There is plenty we know about the 2023-24 Phoenix Suns. They are the highest priced team the franchise has ever put on the court, currently bankrolled at $187.1 million with $51.9 million in estimated luxury tax penalties. They have a combined 19 All-Star appearances in their starting five.
One question mark that remains is who will join Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Deandre Ayton in the starting lineup? Given the roster’s makeup, there may be multiple answers to this question, and we can expect various approaches from Frank Vogel from night to night. Do you want length and defense? Insert Keita Bates-Diop. Do you want another ball handler on the floor? Insert Eric Gordon. You want a more small-ball approach with someone who exerts energy and hustle? Enter Josh Okogie.
This is a conversation we will continue to have until basketball officially begins in mid-October. Yes, mid-October. We’re still a long way from knowing the answer to that question. So, in true off-season form, we’re going to live in the realm of “what if”. And this “what if”? Oh, I’ve got a good one for you today.
The Case for Steve Nash
For those who are pining for a traditional starting point guard on the 2023-24 Suns, it doesn’t get more traditional than this. A two-time MVP at the point guard position, Nash is as selfless as they come. His creativity on the offensive end would leave Booker, Durant, Beal, and Ayton so wide-open for their shot selection that they’d have time to tie their shoe laces.
When you look at his time in Phoenix, Nash truly raised the game of his fellow teammates. The list of career seasons played alongside Nash includes Raja Bell, Quentin Richardson, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and many others. These players never experienced the same level of success as they did when they played with the selfless point guard. From age 30 to 37, Nash averaged 16.3 points and 10.9 assists. Nash put together remarkable seasons, and had five of the best assist seasons in Suns history.
Nash is made for the modern NBA, and given his ability to shoot the three-ball – he was a career 42.8% three-point shooter albeit on 3.2 attempts – he would plug right into this lineup. A primary distributor, if defenders chose to play drop coverage on a Nash pick-and-roll, he would eviscerate them.
The primary challenge with Nash is his defense and the overall effect he would have on the Suns’ ability to play on that side of the ball. Nash at the point would mean that Kevin Durant would have to play the power forward position, which isn’t necessarily where he excels. Due to the physicality of playing on the block versus playing on the perimeter, on both sides of the ball, you might not see the best version of KD.
The same would go for Devin Booker, as he would become your small forward. As a point guard or a shooting guard, he matches up nicely against positions like in the NBA. But as a small forward he is undersized.
While a lineup of Nash, Bill, Booker, Durant, and Ayton is an offensive nightmare for opposing teams to defend, you’d have to wonder if their primary strategy would mirror that of the Seven Seconds or Less era. They are just trying to outscore you. And we know how that turned out in the postseason, didn’t we? Although in this scenario, Mike D’Antoni isn’t running the team into the ground.
The Case for Shawn Marion
Anytime you discuss a player from the past being inserted into the modern team, Shawn Marion‘s name comes up. Why? Because he was far ahead of his time. His ability to be effective on offense was not hampered by never having plays designed for him. A funny shot, sure, but his hustle combined with his pogo stick-like second step made him highly effective scoring and rebounding.
Remember 2005-06? With Amare Stoudemire out the entire season, Shawn Marion played the power forward for the Suns 65% of the time at 6’7” and the team won 54 games. His athleticism and his ability to attack the cylinder, both while rebounding and scoring, make him a quality choice to insert with the 2023-24 Phoenix Suns.
Marion’s flexibility as a player also allows for the Suns to try different things on both offense and defense. Do you want Kevin Durant playing power forward tonight? Go for it. Is it Marion’s turn at the four due to the matchup? Go for it. You aren’t compromising defensive success, rebounding, or offensive production with Marion in the lineup.
Another plus to have in Marion is, as stated above, he doesn’t need the ball. Booker, Beal, and Durant can cook offensively, and Marion can attack the boards and generate points on put backs opportunities. With Marion and Ayton on the interior, DA could be more successful defensively because he can gamble a little bit more. The athleticism of the Matrix can make up for poor decisions made by his fellow defenders.
One thing that can sway you on this decision is thinking about the Matrix like we do Okogie. Marion is a career 33.1% shooter from deep, but if given the volume we might not see that same success rate. He averaged just 2.9 attempts per game in his career with the Suns.
The Case for Amare Stoudemire
Standing tall and talented, Amare would gladly play the power forward position with the Suns as that is where he believes he can operate at his best. A small-ball center during the Seven Seconds or Less era, he was unbelievably effective finishing around the rim. It’s due to our history with Stoudemire that Ayton gets overly criticized for his finesse around the cylinder, for we have seen what it is like to have someone on the team who absolutely hates the basket and wants to destroy it every time the ball is in his hands.
Adding STAT to this team will increase the Suns’ size dramatically. He, Ayton, and Durant all stand at 6’10” or above, and due to their athleticism, can create walls that even Giannis Antetokounmpo would second-guess trying to breach. Highlight dunks would once again be a nightly occurrence with his addition, and his switchability with Ayton would allow DA to operate in space that he would like to do as well, as a power forward.
This would be the true definition of position-less basketball for Phoenix, as they would have no true point guard, and no true center, just an arsenal of scoring wings.
We witnessed what Stoudemire was like with Steve Nash, and how their elite connectedness via the pick-and-roll annihilated opposing defenses. In this position-less world, it would be interesting to see how effective Stoudemire would be. A polar opposite of Ayton, as he demands the ball much more than DA ever would, he would have a challenge trying to get his in this offense. Happiness could be an issue.
It’s a silly game, but something that’s fun to think about. And when NBA2K is released on September 7, I might insert each one of those players and try it out. I’m sure there’s ways that I can have three Phoenix Suns teams, each with a different member of the Seven Seconds or Less era inserted, spending a season together. I’ll keep you updated as to what the outcome is.
But in the meantime, I’m asking you, Bright Side, as to who you believe would be the best fit from the Seven Seconds or Less era into the 2023-24 Phoenix Suns.
Which member of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns’ dynamic trio would fit ideally with this current roster?
This poll is closed