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The Suns have seen a tale of two Gordon’s as he has had to bounce in and out of the starting lineup

Phoenix Suns v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Phoenix Suns acquired Eric Gordon free agency this past offseason, I am not sure that James Jones’ vision of his usage would be to start 71% of the team’s games. Through the first seven games, with injuries to Devin Booker and Bradley Beal creating rotational opportunity, that is exactly what has happened. Eric Gordon has started 5 of the Suns’ first 7 games.

Gordon is a pro. Entering his 16th season in the NBA, EG has no issue starting. Of his 818 games prior to this season, Gordon has started in 628 (77% of his appearances). He is no stranger to putting in the minutes and providing quality production.

This season he has filled in nicely for Frank Vogel. In his 5 starts, he has averaged 18 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.4 rebounds in 31.4 minutes played. His shooting has been crisp, hitting 50.1% of his shots and 39.4% of his three-point shots. While his production is not that of the all-star talent he is replacing, he has been someone the team can rely on to shoot, penetrate, and facilitate.

The role that he was brought here to fill, that of the sixth man, is where Gordon has struggled early this season. The 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year award winner has only come off the bench in two different games, both of the games in which Devin Booker made an appearance.

His splits, while close in total minutes, are not nearly as effective. He averages 3.5 fewer minutes played when he has come off the bench, putting in 27.9 points in his two bench appearances. The numbers? 8.5 points, 1.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds. His shooting drops drastically as well, posting 33.3/27.3/0.0 splits.

Rumors are swirling that the Suns could soon be healthy. Shams Charnia of The Atheltic recently reported that, “Look for the next 7 to 10 days to finally be the point where these three guys finally get back on the court” as it pertains to Booker and Beal’s availability.

When this occurs, Eric Gordon will return to the bench. The question is which version of Gordon will the Suns receive upon his return? We know he’ll provide the minutes; it’s something he has done his entire career. In the 192 games that Gordon has played as a reserve, he has averaged 28.1 minutes played. He is someone who is a true sixth man type of player.

But what adjustments will he have to make to ensure he is a more effective version coming off of the bench than what we have witnessed early this season? In his starts, he has been aggressive, driving to the basket, forcing the issue, and willing to take the deep three-ball. In the games in which he has come off of the bench, we’ve seen a much more muted version of Gordon and his aggressiveness.

With the regular rotations on the horizon, a productive and engaged Gordon is a vital cog in the Suns’ success. The better he plays, the more Booker and Beal can remain on the bench and rest their aching bodies.

And it is clear they need the rest.

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