Every contender in today’s NBA has issues. Whether it’s a battle with staying healthy, lack of depth at key positions, or the inability to adapt to their opponents, everyone is battling something.
Health is a universal issue for any team of course, but that’s more referring to certain key players that have recurring injuries.
Taking a look at Phoenix Suns’ roster, I see star power. I see a starting five that competes with anyone in the association. They have a strong young core, they have veterans, they have journeymen, they have it all. Right? Maybe not so fast.
I also see some key areas of weakness that need to be addressed either before the season begins (unlikely) or by the trade deadline.
For this exercise, we’ll assume Cam Johnson has taken the starting four spot from Jae Crowder.
Projected Bench Depth Chart
Guards: Cameron Payne — Landry Shamet — Duane Washington
Wings + Forwards: Jae Crowder, Torrey Craig, Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Ish Wainright
Bigs: Bismack Biyombo, Dario Saric, Jock Landale
My first take on this bench unit is that it’s solid. You have reliable players that you can plug in with starters from time to time and they will contribute.
That being said, there are certain skills and player archetypes they are lacking that could come back to bite them in the playoffs (again) if they do not address them.
What needs to be addressed?
We all saw what Luka did to the Suns. We saw what lack of rebounding did against the Pelicans at times, and in the 2021 NBA Finals, this team was bullied and outsized in key moments.
Size matters. Let’s face it.
The Suns need to add a forward that can mix it up down low, defend smaller fives and bigger fours and help with the rebounding. Who fits this to a tee? Jarred Vanderbilt is one realistic name that immediately comes to mind. Larry Nance Jr. would also fit that bill, as he could play small ball five but also be paired alongside Ayton or Saric if they would like to go bigger.
Again, not all of these moves have to be “swings” necessarily, they just need to be calculated and strengthen the roster they already have. Complimentary pieces that boost their current foundation is one course of action that Jones typically goes for.
Getting to the rim is an essential skill in the modern NBA, especially with how reliant teams have become on the three-point shot (cough, cough, Suns) at times. You can’t be too predictable on offense, especially come playoff time.
Adding someone that could get to the rim with aggression and put that pressure on the defense is vital for floor spacing.
Phoenix was tied for 27th in free throw attempts per game at just 19.9 and 29th in free throw rate behind only the San Antonio Spurs.
Let me ask you this. How many players on the Suns would you feel comfortable with giving the ball and telling them to “go get a bucket” to?
For me, it’s two. One of those two is getting up there in age and has struggled to stay healthy during the last two playoff runs as well. It’s time to add another creator. Whether it’s a blockbuster down the line, or a smaller scale pickup like a Clarkson, they need to address that clear weakness.
What should the Suns do, whether it’s now or the trade deadline to address the weaknesses in their bench and/or starting unit?
That is the million-dollar question James Jones will have to answer ahead of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.