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Roundtable: Who will emerge as the Suns’ 5th starter for opening night?

The Suns Core Four is locked into place at this point, but with the many additions made this offseason it is interesting to see who will end up taking that last spot in the starting lineup. The Bright Side staff discusses.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

Who should the Suns' 5th starter be: A Bright Side of the Sun roundtable

The Phoenix Suns have been through a complete roster overhaul this offseason, to say the least, highlighted by superstar Bradley Beal joining the team and bringing his elite scoring with him. However, besides locked-in starters Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton there is serious question on who the Suns will roll out to complete the starting lineup on opening night.

Now, it is important to preface that the Suns are talented enough and well-equipped coaching-wise to experiment throughout the season with various lineups and schemes to maximize the roster the front office has given them to work with. Regardless, in the dog days of the NBA summer before camp, it is a fun exercise to try to predict who impresses Vogel and co. enough in practice to get the nod.

Could it be returning Sun Josh Okogie, who just came off a breakout year that revived his place in the league as a scrappy defender and talented slasher? Or could it be veteran free agent signing Keita Bates-Diop, whose 7’3 wingspan could bother any player as well as coming off the best 3-point shooting season of his career?

It could very well be newly signing Yuta Watanabe, who also has chemistry from the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant, and is an absolute sniper on the floor able to light teams up from anywhere utilizing his 6’8 frame. Or even Eric Gordon, who is a proven 3-D player that has shown up in huge moments in the past and was an absolute offensive flamethrower for the Clippers in their first-round matchup against the Suns.

Hell, if we want to get crazy we can even add Bol Bol to the mix whose unique skillset and upside are promising to say the least.

Therefore amongst this discussion, I went to members of the Bright Side of the Sun team including adding my own input on who that 5th starter should be to begin the season.

Here are the results:

Q: Who should the Suns' 5th starter be when the season begins in October?

Cole Tuorto: Keita Bates-Diop

I believe that the former Spur Keita Bates-Diop would fit seamlessly into the 5th starting spot. Bates-Diop brings a veteran presence who has had to continually prove himself as a legitimate 3&D threat in the league to stay afloat. He shot close to 40% from three last season and has legitimate upside as a backdoor cutter as well as being able to read the defense in sets.

Keita would be able to slide directly in as the four, moving KD back to the three where he can be more effective as a perimeter player alongside Book and Beal on both sides of the floor. However, true positions are not necessarily needed anymore (in which the Suns are experimenting with running a lineup without a traditional point guard orchestrating the offense). Adding more size to the lineup will also aid in team rebounding and matching up against larger teams in the West such as the team that bounced the Suns this last postseason in the Denver Nuggets.

Bates-Diop is the definition of hungry for success and brings the necessary toughness and motor to complement the stars. Especially considering he is coming off his most complete season to date, and not to mention absolutely schooling the Lakers back during the 2021 season going a perfect 11-11 from the field, I think he will be a player fans automatically gravitate towards due to his smart play on the court and heavy versatility.

John Voita: Keita Bates-Diop

The flexibility of the Suns’ lineups will be one of their strengths next season, as they can plug in Josh Okogie to be a distributor on defense and the offensive boards. But with Keita Bates-Diop, a player who possesses more size and flexibility offensively and defensively, my assumption is that is what Phoenix will experiment with at the beginning of their season.

As Cole notes above, while the “postion-less basketball” mantra is being regurgitated amongst Suns’ fans to remind them that all will be okay relative to the point guard position, this is still basketball. There will still be somewhat position-defined roles for players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Having Kevin Durant guard opposing small forwards rather than power forwards is what you’d prefer, and with KBD plugged into the lineup, that is what you would see. With Okogie, that flips the KD on PF’s.

The regular season is a grind, and any opportunity you can to avoid the wear-and-tear on your stars is beneficial come playoff time. Start with Bates-Diop, someone who the Rock would love as he knows his role, and see how fluid the team performs on both sides of the floor.

Brandon Duenas: Josh Okogie (until proven otherwise)

I’m torn between about three guys right now for this spot, as there are multiple guys you could plug into the starting five and make it work. Bates-Diop makes sense to me in certain games against bigger teams, but if you’re playing a team with an elite guard, I think one of Okogie or Goodwin makes a ton of sense.

Having someone to fight over screens and bring that intense point-of-attack defense to the table will be vital. It’s not that Booker or Beal can’t do that, but having someone that can take that burden off them early to save their legs for the 4th is where my mind is here.

The fifth starter really won’t matter a ton. It’s the closing lineups I’m excited about, and those have the potential to shift every game. Frank Vogel is going to have some fun experimenting with this group.

Dave King: Eric Gordon

There are three players who will likely spend a good deal of time this season playing in lineups as the 5th player next to the Core Four of Beal, Booker, Durant and Ayton. And I do believe it will depend on the opponent.

But one thing is for certain: None of those four can effectively guard a big 6’6”-6’9” wing who can handle the ball and initiate their own offense from the wing with physicality and drop 35 on you. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lauri Markkanen, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler, Pascal Siakam and Khris Middleton are just a few that none of Beal, Book, Durant or Ayton can shut down or even dramatically slow down.

But here’s the thing about basketball — each team scores 110+ points and those stars only contribute about 30 of them on a good night. Why not focus on that other 75, and about exceeding that 110 by a greater margin than they do?

So I’ll make the case just to let the opposing stars cook, manage the rest, and simply outscore them. And Eric Gordon with his 30-foot gravity on long threes can do exactly that. Just go out there and Mike D’Antoni their ass.

Now it is your turn Suns Fans, to leave your feedback on who you think will be the 5th starter on opening night, and whether or not this could fluctuate throughout the season depending on the performance of players. It could even potentially be a player not yet on the team, with the Suns presumably going to be extremely active throughout the season to maximize their chances at the first ring in franchise history.

And with all of this being said, we wait patiently (or not) for training camp to start to let Frank Vogel and co. do what they do best.


Who will be the Suns’ 5th starter to open the 2023-24 NBA season?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Josh Okogie
    (190 votes)
  • 66%
    Keita Bates-Diop
    (738 votes)
  • 5%
    Eric Gordon
    (65 votes)
  • 5%
    Bol Bol
    (60 votes)
  • 4%
    Other/Not on the team yet
    (51 votes)
1104 votes total Vote Now

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