No one wanted to hear that Bradley Beal would miss extended time. When James Jones made the deal to add Beal to the Phoenix Suns, we knew the injuries had plagued the guard. The hope is we’d have an opportunity to see Jones’ vision before anything happened, but that simply hasn’t occurred. That’s the way it goes.
Phoenix Suns coach Frank Vogel said they discussed taking considerable time to address Bradley Beal's back when he 1st started having issues.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) November 18, 2023
Re-evaluated in three weeks.
"Playing in the games was slowing down his progress for really trying to put this thing behind him." #Suns pic.twitter.com/p1hOpyFo0t
We’ve all watched basketball. We all know how it goes. Someone is always on that injury report. Sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s three weeks. It’s part of the game. When you play at that speed and with that aggression in the physical game that is the NBA, it’s bound to happen. The hope is your roster is deep enough to absorb the injuries and you come out the other side better for it.
That is what is occurring in Phoenix. There is a Bradley Beal-sized hole in the starting lineup. To fill it, Suns’ head coach Frank Vogel has chosen to go with offense over defense, starting Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon the past two games.
The Suns are 2-0 in those games.
You’re not seeing eye-popping numbers from the EG and GA duo. Gordon is averaging 14.5 points on 50% shooting in the last two games, and Allen has added 12 points on 47% shooting. But that is serviceable and they are threats that defenses cannot disregard (sorry, JO).
What Vogel has opted to do is, rather than surround Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Jusuf Nurkic with one of the veteran shooters and one defense-first player, simply put both of them on the court. This allows spacing to remain consistent and opens up shots for everyone.
Think back to when Josh Okogie was in the lineup. Remember the Spurs? Yeah, the team that has won 3 games all season with two of them being against the Suns? Part of their success in the two-game set against the Suns is they knew that Okogie couldn’t shoot. They clogged the paint — an area both Durant Booke like to get to — by shading Okogie’s defender towards the more effective Book or KD. Turnovers occurred, they got out and ran, and the Suns lost to one of the worst teams in the NBA. Twice.
Vogel has adjusted accordingly and is choosing offense over defense. Both Gordan and Allen are average defenders, which means that his strategy is to outscore the opposition. Phoenix has done so, averaging 132 points in the last two. They’ve unfortunately given up 121.5 points as a result.
Vogel must adjust his secondary lineups in an effort to insert his defensive philosophies into games. We witnessed this during the Suns’ victory on Friday night over the Utah Jazz. As the Suns transitioned from the third quarter to the fourth, it was a lineup of Devin Booker, Jordan Goodiwn, Nassir Little, Keita Bates-Diop, and Drew Eubanks that slowed the Utah attack.
The early returns on the Booker/Allen/Gordon/Durant/Nurkic lineup combination have been positive. That lineup is collectively shooting 65.1% from the field, 68.8% from deep, and averaging 10.5 assists in 26.6 total minutes played. They’ve scored 75 points as a unit, which is the third most by any Suns’ lineup combination.
The Booker/Allen/Gordon/ Durant/Nurkic lineup combination:— John Voita (@DarthVoita) November 18, 2023
26.6 total minutes
Vogel has opted for offense and spacing from his starting lineup rather than defenders who clog spacing.
He is beginning to pull the right strings as he continues to evaluate the talent and chemistry of the team. It takes time, especially with so many new faces, himself included.
Has Phoenix righted the ship? It’s 12 games. They’ve barely boarded. But Vogel is taking note of the crew and the ship is pointed in the right direction.