Chris Paul. Devin Booker. Kevin Durant. Deandre Ayton.
Good luck finding a more dynamic quartet in the association than that. The burning question of who the fifth starter should be for the Phoenix Suns has been a hot topic among local fans and NBA experts alike.
My initial answer may sound dramatic, but... it does not matter. Who’s closing?
Yes, how they perform will matter. Whether it’s Okogie, Craig, Warren, Ross, etc. stepping in with those four, they will all have their moments.
What does matter, is who they close with and how well they adjust to playing alongside that starting unit. Chemistry, trust, and natural game flow will be important factors regarding crunch time.
Monty Williams will likely set the closing lineup on a game-by-game basis depending on the hot hand, foul trouble, matchups, and several other crucial components.
There are only 19 games left to figure it out, which puts Monty in a difficult spot as he will look to find a formula for success while trying to win games to secure home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The fifth starter will need certain qualities that mesh into this group and compliments them well. Let’s start with who should be the overwhelming favorite at the moment due to his recent surge.
OPTION 1: The favorite, Josh Okogie- G/W, 6’4”
- Pros: Energy, Point of attack defense, Rim pressure
- Cons: Inconsistent jumper, undersized (vs. bigger forwards)
Josh Okogie is tied for 4th in the NBA in deflections per-36 minutes (min. 50 games played) at 3.9. The Suns will desperately need his tenacity on the defensive end, specifically on the point of attack with Mikal Bridges in Brooklyn.
He can pick up full court and bother primary scorers by fighting through screens and applying heavy ball pressure. That is a given. If the offensive leap is real, then this is a no-brainer and the Suns’ ceiling rises significantly.
His presence as a downhill threat that can get to the rim will be felt offensively, but if the shot is real... look out. The jumper has been coming around of late, and there is certainly reason for optimism if he continues to build confidence on that side of the floor.
Sound On— Stephen PridGeon ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) February 12, 2023
Is Josh Okogie best-suited for that fifth spot in the new Suns lineup?
· First b2b with multiple made 3's
· Defense - 9 deflections last 2 gms
· C&S ability (62.5% on 4.0)
Dove into most of what he's been nailing since reinsertion into the rotation on O pic.twitter.com/M1pI7jhBmV
The only thing holding him back is his height at 6’4”, though he makes up for it tremendously with a 7’0” wingspan. Having two 7 footers on the court in Ayton and Durant will help, but if Okogie is out there with Paul and Booker there could be some rebounding issues in certain matchups.
Though I would like to emphasize that for his size, he is an excellent rebounder, especially on the offensive glass.
Either way, at this point Okogie seems like the most appealing option all things considered. I’d pencil him in as the fifth starter until he gives you a reason not to.
OPTION 2: Torrey Craig- F, 6’7”
- Pros: Energy, Offensive Rebounding, Size, Cutting
- Cons: Inconsistent offensively, Handle, Decision-Making
Torrey could be the “closer” over Okogie in particular matchups, specifically when it’s a team with more size. Craig’s issues come typically when he has to create for himself or make quick decisions late in games.
While that red flag may sound detrimental towards his role as the “closing” forward, his responsibilities in a lineup that has three capable ball handlers in Paul, Booker and Durant would be minimal.
He can hit open shots, he is an excellent cutter, he provides solid size, he hustles and he crashes the offensive glass like a menace. While Okogie has more flash at the moment given his exceptional play of late, Craig is a more proven veteran that can step in when needed and help.
Craig is going to play a significant role for this team down the stretch, and there will be very little pressure on him with how focused the defense will be on... well, everyone else.
OPTION 3: TJ Warren- F, 6’8”
- Pros: Scoring, Size, Floor Spacing
- Cons: Defense, Passing, Working back from injury
Tony Buckets is an option better suited for the bench unit in my opinion, but there will certainly be games where the Suns need a punch offensively and Warren closes games out if he has the hot hand.
He is still working back from injury, so it’s unlikely he’ll be playing heavy minutes consistently at this point. He essentially missed the past two seasons so working him back in a heavy workload seems farfetched.
Warren, like Ross, will likely be a situational rotation piece that will control his own destiny based on their play in a game by game basis.
OPTION 4: Terrence Ross- G/W, 6’7”
- Pros: Scoring Machine, Shot creator
- Cons: Defense, Passing, Rebounding/Strength
Ross can do something that the current Suns bench unit has lacked for quite some time... he can score. He is not bashful with his shot selection as he displayed in his debut as he came out swinging.
There will be games (similar to Warren) where he has “it” and can swing the game with his hot shooting or scoring ability. In those instances it would not shock me if Monty stuck with Ross to ride the hot hand.
Terrence Ross is wasting no time making an impact.— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) February 25, 2023
9 PTS | 7 REB | 3-6 3PT pic.twitter.com/4FyMPYrUnh
While Okogie’s hot stretch should make him the overwhelming favorite at this point, it is good to know the Suns have options.
Who should be the Suns’ fifth starter?
This poll is closed
Other (reply with your pick)
Comment with some of your favorite lineups combinations or experiments you’d like to see from Monty Williams below!