10 days. Two preseason games. That is all that exists between the Phoenix Suns and the start of the 2023-24 NBA season. It seems like just yesterday a disappointed Devin Booker didn’t speak to the media following a Game 6 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Yet here we are on the other side of summer and the time has come to rev up the engine and start the season.
The first three season preseason games have been entertaining and provided previews as to what this team could be, both on offense and on defense. We’ve seen Jusuf Nurkic and his ability to connect the office, Grayson Allen’s affinity and desire to penetrate opposing defenses and finish in the paint, the BBD trio scoring 46 points in a quarter, and Josh Okogie making himself at home in the starting five. It has been an exciting start to the season, even if the games don’t count.
Time to bring the lights down low and dampen the mood. Basketball, after all, is a business.
The Suns current roster has 19 total players with two of them being on two-way contracts. What does that mean? It means that two players will have to be cut prior to the beginning of the regular season. The team can only bring 15 players, not including two-ways, onto the regular season roster.
We are entering the Hunger Games portion of the preseason. Who will be the Catniss Everdeen’s and who will be Cato?
With two games left the position battles continue and players are fighting for the right to be on the team. Who is at risk? Who could be the two players that Phoenix and GM James Jones choose not to roster this season? Who will not survive October?
Oh, Ish. He is somebody who is one of the longest tenured members of the Suns. Joining the team in 2021 after the run of the NBA Finals, Wainright has yet to see the court this preseason due to injury. He has been nursing a right calf strain.
His contract is for $1.9 million, but it is unique as it is non-guaranteed until January 7, which unfortunately makes him a prime candidate to be one of the players cut from the squad. Phoenix would not carry any cap penalties for moving on from him if he was to be cut.
A great all-around human being, his skill set is a player who has physical attributes but isn’t necessarily physical. He can shoot, but isn’t a great shooter. In two seasons with Phoenix he has averaged 3.4 points on 37.8/32.8/76.7 splits. A fan favorite? Yes. A candidate to be cut? Also, yes.
Quite possibly one of the most exciting acquisitions this off-season, Bol is a player without a truly defined role. His ability to remain on the team’s roster may suffer as a result.
His skill sets are that of a player in the middle. Too slow to be an effective perimeter defender, too light to be in effective interior presence, Bol is a guard stuck in a 7’2” body and light frame.
Bol Bol on if he’s a guard or a big:— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) October 2, 2023
“I’d say both.” pic.twitter.com/GU3cm10BgE
He had a relatively impressive outing in the preseason game against the Denver Nuggets, but it’s little things he doesn’t do that can’t impress Frank Vogel. He drops on every screen, hoping that his length can assist him in defending the perimeter, which it doesn’t. His hands are always down. With a wingspan that size of a California condor, that should be a strength. Obstructing passing lanes, deterring interior passes. But he invites shooters to shoot. And they do.
Blessed with quickness and possessing the ability to knock down tough shots, Johnson has had plenty of opportunity in the preseason. He’s played in all three games, averaged 6 points in 13.6 minutes, and added 1 rebound per to his statline. But his 16.7% from deep and 0.41 assist-to-turnover rate isn’t going to win you any spots on the team. The fourth-year player hasn’t really impressed.
The last man mentioned in the Nurkic for Ayton trade, Johnson is a project. Phoenix doesn’t necessarily have roster spots open for time available for projects. That is the James Jones way. He prefers mature players who serve a purpose and can be slotted into the rotations any time rather than somebody who needs development.
30 minutes against the Trail Blazers, five points. That was his final line. He didn’t really make an impact on either side of the ball and hasn’t really impressed the way that many thought he would during the preseason. He’s averaging 4.7 points in 23 minutes played thus far, but he is getting a run with the one’s and two’s which will negate his effectiveness as they are getting theirs.
The rumor was that he was one of the valuable targets that the Suns actively sought out in the Nurkic deal. That makes you believe that he will continue to be on the team simply due to his upside. I would be shocked if he didn’t make the cut.
The Suns have gone heavy with their guard acquisitions, bringing Eric Gordon, Grayson Alle, Jordan Goodwin, Saben Lee, and Keon Johnson to Phoenix. Lee will be out for some time following his surgery on his meniscus. Would the Suns move on from Damion? No.
I mean, technically they could. But I do not believe that is the move here. Lee had the third-best three-point percentage in the league last season, shooting 44.5% from beyond the arc. As Forrest Gump says, “even I know that ain’t something you can find just around the corner.”
He will be out indefinitely but his return will be a nice jolt to the lineup when it occurs.
One option the Suns do have is to cut a player and then bring them back on the final two-way spot. Yes, that is a change. You can now have three two-way roster slots, so a player like Ish Wainright can once again live in the two-way world.
Phoenix plays on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers again and then wraps up their preseason on the 19th in Palm Desert against the Los Angeles Lakers. Those position battles will be a primary focus for Suns’ brass as they attempt to finalize the roster that national pundits do not believe is deep. Feels deep to me.
Who do you think the Suns will part ways with? Do you need to see two more games to make that determination, or does contract status and roster construction make your decision for?
Tune in to Bright Side for more coverage as we navigate these last few games and James Jones ultimately decides the fate of the franchise.