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Suns remain without a traditional point guard after free agency signings

There are still options on the board, but actions fortify the Booker/Beal backcourt philosophy.

Phoenix Suns Introduce Bradley Beal - Press Conference Photo by Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images

And away we go!

NBA Free Agency 2023 has begun, and with it comes the first dominos to fall as the Phoenix Suns attempt build out their top-heavy roster in pursuit of the first title in the history of the franchise. “The most important summer in Suns’ history”, right? It always is.

I’m pumped. I know it’s a challenge to be anything but especially considering the top three players on the Phoenix Suns’ are Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. But after the first day of free agency, I’m extremely excited about the construction of the roster. We knew it was going to be a challenge, navigating free agency and trying to sign quality veteran minimum deals, but we also knew Phoenix is a destination for free agents.

What excites me the most is that I feel that Phoenix addressed the majority of their issues. The majority, I say! Not all. Most notably, they added size, athleticism, and perimeter shooting from the second team unit. These qualities, or lack thereof, hurt them in the postseason against the Clippers and the Nuggets. They were too shallow, to small, too reliant upon KD and Book, too gun shy from deep (they attempted a league-low 25.8 threes in their 11 postseason games).

I can see the forest for the trees, however.

This isn’t a perfect team or the perfect situation to be in. With the decisions made, it is apparent that – at least at this point – the Suns do not have a true playmaker at the helm. Or even coming off of the bench. The traditional philosophy of a designated and skilled playmaker, something Phoenix has been accustomed to over the past four seasons with Ricky Rubio and Chris Paul, has gone the way of the dodo.

During Bradley Beal’s introductory news conference, Frank Vogel repeatedly mentioned the concept of pushing the ball with either Booker, Beal, Durant or Cameron Payne being the initiator of the offense. He stated that, “a multiple ball handler attack in most possessions” will be the modus operandi.

“I’m very comfortable with Beal and Booker as the starting backcourt, but we’re going to explore that fifth spot potentially being a Cam Payne or a point guard, and we’re going to explore it being maybe a ‘3,’ ‘4’ type defender position,” Vogel said. “Those things will play out in camp. I love the idea of getting those guys down the floor with a point guard and advancing it up to him and letting them attack. But I know that they can handle it on their own as well.”

“The pace that we want to play with, I think most possessions are going to have different ball-handlers each time down. It’s going to be a multiple ball-handler attack, but I’m comfortable with those guys,” he added. “But I do love what Cam Payne brings to the table.”

The Suns echoed these sentiments with how they operated on day one of free agency. They chose to go with more sizable options and wing players than address distributors. They brought back Damion Lee and Josh Okogie, and added Yuta Watanabe (6’9”), Keita Bates-Diop (6’8”), Drew Eubanks (6’10”), and Chimezie Metu (6’9”).

No point guards in sight. Welcome to the “position-less basketball” approach.

For those who need the security blanket of a true point guard, or for those who fear that Point Book will wear him down physically, there are still options available on the market.

The market is drying up fast and Phoenix could potentially land one of these players, although D’Angelo Russell is off the list as he re-signed with the Lakers. They meet the need of a traditional point guard and would be the clear 5th starter, which is currently something the Suns are without. Or is it Cam Payne?

The other side of this argument is that bringing in a starting point guard would negate the position-less basketball approach, thus pushing Devin Booker into the small forward position and Kevin Durant into the four.

You have to ask yourself: Which would you prefer? Booker running point and KD at the three or Booker trying to creating against larger bodies and Durant being relied on for defensive rebounding? At this point, the Suns are choosing the former and are going to experiment with the fifth starter.

They’ve given themselves flexibility. Josh Okogie, who plays larger than his 6’4” frame (he does have a 7” wingspan) can play the three which puts KD at the four. Or bring in Yuta Watanabe or Keita Bates-Diop to play the four and KD gets to operate on the perimeter on both sides of the floor.

Decision, decisions.

I know that this is the aura of change and the new car smell that has me feeling that this team improved as much as they did. But go back to the team that lost to the Denver Nuggets. Look at that lineup. Look at the minutes played and who played them. This team is better, and there’s no doubt about that.

Can we start the regular season next week?

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