Welcome to the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns Season Preview series, starting with individual PLAYER PREVIEWS. We go through the roster, recapping last year and analyzing how they can help the Suns in their upcoming championship push.
The emphasis is different this year. We are no longer laser-focused on the highest upside, or praying for highlight endorphin spikes. Instead, we are looking to how this almost-the-same roster will perform a year older, a year wiser, a year more physically mature.
Let’s start at the bottom, or close to it anyway, with Frank the Tank.
Forward/Center, 7’0” tall, 250 pounds, 28 years old
Frank has had an up and down career in Phoenix since joining the Suns in the summer of 2019 from the Charlotte Bobcats. He had originally been drafted 9th overall by the Bobcats, who spurned multiple trade offers to nab the 2015 NCAA Tournament Champ, College Player of the Year, consensus First-Team All American, Kareem Abdul Jabbar Award winner and First-Team All Big Ten big man from University of Wisconsin. You might remember how he capped off his college career against... ok maybe we won’t go there today. He was great in college as a stretch big man who made every big shot.
Since entering the league in 2015, Kaminsky has not had as much success. Frank is limited as an NBA big man and has lost ground on playing time every year. This past year, he posted career lows in minutes (15.2) and points (6.6) per game game.
On the other hand, Frank played well when he got a chance, setting a career high in shooting (47.1%) and second-best three-point shooting (36.5%). Head coach Monty Williams calls him a connector, and has recently developed a niche as a high-post facilitator. He nearly posted a triple double in a big 21-point win over the Warriors (1/28/2021) with 13 points, 8 assists and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes of play. The Suns somehow went 11-2 with Frank starting next to Deandre Ayton, 33-14 overall in game Frank saw any action and, frankly, was one of the best Suns players on the floor in game six of the Finals.
- Overall grade as an NBA player: D
- Relative grade to preseason expectations: B
Frank signed a guaranteed, veteran minimum contract for the 2021-22 season, worth $2,089,448.
He’s big but not necessarily mobile enough for the NBA athletes, not bouncy enough to out jump them and not physical enough to barrel through. When he puts the ball down in the post or out on the perimeter, he has trouble creating his own shot on the move.
On defense, he cannot stay with a mobile big man who is driving to the rim and has trouble with verticality when trying to defend shots at the rim.
He can shoot the long ball, which is good in an offense like the Suns that wants to space the floor out past the three-point line to make room for Chris Paul and Devin Booker to drive and pull up in the mid-range area.
He’s also become a good high-post passer when given a chance to catch the ball in the mid-range with his back to the basket and players cutting to the rim around him. He loves the point-five offense because that allows him to make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hands right away, either on a shot or pass.
Watch the 12/8/13 game highlights here, to see the best of Frank.
He also had a 14/8/8 game against the Bucks in February.
ONE KEY FACTOR
Every player wants to improve their whole game in the offseason, but the best players pick one thing that they are going to improve on. For Frank, that might be getting into the best shape of his career so he can close the athleticism gap against his opponents.
Skill-wise, Frank can become even more lethal from range. Better than league average would be nice. If he makes 38% of threes consistently, he will more chances to show his point-five connector skills on the offensive end.
For the second year in a row, I gave Frank the same grade: D overall, but B relative to my low-low expectations. He loves it in Phoenix, and accepts his tiny, intermittent role with a great attitude. He and Jevon Carter were two of the most animated cheerleaders on the bench during last season.
This year, Frank comes into the season as the third-string center, behind Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee. Heck, he might even be fourth, behind Jalen Smith. He’s likely only to play if there’s 2 or more injuries/absences on the front line.
I would love it if Frank can just repeat his D/B grades once again, because my expectations are super low.
I see Frank playing about the same role, and I pray he’s not forced into anything more than 15 minutes a game, appearing in half the games, and leaving us pleasantly surprised more often than not.