They won that game 112-106, and instrumental to that win was the freshly-acquired Jonah Bolden, who had signed a 10-day contract with Phoenix that same day. The rules of the 10-day contract allow a player to be on the team for a minimum of three games, which pushes the 10-day contract through Saturday.
Bolden’s basic stat line—6 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 26 minutes—doesn’t quite pop off the page, but his impact was indisputable. He finished with a team-high +17 plus-minus, mainly thanks to the way he affected the game on the defensive end.
In case your memory is foggy, here’s a montage of some Bolden defensive clips in that game. The defensive assignments that Bolden is marking here are not star players, and in most cases not even starting-caliber players. But I came away from the game impressed with Bolden’s natural feel in defending the pick-and-roll, especially for a player brand new to the Suns’ scheme.
He takes no great risks in this video, but stays highly engaged throughout every play, making an effort to contest both at the rim and from behind the three-point line. Even in the plays where the shot goes in, Bolden’s outstretched arm is right there.
When asked if he was directed to play a particular role by Monty Williams, Bolden gave nothing away.
“Nothing too specific,” he said of Monty’s words to him before the game. “Nothing too, ‘You’re gonna be this, you’re gonna be that, your role is this, your role is that,’ just more so ‘Go out and have fun.’ That’s what we did and the result speaks for itself.”
Check out the full post-game sound with Bolden below.
But despite just “having fun”, Bolden clearly looked good enough that Monty had him play meaningful minutes in the 4th quarter. Diallo has had all season to train and practice with the team, and yet he logged only 22 minutes to Bolden’s 26.
Looking ahead to this weekend, Bolden will have two more games (against Toronto and Chicago) to prove that he deserves a second 10-day contract. However, with Deandre Ayton, Aron Baynes, and Dario Saric all likely back in the rotation, minutes for another big could become sparse.
James Jones told @BurnsAndGambo he expects everyone back for Friday's game outside of Kaminsky.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) February 18, 2020
The Suns have the roster spots to keep both Diallo and Bolden for the rest of the season. Perhaps that’s their best course of action in case the injury bug decides to strike again and depth at PF/C is once again imperative.
Beyond that, Cheick Diallo is 23 and Bolden just turned 24. If the team’s main goal is long-term development and not a short-term push for the playoffs, then keeping a couple of projects around could prove constructive in the future.
But finding either big meaningful minutes from now on? That may only happen if one of them can start outplaying the veterans.