The Phoenix Suns' second unit has been a pleasant surprise this season. Entering the season, many (myself included) figured that the bench production would be a weak point for the Suns.
So far, it’s been quite the opposite. Through seven games, Phoenix sits at a comfortable 6-1 record and very well could be 7-0 if a couple of bounces go their way during that loss to Portland.
While I’m not entirely sold on the second unit, it is an extremely encouraging thing to see Cam Payne and Torrey Craig reemerge as productive contributors.
In addition to the two returners that are aiming to bounce back from down years in 2022, the arrival of Jock Landale has also helped. Paired with Bismack Biyombo in anchoring the second unit or non-Ayton minutes, the Aussie big man has been a revelation for Phoenix.
@JockLandale lit up the first half with 1️⃣6️⃣ PTS! #RallyTheValley— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) October 31, 2022
Live on NBA League Pass: https://t.co/PM2trj9vev pic.twitter.com/0xWJjHdOGP
Landale currently leads the Suns in net rating, sitting at 17.5 through seven games.
The most remarkable part about his play thus far is that despite his three-point shooting slump to begin the season, he’s been extremely productive.
Torrey Craig leads the team in true shooting percentage at an absurd 76.4%, followed by Dario Saric (75%...on one shot), Mikal Bridges (72%), and Bismack Biyombo (70%) in the 70 percent club.
Craig doesn’t need to do a ton offensively in his role, but when he is hustling, grabbing offensive boards, doing the dirty work, AND hitting shots at a decent clip, that’s just a bonus.
Cam Payne has also seen his play rise back to the 2021 version of himself that we all grew to know and love. Some have pointed to Jock Landale “unlocking” Payne, and maybe that’s true to a degree.
However, with Payne, it’s always been about confidence. When the confidence is there, he thrives. It’s almost a snowball effect with each bucket he gets leading to more and more irrational confidence.
He is essentially their only shot creator on the second unit, so Phoenix truly needs every bit of it.
Cam Payne with the high scoop ✋ pic.twitter.com/dfUABLxlzs— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 26, 2022
Landry Shamet has even looked improved so far, which is another huge win for the bench. He has played in five games (5-0) and is shooting just under 39% from three on 3.6 attempts per game. He’s using his aggression to get to the line at a clip he never has before with his 32.0% free throw rate.
Damion Lee has had his moments as well. As long as he defends hard and hit threes at a reasonable rate, Monty will play him. I’m not sure he remains in the rotation once they find their Crowder replacement, but having a trusted vet on the bench can never hurt in case of injury.
Bismack Biymobo has blocked nine (9!) shots in his last two games, filling in for the injured Deandre Ayton along with Landale. This should hardly come as a surprise given his play last season any time they needed him to step up.
Big block Biyombo— NBA (@NBA) November 2, 2022
Suns lead the Timberwolves in Q3 on TNT. pic.twitter.com/d0ecHPZFZI
While the second unit has been impressive so far this season, there are still weaknesses that need to be addressed once the trade deadline rolls around.
However, it looks as though those weaknesses aren’t as amplified as we initially thought, even with Crowder out of the equation which in turn shifted Cam Johnson to the starting lineup.