As I wrote about last week, Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams has been playing a lot of rotation roulette. After the Suns lost 16 of 20 due partly to injuries and partly to drop-offs in play by anyone not named Booker or Oubre, Williams had no choice but to mix and match once Deandre Ayton got healthy.
And after the Suns got down early 19 to Portland and 36 to the Lakers with a porous, lackluster defense, Williams and GM James Jones hatched a plan to try to a twin tower lineup.
“We thought that Deandre, with his defensive versatility, with his athleticism, his skill, that he’d be able to help us anchor our defense early,” Jones said to Bright Side this week. “The first four minutes of a game are important. Just be a better defensive team early (before teams can establish their rhythm). It’s really about putting a big defensive lineup on the floor.”
But the pairing of Ayton and Baynes has shown, even in only three games, to be so clunky and awkward that Williams is ready to look in another direction.
“That’s something that I’m gonna give deep thought to tonight and tomorrow, like, what is really best for the team?“, Williams said to Gina Mizell of The Athletic after practice on Wednesday.
Duane Rankin of the Republic shared the Mizell/Williams exchange.
"It's small, but I also have to do what's best for the team."— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) January 9, 2020
Monty Williams giving more thought to new #Suns starting lineup he's put on the floor the last three games with Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes starting together. pic.twitter.com/90ppdpJhIf
While the exact lineups with Baynes and Ayton have been effective, the other lineups are even more depleted than ever and are getting rolled.
“James (Jones) and I knew that this would be a year of learning,” Williams continued. “You want to win games when you’re learning, but this is something that we had to try and see if guys could get comfortable with it. To be honest with you, I’m not sure if I’m gonna stick with it, just because of the lack of success or comfortability with that particular move. (It) is something I have to assess.”
Observers hate this pairing because it gives flashbacks to old style basketball and plays right into the hands of teams that shoot more threes than twos these days.
Unfortunately, Williams was not given a finished product to work with this year and this is what happens when you try to plug holes... New ones just spring open.
So he’s tinkering.
Sounds like we will see some of the Bay-ton lineups again in certain situations, but probably not for extended periods of time.
And that’s good news for impending restricted free agent Dario Saric, whose minutes had been sporadic for a week during this experiment. If the Bay-ton lineup is dead at least as a starting unit, Saric is probably back in the game.
The Suns are now 14-23 on the season. On pace for 31 wins, even with all the angst and turmoil of the last month or so. That’s a 12-win improvement year over year.
But everyone hopes the Suns will return to the 35-40 win pace they were on until recent struggles.
“At full health, I’m excited about the second half of the season,” Jones said to Bright Side. “Because I know that the more time these guys spend together, the more time they spend with coach, the better our execution will become.
“And we play hard enough, we play well enough, for a good portion of the game where that execution can help us win those games that we lost earlier. So we’ll see.”