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Jock Landale brings needed versatility to Suns’ frontcourt

The Jock Landale trade looks like a clear win for Phoenix early on.

NBA: Preseason-Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the Phoenix Suns first acquired Jock Landale from the Atlanta Hawks for cash considerations, the move was mostly an afterthought.

Phoenix (at the time) was rumored to be Kevin Durant’s “preferred destination” and there were a million other storylines that put that transaction on the back burner.

Landale’s strong preseason combined with his past success collegiately and internationally lead me to believe that there’s something to be excited about here.

The Numbers

Through 4 preseason games, Landale posted respectable numbers across the board. He’s averaged 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in just 22 minutes per contest.

He shot 49.5% from the field, 83% from the charity stripe, and 32.6% from three-point range on 1.6 attempts per game.

The 6’11” sophomore is fresh off his rookie season in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs, where he carved himself out a role in limited action across 54 games. At 26 years old, he was not your ordinary rookie as he brought over quite the resume into the NBA with him after going undrafted.

Landale spent 4 years in college at St. Mary’s where he had an extremely productive career, including All-American honors along with winning the 2017-18 WCC Player of the Year.

His transition from college to the pros did not go how he had hoped, as he went undrafted in 2018 and had to earn his way to the league through international play.

He had a tremendous season in the NBL with Melbourn United in 2021 (“I was in the chat for defensive player of the year” he says), leading to his eventual signing with the Spurs. The NBA is where he’s always wanted to be, and there were learning curves in year one.

His relentless approach and not taking a single play for granted is a major factor as to why he should thrive as a reserve big in the NBA.

The Versatility

Landale’s improved lateral movement combined with Phoenix’s defensive system seems like a match made in heaven.

Improved instincts are not just a movement thing either, as improved processing of defensive assignments tends to see the greatest leap from rookie to sophomore year in the NBA.

The game is starting to slow down for the 26-year-old Australian and he was candid about why that may be.

(Landale on getting more mobile defensively…)

“I am getting to be able to better telegraph those passes, and I think the Suns defensive coverage just suits me. I understand it a lot better than I ever have. Maybe that is just a discipline thing. I worked on that a lot this offseason, played in a lot of pickup games this summer. I think that really helped me come into this year with an understanding of what it is going to take to be good defensively.”

Head coach Monty Williams says he’s seen Landale’s activity all along in practices, topped off by his 4 blocks and 3 steals by halftime against the Kings.

“I’m not sure where he learned that or if that’s just him but he’s made plays like that in practice and he’s made them in preseason games,” Williams says. “Where he gets his hands on the ball, whether it’s him blocking the ball or getting a deflection. We’re excited about his ability to play in the pick n’ roll because if you can block shots or least distract them, it allows us to be in steal out, where we can trust two guys in the pick n’ roll and we don’t have to help as much. He does a good job of keeping his big in front of him but also dealing with the ball and then being able to go up and distract the shot. That’s a skill that we lost in JaVale (McGee) and now we feel like we have some similarities in Jock.”

Along with his improved defensive efforts, Landale’s ability to space the floor truly optimizes Phoenix’s offense as we saw with Frank Kaminsky last season and Dario Saric the year before. He is a quick decision-maker when the ball is in his hands, and he also has the ability to punish switches in the post.

Any time the Suns struggle with spacing, they have that option that fits seamlessly into what they want to do... actually, they have two of them with Dario Saric’s return to the hardwood.

As great as McGee and Bismack are in their roles, they are very limited to fitting those roles to a tee, which in turn limited some of what Phoenix could do come playoff time.

Here are some of the top moments from his preseason run courtesy of the Suns.

The Suns big man rotation looks to be as deep as ever with Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric, Bismack Biyombo, and Jock Landale providing a variety of looks at the five.

It would not shock me if Landale cemented himself as Phoenix’s sixth or seventh-best player by the end of this season.

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