One of the reasons for my skepticism with the present incarnation of the Phoenix Suns was my inkling over the apparent lack of experience off the bench.
That inkling fomented this research to detail exactly how the Suns' reserves compare to their counterparts across the league in terms of years in the league, regular season games played and total regular season minutes played.
That research confirmed my suspicion that the Suns have a dearth of real time experience at the NBA level.
The Suns are tied for the third least years of bench experience in the league with the Orlando Magic. Only the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics have less.
The Suns have the second least bench games played in the league. Only the Jazz have fewer.
The Suns have the second least bench minutes played in the league. Only the Jazz have fewer.
How does bench experience correspond with winning?
Here are the teams with at least 80,000 minutes played.
Washington, San Antonio, Minnesota, Miami, Memphis, LAC, Houston, Golden St., Detroit, Dallas, Cleveland and Chicago. At least nine of those twelve are favorites to make the playoffs (not including Dallas, Minnesota or Detroit).
Here are the teams with less than 40,000 minutes played.
Utah, Toronto, Portland, Phoenix, Orlando, New York, LAL, Charlotte and Boston. Only Toronto seems like a lock to make the playoffs. Most likely one or two more of them will finish as 7th or 8th seeds.
If playoff experience was included in this evaluation the outlook would be even more grim.
Only Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer and Ronnie Price have playoff experience. Those three have totaled for 56 games, 463 minutes played (about eight minutes per appearance) and zero total starts.
Does the Suns lack of proven production from their reserves have minatory implications?
While it definitely doesn't inspire confidence, it doesn't necessarily guarantee failure. There is evidence to be optimistic about what Alex Len, T.J. Warren and Mirza Teletovic can bring to the table. Perhaps Sonny Weems or Devin Booker can surprise.
On the other hand, the Suns two most proven commodities in terms of experience, Ronnie Price and Jon Leuer, have shown that they just aren't very good NBA players. The less these guys play, the better the chances that someone else has stepped up and is providing a meaningful contribution. With Price and Leuer less is more.
Age and experience outside of the NBA also hasn't been factored in. The Suns have some "veterans" that lack "experience".
Given this information, though, I think it's perfectly logical for pundits to point at the Suns unproven bench as a reason the team will miss the playoffs and underperform relative to the expectations of some of their fans.
Another factor to consider is that the Jazz, who the Suns may be competing against for a playoff spot, are basically the only team less experienced than the Suns. Dante Exum's injury doesn't help that situation. Utah will be counting on a lot of unproven commodities as well, while some of their depth has already been compromised.
The Suns bench may remain a question mark well into the season, with so many young players there is a chance they struggle out of the gate, but improve as the season progresses.
What do you think? Will this be a weakness? Maybe you even think it can be a strength...
Make sure to vote in the poll.
*I tried diligently to include information that is as accurate as possible, but there may be minor inconsistencies due to the fungible nature of rosters and depth charts. The following sites were used to compile the data.
Basketball-reference.com - statistics
CBSSports.com - transactions, depth charts
Sheridanhoops.com - rosters, salary cap