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Why the Suns won’t miss a beat with Bismack Biyombo filling in for JaVale McGee

JaVale brought the flash, but let’s dig deeper into what the real difference is between the two veteran centers.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The JaVale McGee experience was a rollercoaster filled with many peaks and valleys.

The flash was there without a doubt. He’d make eye-popping plays that would shift momentum in critical moments. When things were going right, he was an electric complimentary piece that boosted the Suns’ bench. His energy and presence in the locker room will be missed.

That being said, the Phoenix Suns' contingency plan at the five entering the season should be just fine by committee. Letting him walk was the right call.

The Dallas Mavericks forked over $17.2 million across three years, which translates to about $5.7 million per year for the veteran center.

With the emergence of Bismack Biyombo and Dario Saric’s impending return, McGee bolting in free agency was always the most likely scenario. It was always going to be either Bismack or JaVale, not both.

Deandre Ayton re-upped his contract and Phoenix traded for Jock Landale, further bolstering the Suns’ frontcourt.

The gap between McGee and Biyombo is truly not that far off, especially when you consider where the Suns struggled defensively last year in the pick and roll.

Biyombo is currently the Suns’ second-oldest player (excluding Jae Crowder who is not with the team) on the roster. His role as a veteran in the locker room will be just as important as his impact on the court.

Measurables Comparison

Bismack Biyombo — 6’8”, 255 lbs., 7’6” wingspan, 30 years old

JaVale McGee — 7’0”, 270 lbs., 7’6” wingspan, 34 years old

Statistical Comparison

Biyombo — 5.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game on 59.3% shooting from the field in 14.1 minutes per game over 36 games, including 3 starts.

McGee — 9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game on 62.9% shooting from the floor in 15.8 minutes per game over 74 games, including 17 starts.

Per-36 minutes

Biyombo — 14.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks

McGee — 20.9 points, 15.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks

Net Rating

Biyombo — +5.6

McGee — +5.8

While you can see the gap offensively, a lot of that had to do with Phoenix’s ability to find easy buckets from the rim-running for McGee that they will miss at times, but it’s not going to make or break their offense.

To me, the difference in salary ($5.7 to $1.9 million) made it a no-brainer to handle things as they did and let McGee walk.

Bismack won Suns fans’ hearts over quickly in his time in the desert. From day one he started contributing and had himself some high-impact games that caught some off guard.

The defensive prowess of Biyombo hinges on his ability to be in the right place at the right time. While he is undersized for a center at 6’8”, he offsets that with his freakish 7’6” wingspan. He has plus reach, high basketball IQ, and moves decently well for a big, which is just about all you can ask for in a reserve big man.

He isn’t exactly going to fit in the category of being trusted to defend guards on an island, but he can hold his own in drop coverage and in the occasional switch.

Pick and Roll Offense

His bread and butter offensively will come in the form of diving to the rim after setting purposeful screens, similar to McGee.

His elite finishing ability with his reach and long strides makes him an ideal fit in Phoenix’s spread-out system as we saw many times last season.

Deandre Ayton, Bismack Biyombo, Dario Saric, and Jock Landale give them a plethora of options and styles to choose from that they lacked last season. I feel comfortable with that group, though there is still the looming need to add a “bigger” forward.

Despite losing JaVale McGee, the Suns’ big man rotation looks to be as strong as ever.

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