Kevin Durant. Devin Booker. Bradley Beal.
Then there’s Deandre Ayton. Then what?
There is a “Big 3” with a clear 4th starter. There is a sixth man that figures to be their 5th best player. And hell, there’s no guarantee Gordon ends up being their fifth-best guy, but on paper that’s what you see.
If Phoenix wants to win a championship this season, they will certainly need their role players to step up and rise to the occasion. It won’t even take all of them at once, just a select few at the right time need to step up when it counts come playoff time.
That being said, let’s rank players five through seventeen based on projected impact for the 2023-24 season.
The group (not in order): Josh Okogie, Drew Eubanks, Eric Gordon, Keita Bates-Diop, Toumani Camara, Yuta Watanabe, Chimezie Metu, Bol Bol, Jordan Goodwin, Ish Wainright, Damion Lee, Saben Lee, Udoka Azubuike.
#1) Eric Gordon
To me, Gordon is the most sure thing on the bench crew. He will likely close games and should see plenty of time with the starters while leading the second unit as well. He is a reliable veteran that can bring the ball up the court, play off the ball, knock down deep shots, and score at will.
My favorite part about EG’s addition is how seamlessly he fits alongside just about any lineup. He can operate in a variety of ways and should make an impact from day one. Gordon is the definition of “plug and play”.
He may not be the Eric Gordon of old, but he still has a bit left in the tank.
IT'S OFFICIAL.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 6, 2023
Eric Gordon is a Phoenix Sun! pic.twitter.com/nvkrF7tXbh
#2) Keita Bates-Diop - Forward
KBD is one of the favorites amongst many Suns fans to take that fifth starter spot and for good reason. He is 6’9” with a ~7’4” wingspan and has shown the ability to knock down open threes at a decent clip.
The size and rebounding should also help, especially in lineups where he’s playing alongside Durant and Ayton. Talk about SIZE. These aren’t your tiny, scrappy Suns anymore, folks.
#3) Yuta Watanabe - Wing/Forward
Yuta is going to absolutely thrive in this system. Mark my words. He may not close games or play heavy minutes, but I expect him to be one of the most efficient players in the NBA next season.
My prediction is that he flirts with the 50% mark from deep this season and gets invited to the 2024 Three-Point Contest in Indiana. Unleash the sniper.
#4) Drew Eubanks - Center
Phoenix did a nice job shoring up the backup center position this offseason. I’m very high on Eubanks and think he will surprise some people this season with his athleticism and intangibles.
His primary focus should be defense and hustle plays, which are right up his alley. Being an anchor that positions himself in the right spot in help defense and/or drop coverage and contesting shots is what will earn him minutes. The rim protection is there. How will he hold up in space? That’s the main question when it comes to Eubanks’ defense.
I’m excited for him to win Suns fans over.
#5) Josh Okogie - Wing
Last season there were some electrifying moments from Josh Okogie. He couldn’t quite put it all together, but he had his moments. This season, he’ll be in a similar role with even less offensive burden on his hands assuming the “big 3” are healthy.
All he needs to do when he’s on the floor:
- Provide excellent on-ball/point-of-attack defense
- Hit open threes at a decent clip
- Hustle & Bring Energy
The good news for him is that he excels in two of those three things naturally.
#6) Jordan Goodwin - Guard
Goodwin will have a chance to carve out meaningful minutes this season, and I believe the breakout potential is there. He brings toughness, defense, and the ability to play both on and off the ball at the guard position.
He still has to prove himself, but I believe there’s a path for him to be a regular in the rotation. I’m not saying he was the main reason they felt comfortable dealing Cam Payne, but their trust in him had to be a factor.
#7) Chimezie Metu - Center
Metu is an energy big that can come in and provide physicality and toughness in the interior. While he figures to initially play behind Ayton and Eubanks (and possibly Bol at times), I believe he’ll have a fair shot to carve out minutes at some point.
I liken their current center rotation to last year’s where Landale and Biyombo alternated a bit throughout the regular season (and playoffs) depending on matchups.
At the end of the day, having a third-string big that can give you multiple competent 5-8 minute stretches in a game is very welcome for Phoenix.
#8) Damion Lee - Guard
Lee won’t kill you, and he won’t play outside of himself. While that may not be the most ringing endorsement you’ve heard, he is a reliable shooter that can move off the ball and knock down shots. When Phoenix plays Booker-Beal-Durant lineups, one thing that will be vital is floor spacing.
Lee provides just that with the best of them. The direct path to consistent minutes isn’t there, but they will use him from time to time this season.
#9) Bol Bol - Forward
There’s a decent chance that Bol doesn’t step on the court for games or even weeks at a time this season once the rotation gets locked in. He could be one of the 5-6 guys on the outside looking in if he doesn’t establish himself early, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get the opportunity to prove himself and earn a rotation spot.
It’s a long season filled with injuries, trades, foul trouble, slumps, etc., so he will get his moment. I’m rooting for him to thrive in what should be an excellent environment for him to succeed both on and off the court.
#10) Toumani Camara - Forward
The rookie has to prove himself in games that count just as any rookie does, but I liked what he showed us in the Summer League.
He and Bol Bol are not likely to crack the opening night rotation, but as we all know, it’s a long season. If the opportunity arises and he seizes it, then he could find his way into the rotation due to team needs.
#11) Ish Wainright - Forward
#12) Saben Lee - Point Guard
#13) Udoka Azubuike - Center
Reader's Digest on ‘The Rest’
At this point, we all pretty much know what Ish is and what he isn’t. Take that as you will. I’m intrigued by Udoka. He has plenty of bigs to beat out for a chance to crack the rotation, but there could be something there. Lee is a shifty downhill threat that may get a chance given how few point guards are on the roster (none).
Drop your rankings below, Suns fans!