Danuel House Jr. couldn’t have debuted in the NBA under more tenuous circumstances, considering the star he was replacing in the Suns’ lineup and the questions surrounding the team’s ability to compete during a road-heavy December schedule.
And yet, filling in for 10-15 minutes each night during Devin Booker’s absence, the Suns’ newest two-way player has made the most of the uncertainty.
It’s technically the Texas A&M alum’s sophomore season, but House told me on Thursday night after a Suns home win over the Grizzlies, “this is still all new to me,” after playing just 50 seconds last season as a D-League call-up for the Washington Wizards.
His path as a basketball player is illustrated in his game.
The former Aggie has shown the ability to defend physically and intelligently, like anyone who has played under head coach Billy Kennedy. Offensively, he credits his time with the Houston Rockets’ G-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, for his development.
“The way that Coach Jay (Ellis) wants to play is the same way we were taught to play down there -- unless there’s a mismatch that you want to expose, just pass the ball, shoot threes and play defense,” House told me.
He has fit in well with the simplified style that Suns coach Jay Triano has implemented while Booker rests.
Specifically, his ability to guard wings in space has been a perfect fit on the second unit, which lacks perimeter defense thanks to the scoring load required of Isaiah Canaan and Troy Daniels. House’s defensive energy has been a big key for the bench.
House typically comes in to replace T.J. Warren late in the first and third quarters or even to begin the second and fourth. His minutes are earned, as mandated by Triano since he took over.
During the fourth quarter of the Suns’ win last weekend in Minnesota, Triano kept House in the game deep into the fourth, riding a hot streak for the all-bench unit.
“That’s what happens when you play hard. I’m just trying to help my team, even in the slightest way,” House said.
He’s not earning consistent minutes yet as a two-way player, but you notice him when he’s on the court.
In 41 minutes together, the Canaan-Daniels-House-Dragan Bender-Alex Len lineup has been dominant, posting a plus-49.1 net rating according to Cleaning the Glass. It has basically been the Suns’ most effective lineup this season, considering its volume of possessions and efficiency.
House’s main role on those units at this point, aside from the defense, is to shoot when open. He is a confident shot-taker, having put up over seven per game with Rio Grande Valley, according to Real GM. They haven’t fallen consistently in his NBA career, but he was average or better despite crazy volume at in both college and the G-League.
House is far from the leader of the bench unit at this point, but it’s not as if he’s merely benefitting from the success of players like Len or Daniels.
The Suns are using the two-way contract system as a gold mine, and House has followed in Mike James’ footsteps putting a positive impact on the team when he plays.