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Last week, the Phoenix Suns traded Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder for Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren, and later signed Terrence Ross after his buyout from the Orlando Magic.
Now the Suns have themselves a new pecking order. Durant stands atop of the Suns depth chart, knocking all of Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton down a peg.
But after those four, how does the rest of the roster stack up? The players the Suns traded away were 4th, 5th and 6th on a preseason roster ranking. Durant’s addition knocks Ayton or Paul — depending on your preference — into 4th, but what about 5th? Or even 6th?
We asked Suns fans that question last week, and 37% of those who took the poll picked T.J. Warren as the Suns new 5th best player.
Do you agree?
After seeing these results, I asked our Bright Side staff and podcasters (11 participated) to do a new Suns Rank using the new roster players and the results are very very interesting.
With the trades, the Suns added their new best player but regressed in the other areas.
In fact, not one player got enough ‘5th-best’ votes to score out with a 5-point-something average. T.J. Warren, Josh Okogie and Cameron Payne came closest to ranking among the top five, at 6.4-6.9 on average, but not close enough.
What does that say about the new-look Suns?
It says to me they are very top heavy now, and that there is a major separation between the top four and the next guy.
Your candidates for 5th-best player:
T.J. Warren, a ten-year veteran, has historically been a starter in both Phoenix and Indiana, but now he’s coming off a two-year injury and had played only the 11th-most minutes on the Brooklyn Nets this season, behind guys like Edmund Sumner, Cam Thomas and Yuta Watanabe. Today’s T.J. is any good team’s 8th-10th best player.
Josh Okogie, a five-year veteran, has never averaged more than 8.6 points a game and had never made even 30% of his threes before this season. He was so bad in Minnesota that they simply released him after his four-year rookie contract was up. Now in Phoenix, he’s having his most effective season ever, but he’s still just 7th on the team in minutes played even through all the injuries and goes through ice cold spells on shooting. In a perfect world, Josh is any good team’s 8th-12th best player.
Cameron Payne, an eight-year veteran, washed out of the league before even his rookie contract was up. He’s been a great backup to Chris Paul for the last three years, and filled in very well in a starting role in November when Paul was out. But he’s missed the last 21 games and is just now coming back from a foot injury that could recur. In a perfect world, Payne ranks as any good team’s 7th-10th best player.
The Suns have a lot of playable depth, with as many as 10 guys good enough for rotation minutes around the Book/CP/DA/KD quadrangle. It’s just a matter of finding the best complements to the stars’ games.
Historically, a championship team having a below-average 5th starter is more common than you might think.
- LeBron’s Miami Heat went to four straight Finals with 4th and 5th starters like Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo, a 35-year old Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony
- In the second Cleveland stint, LeBron his 4th and 5th starters during three straight Finals runs were guys like Timofey Mosgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert
- Kawhi Leonard’s winner in Toronto (2019) had 34-year old Marc Gasol as the starting center (Gasol had been acquired at the trade deadline)
- The Spurs won their championships with the likes of Avery Johnson, Marco Belinelli, Tiago Splitter, Rasho Nesterovic, Corey Joseph and Bruce Bowen in big roles
- Last year’s Warriors won the 2022 Finals with Otto Porter and Kevon Looney splitting that 5th starter job, while their prior iterations had Nick Young and Shawn Livingston (post-injury) in big roles
Bottom line: Championships are won by the top players, not the 5th starter or 5th best player.
Let’s hope the Suns can add themselves to this list, winning a ring with the likes of Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie splitting that 5th starter job.
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