While we are all basking in the glow of the Suns 3-0 start in the Orlando “bubble” to finish out the regular season with an unexpected playoff run, let’s not forget the Suns are still missing three of their rotation players.
Kelly Oubre Jr. has been out since late February (2/24 to be exact), but was upgraded to ‘doubtful’ against the Pacers on Thursday. That doesn’t mean Oubre will play in the game, but it does mean he’s finally making progress.
In another change, Aron Baynes and Elie Okobo — who have been listed as active these first three games while acclimating to the Bubble after late arrivals — are now listed as OUT on Thursday. Baynes is reported with knee pain. Elie Okobo has a sprained ankle. This development puts both of these players as extremely iffy for the seeding games as there are only five games left before the play-in game.
What does a potentially available Oubre mean in the coming games, while Baynes remains out?
Among five-man lineups that played at least 150 minutes together this season, the Suns version with Oubre — Devin Booker — Ricky Rubio — Mikal Bridges — Deandre Ayton ranks 3rd best in the entire NBA this season with a +20.2 per 100 possessions* (minimum 150 minutes together).
*100 possessions is roughly ‘per game, leveled for pace’
Only the Pelicans lineup with Zion and the wildly successful OKC lineup were better this season on net rating.
In the Bubble, the Suns best five-man lineup swapped out Oubre for Cameron Johnson ranks 9th best in the Bubble with a +4.2 per 100 possessions (minimum 40 minutes together).
That’s the Suns most-used lineup in the bubble by far. It’s interesting to take a look at the effectiveness of the Suns lineups, filtered for only those that have played at least five minutes together. Notice how common Cameron Payne is?
There are some other lineups that can be explored more, as you can see above, but none of them are more proven than adding Oubre back into the rotation.
I’m not saying he should start. Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges earned the right to keep starting for the rest of the season. But he’d sure be nice off the bench along with Cameron Payne, Jevon Carter and Dario Saric (and maybe even a little Frank Kaminsky).
Again, Oubre is doubtful for Thursday’s game. But I look forward to seeing him again before the season is over.