At Suns shootaround Tuesday morning, head coach Monty Williams confirmed that Ricky Rubio, who had previously been listed as questionable, was not with the team in Atlanta. After his initially placement on the “injury” report, Gina Mizell of The Athletic reported that Rubio was awaiting the birth of a child.
That made it highly unlikely Rubio would play against the Hawks, and shortly before the game, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic confirmed with Williams that Rubio would not be active, and that backup Elie Okobo would start in his place. It will be Okobo’s second start of the season.
Williams also told Rankin that he hopes Rubio will rejoin the team before the Suns’ game on Thursday against the Knicks.
Monty Williams didn't say there would be a new starting unit other than Elie Okobo for Ricky Rubio, who didn't make trip for personal reasons, but didn't deny it either.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) January 14, 2020
The more he avoided it, the more I believe Deandre Ayton will make his return to the starting lineup. #Suns pic.twitter.com/jlKNOUADpe
Not only will this shine a light on Okobo, it will compromise the Suns’ backcourt depth once again. Consistency at the guard spots has been a problem for the Suns all year behind Rubio and starter Devin Booker, and without Rubio, there is simply one less reliable player in line for minutes.
Expect Jevon Carter to see playing time again. Carter has not played since Jan. 1 in Los Angeles. Should Carter struggle or anyone get hurt or fall into foul trouble, we could see rookies Jalen Lecque or Ty Jerome pressed into action.
In the long run, maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Atlanta is firmly beatable even without Rubio, and the Suns likely want to see a bit more from the rookies as the season wears on. Playing without Rubio is the perfect excuse to find some minutes, even in garbage time, for Lecque or Jerome. It might be a longshot, but playing those guys could be worth it.
Finally, don’t be surprised if Booker guards Trae Young in key moments with Rubio out. Booker increasingly has been defending point guards the past few weeks and it will be hard to trust Okobo on the presumptive Eastern Conference All-Star in crunch time. Maybe just maybe we will see more Point Book lineups tonight as well.