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Suns Player Preview Wrap Up: One key factor for each player in 2023-24

Need to be “in the know”? We’re here to help you out!

Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

15 days. That is what separates us from now and seeing the Phoenix Suns take to court for their first preseason game against the Detroit Pistons.

This long hot summer is coming to an end, and when the mercury begins to fall, the excitement for Suns’ basketball begins to rise. RISE PHX, wasn’t that the tagline of the 2019-20 Suns? I’m sure I have a banner somewhere with that phrase printed upon it.

We’ve been working hard here at Bright Side to put together the Suns Player Previews in preparation for the most highly anticipated season in Phoenix Suns’ history. You can read all of those player previews right here, which will arm you with a smorgasbord of knowledge that will come in handy when you are sitting at your local pub and talking about the roster construction with your homies. You’re going to sound so smart and informed!

Is that too much for you? Clicking the link and going page by tedious page and reading the hours of work the writing team poured into their research? That’s okay! If you want a quick synopsis of the one key factor portion of the articles for each player, I’ve tied it all together in this piece right here for you!

In no particular order (or is it? Can you figure it out?):

Jordan Goodwin

One key factor by Kyle Glazier:

It remains to be seen how exactly the point guard situation will shake out for the Suns. The starting lineup looks to arguably feature no “true” point guard with Devin Booker and Goodwin’s Wizards teammate Bradley Beal (another new addition, of course) anchoring the backcourt for the Suns and their new head coach.

Goodwin could help his cause a lot by improving as a shooter this season. No matter how good a pure defender a point guard can be in the NBA, he will always have a certain ceiling if the defense can cheat too much by sagging off him when he has the ball more than 20 feet from the rim. Goodwin can’t claim to have Ricky Rubio-like court vision, so it seems likely he needs to work toward a 3&D profile to elevate his status in the league.

Devin Booker

One key factor by Brandon Duenas:

The main talking point many would expect when making an MVP case for Devin Booker would be a defensive leap.

I’m going to zig while others zag and say that an increase in offensive efficiency and playmaking is where the true superstar leap could form.

We saw how brilliant he was in the playoffs, posting an NBA2K “sliders all the way up” shooting split of 58.5/50.8/86.6. While shooting nearly 60 percent from the field is unsustainable for someone that takes as many difficult shots as him, if he can aim for the 50/40/90 club and lead Phoenix to a top seed in the West, he’s in the mix.

Forget MVP talk, if he can take a leap in efficiency, it primes the Suns for a championship run and makes them a much more dangerous team. If you combine that with improved playmaking and the assist to turnover ratio improves then we’re cooking with grease.

We could see some high assist outings from the Kentucky product as well in games where he handles point responsibilities. The roster construction is set up for what will be some electric “point Book” lineups.

Josh Okogie

One key factor by John Voita:

Mental toughness. Okogie did well in 2022-23 when he was given time with the first team. His season started slow, as did his production, but as the injuries and acquisitions occurred and opportunity presented itself, he flourished.

We are not sure yet as to how Frank Vogel will navigate this roster and if Okogie will automatically be slotted as a starter. If he is, expect defensive production. But don’t expect much on the offensive end. With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal around him, the shot opportunities will not be plentiful.

If a Vogel is experimenting with his roster, plugging Okogie in and out of the lineup based on recent production or opposing matchups, that is where the mental toughness will have to come in for the player. Instability drives lack of rhythm, lack of rhythm leads to lack of production and engagement. If you could be mentally tough, which the past has shown us that he can, great things might lie ahead for Okogie.

Bradley Beal

One key factor by Holden Sherman:

How he complements Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. According to reports Beal is expected to operate as the Suns point guard to start the year, and in order for the team to dominate the league like they plan on doing, Phoenix’s primary ball handlers will need to be working in unison.

In a way Beal’s job is essentially what Chris Paul’s was this past postseason, capitalize off of the open looks that will be generated by playing alongside some of the best scorers in the game. Due to him being younger and just a naturally better off-ball player, Beal should fit in seamlessly into this role.

Chimezie Metu

One key factor by John Voita:

Commitment to defense.

Metu will play hard and has a 7’ wingspan. Those are two key components to catching Vogel‘s eye. I can foresee Chimezie being like Jock Landale last year, where we’d see him for a while as the head coach attempted to make sense of who and what he is. The difference between Metu and Landale is the head coach. Monty liked his guys and, despite their performance, he would negate consistency by not allowing them opportunity. Metu’s hustle and effectiveness on the defensive end will ultimately determine how much playing time he sees.

Damion Lee

One key factor by Kyle Glazier:

A key factor in determining the season Damion Lee has this year will be the way other Suns play. He’s on such a cheap deal that it’s hard to imagine the Suns view him as much more than an insurance depth/locker room chemistry piece. If Josh Okogie doesn’t play well, Lee will see his playing time increased. If Okogie improves meaningfully as a shooter over last season, I could see Lee’s role being pretty limited. He doesn’t entirely fit into the vision of a tough, physical unit that new Suns head coach Frank Vogel has articulated.

He’ll surely get some time on the floor regardless, but if he wants to maximize that then he needs to really knock down his triples when he is out there.

Bol Bol

One key factor by Matthew Lissy:

Finding what he’s good at. You can see that he has an all-around game with glimpses of potential.

He will settle for the three then at times try to the rim after pump fake. If he can use his size as an advantage on any part of the floor with a jump shot over a defender or using the glass with a better angle against a defender in the paint, he will earn decent minutes and the Sun’s rotation.

Ish Wainright

One key factor by Matthew Lissy:

Injuries, like I mentioned before, this is the only opportunity that I can see is getting minutes. Unless there’s some thing that happens in training camp unless there’s something that happens in practice where is it seen as a guy that can contribute on a consistent basis.

Until that happens, I don’t feel like we will see Ish this coming season as much as we hope for last season.

Drew Eubanks

One key factor by Damon Allred:

So I think Eubanks is really good, especially considering the contract. Trouble is Phoenix’s fourth-best player is a center too. Eubanks may have gotten used to the 20-plus minutes per game he got in Portland, but there’s just not going to be that much of an opportunity here.

Our one key factor for Eubanks is playing time. Does Deandre Ayton play 65-plus (his average over the past three seasons) or more like 55-plus games? And how well is Eubanks able to step up into the bigger role in those instances? If Eubanks does play well enough, does he cut into Ayton’s minutes at all (about 30 mpg for all but one season)?

Yuta Watanabe

One key factor by Dave King:

To get big minutes, he’s got to be able to hold up defensively against driving ball handlers. Yuta will definitely bring the effort, but it’s all got to be about results. He doesn’t need to be the best defender on the team. Just can’t be the worst.

The Suns defense will be different under Vogel than it was under Monty Williams, but you can expect there will still be a lot of switching. Switching limits the physical toll on injury-prone defenders like Durant, Booker and Beal, by allowing the next man to take your guy off a pick rather than have to fight through it every time. We don’t know if Deandre Ayton will get the Roy Hibbert role? The Anthony Davis role? Or the late-career JaVale McGee role?

We don’t know. But what we do know is this: that fifth starter is going to have to take on a lot on defense during the regular season to cover for Durant/Booker/Beal saving their energy for other things.

So Watanabe will have to be able to switch onto defenders ranging from quick point guards to burly big men. Sometimes back and forth on the same possession. To handle that, he will need to move his feet side to side defensively, stopping the bully-ball drives into contact for a foul call by getting to the defensive spot before the offensive player is past him. Bridges was quick enough to avoid being blown by. Johnson was mostly good on that end, but inconsistent. Craig was less consistent than Johnson. Okogie was pretty good. Damion Lee was so so bad, and sadly Cameron Payne struggled on this as well. Terrence Ross? T.J. Warren? Don’t get me started. You might be surprised to hear that Landry Shamet was kind good on this (staying in front of the ball handler) which was why he got more minutes than you thought he deserved.

Watanabe is going to have to be respectable on an island against a ball handler on defense. You ever hear that saying “when a bear is chasing you, just don’t be the slowest runner”? That same thinking can be applied here.

Toumani Camara

One key factor by John Voita:

Playing time.

The challenge that many rookies have faced during the James Jones era is they don’t have an opportunity to develop. Given the roster that Jones has constructed this off-season, it appears that this once again could be true. Unless Phoenix is absolutely obliterating the opposition, we probably won’t see too much Camara. The Suns could send him to the G-League, despite not having an affiliate as of yet, in an effort to try to give him more minutes and develop as a player.

Keita Bates-Diop

One key factor by Brandon Duenas:

It all comes down to the jumper. This is the case with many Suns role players that will be vying for that fifth starter spot along with the right to close games out.

In 2022-23 for San Antonio, he made nearly 40 percent of his threes on a slight uptick in attempts. He shot 47.5 percent on wide open looks but when an opponent was within six feet of him, he only shot 28.3 percent.

Deandre Ayton

One key factor by Holden Sherman:

How he plays defensively. Phoenix has a lot of interesting defensive pieces this year. Kevin Durant and Devin Booker are legit defenders, Josh Okogie may be limited on offense, but he plays super strong on defense, and Keita Bates-Diop, an offseason signing, appears to be a versatile defender who has the ability to guard multiple positions.

None of these players, nor any player on the Phoenix Suns can have the impact that Deandre Ayton can have on the Suns defensively this year. He needs to stay mentally locked in at all times, even if players like Nikola Jokić and Joel Embiid are busting his chops, even if he’s not getting the ball as much as he likes, an issue that many big men experience, he must stay determined and committed to anchoring and protecting the paint from any opposition that cares to walk in on his rule.

Eric Gordon

One key factor by John Voita:

In his career Gordon has averaged 32.1 minutes per game. 77% of those games have come as a starter, but coming off the bench he has still averaged 28.1 minutes. He will have a bigger impact that I think most are prepared to see. We aren’t used to quality bench productions; we are used to trying to survive until Booker gets back on to the court.

What Gordon does with that time will be not only a key factor for him, but for the overall success of the team. Phoenix is top heavy. A player like Gordon will have the ability to stabilize lineups and keep the Suns’ engine running nice and easy like a V8 versus a four-banger redlining.

Kevin Durant

One key factor by Holden Sherman:


Durant has played with many stars with many different play styles in his career. It is already apparent that he and Devin Booker are a lethal duo and Bradley Beal, similarly to Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving, is someone who knows how to put the ball in the hoop at an effective rate. There should be little to no concern about his fit with Beal or that he and new head coach Frank Vogel won’t see eye to eye.

As long as the Suns’ big four gets enough experience in the regular season to learn how to play cohesively with each other, there should be no fear about their ability to play well together. Durant just needs to do his part and stay healthy to the best of his abilities. As apparent with recent NBA champions such as the Bucks and Nuggets, it is important for a team to establish strong rapport with each other before April comes around.

Saben Lee

One key factor by Matthew Lissy:

There are concerns about the defensive play of Devin Booker and Bradley Beal at the guard positions, so this is where Jordan Goodwin comes into play. Goodwin is the biggest factor in Lee getting playing time. The defense of Goodwin will help withstand a lot of stretches throughout the season when stops are needed.

Goodwin seems like a better mate next to Booker or Beal, providing defense, but there is a world where Lee can steal minutes from Goodwin if Lee’s play noticeably improves from last year.

It’s a good problem to have, and I believe that Lee will provide high-quality minutes, but he might be outplayed by Goodwin who is a solid defender.

Udoka Azubuike

One key factor by John Voita:


If Udoka wants to see time with this team — which would be primarily limited to garbage time — he needs to display an ability to be productive when given the opportunity. Doke was a dominant player while with the Kansas Jayhawks, averaging 13.7 and 10.5 in his senior year. The best way to get back to that form is to focus on being an athlete.

There it is. The key factors for each player. Feel informed? You should.

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