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal. Due to their various injuries, head coach Frank Vogel has had to go deeper into his bench and use more lineups than anyone could’ve expected during the first half of the season.
Predictably, the results haven't been great for the most part so far this season.
It was only when the Suns' "Big 3" were all finally healthy that the team was able to pull themselves out of their holiday swoon.
Still, that doesn’t mean that the results were all bad, and the extended playing time for some of the players at the end of the bench can serve them well later on. Vogel especially has a lot more information on which lineup configurations work best.
The Suns will be thrilled if they never have to use this starting lineup again, but it’ll be because they want their stars to be healthy, not because it wasn’t effective. The Suns' most used lineup this year has also been one of their best, posting a +23.5 net rating over 135 minutes.
The most interesting part of the success of this lineup is how small it is. Vogel opted to go with a 3-guard lineup and place Kevin Durant at the 4, which would seem to sacrifice some defense in favor of offense. That has not been the case however, as this unit has posted a stellar defensive rating of 98.9.
Vogel has kept the lineup small with Bradley Beal back, inserting him for Eric Gordon. Strangely, that lineup has suffered defensively with a D-rating of 115.3. It's hard to believe that moving from Gordon to Beal would cause that drastic of a change, so this might just be a case of a small sample size.
Uniform across these two starting lineups is how dominant offensively they are. The starters with Gordon have an O-rating 122.4, and a blistering rating of 138.9 with Beal. It’s easy to see why both lineups have been so succesful. Having three point snipers like Gordon and Grayson Allen provides the Suns' stars with a ton of room to operate.
Being able to play small effectively also opens up the avenue for the Suns to acquire and start a true point guard next to the "Big 3". It’s no secret that "Point Book" has faltered in recent weeks. If this ends up being more than a cold spell, the Suns would have to consider moving him back to his traditional role playing next to a point guard. In that case, the front office and coaching staff can make that decision with a lot more confidence given the way the team has excelled playing small.