Suns player buried on bench gets chance with team before playoffs

The Phoenix Suns look to have a nine-man rotation set for the postseason, but this forgotten player may just be about to force his way into the conversation.
Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets
Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns are likely headed for the play-in tournament for the first time this season, even after a timely win against a depleted L.A. Clippers side on Wednesday night. We now know head coach Frank Vogel's playoff rotation, although it is clear it still has some deficiencies.

Outside of their "Big 3", center Jusuf Nurkic can only do so much, while his backup Drew Eubanks will not be able to play for long stretches if they want to win big either. Bol Bol is a fun player who has had his best season as a pro, but he is more of a specialist depending on the matchup. If Grayson Allen or Royce O'Neale's shots aren't falling, then it'll be an early exit no matter what.

Which may have been why coach Vogel gave a forgotten player buried on the bench some run recently, as they may force their way into the playoff rotation.

The player in question? Thaddeus Young, the 35-year-old who can play as a forward, but also see some minutes at the center position depending on the team's lineup. Young was added through the buyout market after the trade deadline, and to this point he had offered very little to the organization on the court.

If anything his nine minutes played in nine games was yet more proof that year after year, the buyout market is over-exaggerated for wannabe contenders, and that it is hard to add a player who can bring real value to a playoff rotation for the stretch run. A known name certainly, but more often than not they've hit the buyout market for a reason.

But with the Suns' season very much on the line - and the taste of a dreadful home loss to the Clippers still in their mouths - coach Vogel made the decision to bench Eubanks altogether for the return game, opting instead to give Young 13 minutes to prove himself. The fact it was not a disaster may just have punched his ticket to some involvement in the coming weeks.

We mentioned recently how Eubanks - once the playoffs start for the Suns - was going to be one of the players who let them down. Credit to him for playing hard more often than not, but he's neither skilled enough or physical enough to warrant playing as much as coach Vogel has had to. Young hadn't been given much of a look in, but in his limited run so far that had made sense too.

Young for the last several years has always felt like one of those players who sounded good on your team in theory, but the reality didn't quite match up to that. Defensively he gets the edge of Eubanks on IQ alone, but he's not capable of staying in front of quicker opponents much anymore.

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Offensively however he has an eye for a pass, and that is the main factor that separates him from Eubanks. So perhaps coach Vogel realized that neither Eubanks or Young is going to be able to stop imposing big men like Rudy Gobert or Nikola Jokic. They're not skilled enough to clamp down on Chet Holmgren either - so if both are negatives defensively - why not go for the better fit offensively?

It was a small sample size, but you can be sure Young is going to get another chance to impress versus the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves. Two rivals with elite big men who neither Young or Eubanks will be able to stop. There's a reason the Suns picked Young up though, and it looks like coach Vogel is willing to see what that is as the organization gear up for the second season.