(Editor’s note: this piece was written prior to the Suns victory over the Los Angeles Lakers)
Oh, Frank Kaminsky.
The man who came back to the Valley after spending a preseason in the City of Trees (I did not know that was Sacramento’s nickname. Now both you and I do). Who would’ve thought that through the first 33 games of the season he would be a topic of conversation relative to the success of the starting five?
It is an interesting conversation to have: should the Suns be starting Frank or not? The beauty of the debate is there is no right or wrong answer. The Suns are currently blessed with good health and have the luxury of tinkering; they aren’t starting Big Frank out of necessity.
There is no doubt he has impacted the starting lineup in a positive manner. But if the Suns want to march to a championship, is he the long-term answer? Or is this just a phase of the season?
The Case to Start Frank
*all data/records are prior to the Suns/Lakers game on March 2
On the surface it is an easy decision. When the Phoenix Suns start Frank Kaminsky, they win. The team is 10-1 in games in which he starts; 12-10 in games in which he doesn’t. Therefore you should start him.
But let’s go deeper than the surface.
Prior to the decision to insert Frank into the starting lineup, the first team wasn’t laying the foundation offensively for success. The second team unit was carrying the load in victories. The 11-9 Suns struggled in the first quarter.
The starting unit in the first quarter through the first 20 games of the season played 8.4 minutes together on average and weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire:
- 19.5 points (20th in the NBA during that timeframe)
- 4.9 assists (18th)
- 7.6 rebounds (21st)
- 38.7 3PT% (18th)
- +/- of 0.1 (15th)
The first quarter offensive rating for the Suns was 107.1 (21st). The lack of flow on offense put the team behind the 8-ball, having to play catch up with the second team. Kudos to the depth of this team for having the ability to make up those points and in some situations take a lead (sometimes only to have the first team unit re-enter and give it up).
Enter the Frank.
His insertion into the starting offense has equated to an increase in offensive prowess. When you watch the games, it is clear to see. There is fluidity. There is ball movement. There is fun. Frank has the ability to knock down threes, hit a cutting Mikal Bridges, and make some of the most awkward lay-ups you’ve ever seen (until Dario enters the game and says, “hold my beer”).
The Phoenix Suns’ starters in the first quarter since Frank joined the unit is much better. They play 8.8 minutes-per-first together and the proof is in the statistics:
- 23.8 points (9th in the NBA)
- 5.8 assists (7th)
- 9.0 rebounds (8th)
- 43.6 3PT% (7th)
- +/- of 4.2 (3rd)
They now earn a 119.6 offensive rating (8th) which is a +12.5. They pass the eye test. They’re fun to watch and they’re having fun together.
Deandre Ayton got chain back after sharing it with Frank Kaminsky.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) March 1, 2021
"It was just so cool seeing it on him cause you know Frank, I don't think I'll ever see this big of a chain on Frank."
Also had 22 and 10 in #Suns win.
"He's a growing, developing big who can dominate games." pic.twitter.com/urFPappyKe
The “impose your will” aspect of this conversation exists as well. Starting Jae Crowder or Cameron Johnson, based on matchups, is adjusting to the opposition and therefore is allowing them to dictate rotation flow. If you chose to start Frank, you are choosing to play how you want to play.
Surely Frank has been the answer for the Suns success, right?
The Case to Not Start Frank
The Suns have been playing better in the first, no doubt. But is it because of Frank Kaminsky? Or is it because Devin Booker has awoken?
Booker averaged 6.4 points in the first in the first 20 games of the season. It was the most on the team and 21st in the league. Since February 5 we have seen a different Devin. His 10.1 points-per-first is second in the NBA to Damian Lillard. Perhaps it is cause and effect; having Frank in the lineup has allowed Booker to be Booker. Or it is as simple as Devin is coming into form right when he should, the time when training camp and pre-season basketball is normally over and the season begins.
Devin Booker in the first quarter in the first 20 games: 6.4 points (21st in the NBA)— Suns JAM Session Podcast (@SunsJAM) March 1, 2021
In the last 12: 10.1 points (2nd)
All Star mode activiated.
Regardless of the “why”, the byproduct of Devin Booker’s All Star starts is the first team unit benefits.
We’ll leave the statistical world and enter the philosophical world to make the point for leaving Frank on the bench to start the game.
There is one phrase that friends, family and co-workers of mine know I live by: “Champions adjust”. Heck, I even made a poster of the phrase and it hangs in my office. The thought behind the phrase is, if you want to win at anything in life, you must be adjust.
This is the counter to the “impose your will” argument. Given the resources and roster structure the Suns deploy, they have the ability to adjust to the opposition’s starting lineup in an effort to disrupt what they want to do.
Starting Giannis? Crowder can lock him up. Playing a team with poor perimeter defense? Cameron Johnson can stretch them out and knock down threes. Kaminsky has a limited athletic ceiling that could put the Suns in compromising situations if the opposition chooses to exploit it.
When playoff time comes around, when you are pitted against a talented team in a seven-game series, you need to have the ability to adjust. You have to make the modifications necessary to grind out victories. You have to be fluid. Like Bruce Lee says, “Be like water”.
As much as we are enjoying the zap Frank Kaminsky has given to the offense, in the long run, it isn’t the lineup that will win you a championship.
So what do you think Bright Siders? Should the Suns continue to start Frank Kaminsky? Or should Monty make those decisions based on match ups?
Whether Monty chooses to start Frank or Jae Crowder at the power forward position, he is receiving a professional effort from athletes who want to win ball games.
"Their mentality is whatever it takes to win. That's who they are."#Suns coach Monty Williams breaks down the science of starting either Frank Kaminsky III or Jae Crowder at the four spot. pic.twitter.com/nu3UTvhsrG— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) March 1, 2021
What say you?
Should the Suns continue to start Frank Kaminsky?
This poll is closed
Who cares? We’re winning!