We are nearing the end of preseason basketball. Raise your hand if you’re excited for the games to count. I’m expecting that all of you awkwardly rose your hand no matter where you are reading this. At a Starbucks sipping your cup of mornin’ joe? At work and someone walked by and slapped you with a high five? All of our hands should be raised.
It’s been an experience watching the Phoenix Suns morph from the roster on paper into a team on the court. They’ve meshed and grown, runned and gunned, defended and shot. But until it counts, it’s a moot point.
Monday night’s preseason battle against the Portland Trail Blazers might have been our last preview of the BBD trio before the regular season begins. With one preseason game left, occurring against the Los Angeles Lakers in Palm Desert on Thursday night, Frank Vogel might just have them show up in street clothes on the bench.
Although it doesn’t count, that’s not going to stop me from providing you with two thumbs up and two thumbs down about last night’s game. It’s still Suns basketball and it still possesses aspects of the game that matters.
So let’s get into it!
Thumbs Up: Booker is Leveling Up with his “Hell of a Weapon”
The ball was zipping around the Footprint Center during the first half and, although it felt like a slow start, when the Suns caught fire, they started an inferno. It is a shock to many that the nets themselves weren’t singed from the shooting of the team. One thing is for sure: this ain’t CP3’s Suns anymore.
The ball was zipping around the Footprint Center during the first half and, although it felt like a slow start, when the Suns caught fire, they started an inferno. It is a shock to many that the nets themselves weren’t singed from the shooting of the team. One thing is for sure: this ain’t CP3’s Suns anymore. There’s no rolling the ball up the court and waiting until the last possible moment to begin your possession. There’s no high pick-and-roll until you fall asleep in your La-Z-Boy rocker. There’s no rip through’s and half-court offense.
Like Ricky Bobby, they want to go fast.
This team gets out in transition quickly. It might be just preseason, for we aren’t seeing numerous designed sets and plays, but with the talent that the first team possesses they didn’t need any. 36 points in the first quarter. 40 in the second. Pow. Bam. You’re down 22 at the half.
Frank Vogel said it after the game. “Very difficult to take too much from this game with as many guys as they had out. For us it was really just working on habits of execution.” No Jerami Grant. No Malcolm Brogdon. No Anfernee Simons. No Deandre Ayton. But execute they did.
What you can’t take away is the speed in which this Suns team wants to play and how they want to get out and transition and put pressure on the defense, using spacing as a tool to open up their shooters.
I haven't seen the Suns play this free and be this good since SSOL days man— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) October 17, 2023
It appears that Devin Booker has leveled up as an offensive player. It’s early, it’s preseason, but he looks different on the court. Part of that is the fact that he truly is entering his prime. Players typically do so between the ages of 26 and 29, and Book is right in that sweet zone. He turns 27 on October 30.
The other side of that is again the spacing. The gravity that Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal draw around him, coupled with the Suns aggressive manner of play, forces the defense to make decisions. Some of those decisions will equate to a wide open Devin Booker.
Vogel stated in the post game presser that Booker has, “been a little bit hesitant, just talking to people who have been here the last couple of years, to take that shot in high volume. We talked this summer and that’s the shot that I want to encourage and to extra green light for him. When he’s knocking down that shot, the bigs have got to come up. The bigs come up and it just opens up even more stuff.”
He added, “it’s a hell of a weapon.”
KD and D-Book put on a SHOW in the 1st half vs the Trail Blazers— NBA (@NBA) October 17, 2023
Durant: 19 PTS (6/10 FGM), 4 AST
Booker: 19 PTS, (6/11 FGM), 4 3PM, 4 AST pic.twitter.com/wvQCvTvr9O
Thumbs Down: No Yuta the Shoota
I was in the building on Monday and I’m not gonna lie, while the crowd was yearning for Bol Bol, I wanted Yuta the Shoota.
Unfortunately, as preseason goes, he was resting last night. It’s part of the process and I understand that. Still, the fan in me wants to see his smooth shooting in person.
I guess I will have to wait to cheer on a guy who I think is actually going to make an impact on the team rather than a 7’2” out of position player who is our modern day version of Pat Burke. Burn? A little.
Thumbs Down: Saben the Stat Stuffer
We like nicknames, don’t we? As we watched Saben Lee for 16 minutes, one observation made while sitting next to Dave King was that Saben’s offensive acumen mirrors a less athletic and skilled Eric Bledsoe type. He attacks the cylinder with one thought in mind: score of the ball. Pass? Nah fam.
When your role is that of a third-team distributor, I guess that’s acceptable. But the distribution isn’t there and it is the play that may garner him actual minutes if they are to become available during the regular season.
Reason #38 I Can't Wait for the Regular Season: Less Saben Lee minutes.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) October 17, 2023
“Young Bled” is what Dave bestowed upon him and I love it. Outside of the fact that he wants to be here when Bledsoe did not, of course.
He ended the night with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting, adding 4 rebounds, but dishing out only 1 assist. Every time he penetrated, you knew that a shot was coming. It resulted in 5 free throw attempts, which is positive. He knows how to genre rate contact and get to the line. But when you see open shooters standing in the corner, you wish a pass would touch their hands.
While respect Saben for his grit, determination, and aggressiveness, I am looking forward to the season starting, so I get less minutes from him. He is why we need a G League team. He needs to hone his skill set in and he needs to do so in the environment that is conducive of his development. The preseason as part of that process, but the time has come to see less of Young Bled. I doubt that will occur come Thursday against Los Angeles.
Thumbs Up: Jordan Goodwin is an Impact Player
Every team needs a dog on the defensive end, someone who is an annoyance and creates turmoil for the opposition. In Goodwin and Josh Okogie, Phoenix has two. Goodwin impressed again on Monday, logging 6 steals in 21 minutes played.
I repeat, 6 steals in 21 minutes played.
His aggressiveness caught some early whistles from the officials, but his opportunity to continue to play in the preseason atmosphere equated to success for the Suns and frustration for the Blazers. He fights every possession and has no filter when displaying his emotions in front of the fans.
“A lot of the time I don’t get steals, I get deflections,” Goodwin said after the game. “I had four quick ones,” referencing his early foul trouble, “that’s not like me. I try my best to defend without fouling.”
His shot could use some work but his defensive intensity is something that Frank Vogel noticed. It’s something that will keep him coming off the bench for Phoenix.
You have to like what we witnessed from Phoenix in their second game against Portland. Their ability to score in bunches is something that, during the regular season, will be a nightmare for opposing teams. In a series you can game plan against it, sure. We’re 82 games away from any postseason series.
What did you see that you liked last night? What opportunities did you see for the team? Who are you falling in love with? Who is kind of annoying you? Let us know in the comments below!