If there is one area where the 14-14 Phoenix Suns have really struggled so far this season, it has been on the defensive end. Even with a head coach in Frank Vogel who is known for putting together an elite product on that end, the Suns still rank a lowly 17th in this category (114.9).
When you look at the makeup of their roster, then you realize it could be a lot worse. Outside of Jusuf Nurkic (who is not a defensive-minded big), Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu, there isn't a whole lot of rim protection for the Suns. Still, ranking below average in this area is not going to be good enough come the postseason to get stops and win a championship.
The other side of the coin here is that this group also hasn't been good enough offensively to offset their defensive inabilities - and when you combine the ratings of the Suns on both ends of the court - it explains why they are where they are right now. Which is an awful 11th in the Western Conference, with a long and difficult road back to the top ahead of them.
Which is why former Suns big man Bismack Biyombo may just be proving the team wrong for letting him go, with how well he has been playing for the Memphis Grizzlies this season.
When we say the word well, that needs to be taken in the context of who Biyombo has been as a player in the NBA. We're a long way removed from the four year, $72 million contract the Orlando Magic gave him back in the day, and it is also fair to say that he was at his best in The Valley when he was playing with Chris Paul.
That is true of so many centers though, and when the Suns decided to let him go, there weren't many people who were sorry to see him go. Biyombo is at times a painfully limited player, and one who had no business being involved in the offensive schemes the coaching staff had in mind around Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.
Nurkic was much the better fit for that purpose, and before that the younger and more athletic Deandre Ayton was a much better version of the player Biyombo was anyway. He may not always have been dialled in defensively, but he did anchor a team all the way to the NBA Finals, and could do a lot more offensively as well.
Yet it is almost ironic now that the aforementioned "limited" skills of Biyombo, are exactly what the roster is crying out for right now. Still only 31-years-old, Biyombo is and continues to be a consummate professional. Never one to speak out about his role on a contender, which hasn't been the case on this Suns roster recently.
With the Grizzlies this season, Biyombo has started 20 out of 22 games played for the team. With Steven Adams lost for the season through injury, Biyombo has done an admirable job of filling in as best he can as the defensive enforcer for that group. A team that is not very good, which is a fair argument to point out as to why the Suns are well shot of the player.
If he had the same role with the Suns as he currently has with the Grizzlies, they'd be in an even worse spot than they are right now. Only they could have kept Biyombo on a minimum deal, in place of somebody like Bol Bol, who barely sees the court and is a non-factor on the defensive end. Despite being 9-19, the Grizzlies rank an impressive ninth in defensive rating, at 112.7.
Is this all down to Biyombo? Of course not, but he's playing 24.5 minutes per game (the second highest mark of his career), and the Grizzlies have a defensive rating of 114.4 when he is on the court. Still better than the Still better than the Suns on that end, while he is also chipping in with six points (highest since 2019-20) and 6.6 boards (highest since 2016-17) each night.
If Biyombo was still with the Suns, he would not fix many of the growing list of problems the organization has. He can't make Bradley Beal not get injured, and he's certainly not the screener, passer and shooter than Nurkic is. But he is a hard-working and willing player, and one who coach Vogel could have gotten the best out of.
Should the Suns fail to win a championship this season, it won't be because they ditched Biyombo. He's not even as good as Jock Landale, a far more popular former player. But he has shown in more run with the Grizzlies that he could have given this struggling roster some juice on the defensive end, and provided a willing player who would have cost them very little to keep.