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Vogel Watch: A ‘way too early’ look at the Phoenix Suns potential playoff rotation

Here’s your ultimate (early) preview of what to expect come playoff time.

Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images

Yes, it’s December. Yes, this is probably too early. Sue me.

We are 20 games deep into the 2023-24 NBA season, and it’s been quite the wild ride. Phoenix’s 12-8 record currently has them tied for the 4th seed in the Western Conference. The playoffs are a long way away, but with the In-Season Tournament tipping off, what better time to dive into what the final rotation could look like?

This piece won’t necessarily be a playoff outlook, but rather about the rotation as it is now and the best guess for what a playoff rotation could look like down the road.

It will be interesting to revisit as the playoffs approach because as you all know a lot can (and will) change between now and May. The trade deadline, buyouts, injuries, and more can all factor into this article looking dated come early summer.

Phoenix Suns v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Vogel’s Playoff History

Frank Vogel has coached in 88 playoff games in his career. He holds a playoff record of 49-39 overall, including one (Bubble) Championship with the Lakers in 2020.

61 of the 88 postseason games were with Indiana, where he had five playoff appearances going 31-30 with the Pacers. This included a pair of Eastern Conference Finals appearances where the Pacers fell short to the LeBron-led Miami Heat.

In 27 games with the Lakers for two playoff runs, Vogel posted an 18-9 record including the 2020 NBA Finals run in the Bubble.

Looking back at Vogel’s playoff rotations, it seems as though he leans towards rolling with a nine-man rotation with an occasional 10th man in short spurts. He isn’t afraid to roll out more than 10 players in a single game, though the bulk of the minutes are going to the same 8 or 9 guys.

As we’ve seen already this season, he isn’t afraid to make instant adjustments based on matchups and game flow.

Phoenix’s Playoff History

Playoff Game Appearances (from greatest to least)

  • Kevin Durant — 166 games, 6,721 minutes played
  • Eric Gordon — 60 games, 2,018 minutes played
  • Bradley Beal — 45 games, 1,791 minutes played
  • Devin Booker — 43 games, 1,713 minutes played
  • Grayson Allen — 24 games, 524 minutes played
  • Damion Lee — 24 games, 212 minutes played
  • Jusuf Nurkic — 16 games, 445 minutes played
  • Josh Okogie — 11 games, 177 minutes played
  • Bol Bol — 7 games, 27 minutes played
  • Keita Bates-Diop — 5 games, 24 minutes played
  • Yuta Watanabe — 5 games, 15 minutes played
  • Nassir Little — 3 games, 9 minutes played
  • Chimezie Metu — 3 games, 6 minutes played
  • Udoka Azubuike — 1 game, 1 minute played

No playoff experience: Jordan Goodwin, Drew Eubanks, Saben Lee

The Suns have plenty of playoff experience individually. Still, as a collective unit, the only four that have shared the court in that environment would be Booker, Durant, Okogie, and Lee in last year’s playoff run.

Rotation Numbers

This is where things stand now after 20 games from a games played and minutes standpoint. The rotation is finally starting to settle in after a chaotic start to the season.

Appearances + Minutes Per Game

  • Kevin Durant — 18 games played, 36.6 MPG
  • Devin Booker — 11 games played, 34.5 MPG
  • Grayson Allen — 18 games played, 32.8 MPG
  • Eric Gordon — 18 games played, 31.6 MPG
  • Bradley Beal — 3 games played, 28.7 MPG
  • Jusuf Nurkic — 20 games played, 27.9 MPG
  • Josh Okogie — 20 games played, 22.1 MPG
  • Keita Bates-Diop — 17 games played, 17.5 MPG
  • Drew Eubanks — 17 games played, 17.9 MPG
  • Yuta Watanabe — 15 games played, 17.9 MPG
  • Jordan Goodwin — 20 games played, 17.1 MPG
  • Nassir Little — 14 games played, 15.1 MPG

If it’s a 9-man rotation, I expect the top nine guys listed above to make the cut. Jordan Goodwin is the next man up for me after that group, and could very well earn minutes in short spurts if they elect to go to a 10-man rotation.

On the brink

Jordan Goodwin, Nassir Little, and Yuta Watanabe all figure to battle it out for playoff minutes against Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. All five have shown flashes and there are matchups where they may make sense, and some where they may take a back seat.

Watanabe is likely one of the odd men out at this point given his play in comparison to the others along with his skillset not being as needed with all the shooting provided with that current group + a healthy Beal. Little definitely has a shot to earn a spot as well, but he’s slightly behind Okogie and KBD in the current rotation.

The opponent could wind up serving as a “tiebreaker” in a sense for which of these fringe 8th/9th man guys in the rotation could end up getting the call come playoff time. Matchups are everything come playoff time.

The guard rotation of Booker, Beal, Gordon, and Allen seems to be set assuming all four are healthy come playoff time. Eubanks likely makes the cut due to size and the need to spell Nurkic minutes, though there are certain matchups where we could see Durant at the five with KBD at the four.

This is my prediction as of December 4th, 2023:

Guards: Booker, Beal, Allen, Gordon

Wings: Durant, Bates-Diop, Okogie

Bigs: Nurkic, Eubanks

Next in line: Jordan Goodwin

We will revisit later this season to see just how much has changed from now to then.

Suns fans, let us know what your rotation would look like if you were Frank Vogel below.

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