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The Suns bench unit might be worse than we thought

James Jones will have some upgrades to make this season.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No, this is not an overreaction to a meaningless preseason game.

This is a concern that many had entering the season in regard to the Phoenix Suns’ depth, or lack thereof it.

Yes, I am fully aware that Monty Williams will not deploy “hockey rotation” with the entire first and second units rotating in the regular season. That said, the amount of pressure put on Devin Booker and Chris Paul to create for those units will only intensify over a grueling 82-game season.

The rotational staggering masked some of their weaknesses during the regular season that were later exposed.

Jae Crowder’s situation complicated things in a trickle-down manner, with Phoenix’s best bench player (Cam Johnson) to the starting lineup. I’m not even sure Crowder returning would solve some of their issues in the second unit at this point either.

A couple of weeks ago, I put a piece together touching on their bench being a potential area of weakness. After watching that second unit play together in the opening preseason game on Sunday night, they somehow looked worse than expected, which is troubling.

Phoenix’s starters were plus 11 in 22 minutes, in a game that they lost by 10 points. The 21-point dropoff against an inferior opponent is unacceptable.

Concern #1: Who can... dribble? Score?

Phoenix struggled to get to the rim last season, and a large part of that can be attributed to the poor ball handling outside of their dynamic starting backcourt.

When your key additions are Damion Lee, Josh Okogie (DNP), Jock Landale, and Duane Washington Jr. (DNP), that didn’t do much to improve your weaknesses.

Opting for “team player” or “high IQ” guys over shot creation is not unfamiliar territory for James Jones and the type of team he builds. There are times when that is the right call, when building around stars, but there needs to be a more calculated balance in my opinion.

Concern #2: Wing/Forward Depth

This feels strange to type, but the lack of wing options outside of the Twins is troubling. Not only are they lacking in depth, but the lack of size in the wings and forwards is also concerning.

Josh Okogie will likely fight for minutes along with Damion Lee, though both are undersized wings that cannot create offensively. Okogie’s defense will be fun to watch as he wreaks havoc with Mikal Bridges on the wing, but they need more offensive punch from that unit.

What’s the solution?

I’m not sure it’s as simple as just adding one guy, though it depends on who that guy is.

Names like Jordan Clarkson or Eric Gordon would help aid the inevitable scoring droughts that could come when Chris Paul and Devin Booker are off the floor.

Jarred Vanderbilt could assist with his size, rim protection, and rebounding.

Cedi Osman is another name that has popped up, and while he’s a playable reserve he isn’t going to fix the issues they have by himself.

I’m looking forward to James Jones addressing this question once the trade deadline rolls around. The Jae Crowder trade could provide help sooner than expected, but I’d temper your expectations on that return given the position Phoenix is in.

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