Phoenix Suns media day is less than a week away and the end of the long summer off-season is in sight. How was your summer? Hot? Yeah, it tends to do that. The time away from actual basketball has remained eventful. It has been a roller coaster of transactions, roster reconstruction, new coaches, new TV deals, new uniforms, and new hope for the Suns organization. There’ve been TV antennas and new announcers, trade rumors and international play.
As training camp approaches, so too come questions about the state of the Suns and how this collection of personalities, skill sets, and basketball abilities will mesh together and form a team. You can have all of the talent in the world, but if you cannot come together as a team, it’s a moot point.
It’s time to explore some of these questions and answer them with more questions!
Do the Suns have an MVP candidate on their roster?
Your first instinct is to say, “yes”. Why wouldn’t you? When you have Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal on a roster, all three have the potential to be an MVP candidate. Booker is entering his prime, Beal could benefit from the gravity that Book and KD generate, and KD is one of the all-time elite scorers in the game. Ever.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you have to wonder if their production will cannibalize their ability to be mentioned in the conversation. An MVP typically is someone who statistically dominates the box score whilst simultaneously being the primary reason for their team winning games. With the offensive firepower that the Phoenix Suns possess with top-end trio, you’re not quite sure if – over the duration of a season – one of them can become the clear statistical leader.
Kevin Durant might be the MVP one night and, based on how opposing defenses attack the Suns in their next game, it could be Bradley Beal. It’s not a bad thing if they don’t have an MVP candidate. It is a bad thing if they’re not winning basketball games.
Is Deandre Ayton going to change the narrative?
A new coach, new system, and a new opportunity for the former first overall pick who’s entering his sixth season are on the table. Is DA ready to unroll his napkin, clutch his knife and fork, and eat? Pass the pepper, please.
He knows that there is a narrative that exists and he stated that he’s going to do what he can to change that narrative. We are all anxiously wondering if he will finally walk the talk.
Frank Vogel loves a rim protector and will empower Ayton to be an elite defender. “I think he can be one of the best centers in the league,” Frankie V said. Can he take advantage of this new situation and become what Vogel needs him to be?
DA’s offensive production will be secondary, and I hope everybody understands and realizes that as we enter this season. Ayton scored 18 points-per-game last season and grabbed 10 rebounds, and I don’t know if that is something we should necessarily expect from a statistical standpoint this season. It isn’t the narrative of statistics that he’s ultimately trying to change, it is the narrative of engagement and involvement possession by possession.
If it results in an increase in statistical success, primarily on the rebounding and defensive end, I think we would all be happy. That being said, no one’s ever happy with Deandre Ayton. Ever.
Who will be the fifth starter?
Training camp and the preseason could give us some insight as to how Vogel wants to navigate the fifth starter for the Suns. Is he going to utilize Kevin Durant as a small forward and opt to start Keita Bates-Diop? Or is Josh Okogie going to assume the three and Kevin Durant will be the power forward to begin the season? Will Phoenix adjust their starting lineup based on the match up or are they looking to impose their will and run out the same starting five as much as possible in an effort to create continuity?
What will Bradley Beal’s role look like?
We’ve been told that Bradley Beal will assume the point guard position in a position-less basketball system, but what does that really mean? How much will we actually see him running a true point guard set versus simply being the player who brings the ball up the court to initiate the offense?
Beal has the ability to be an effective playmaker although it has not been a role he has had to assume throughout his time in the NBA. He’s played alongside John Wall (back when John Wall was an effective player) as well as Russell Westbrook. His transition into his new role will be one of note and something that will be interesting to witness as the season begins.
Is Bol Bol a rotational player?
No. Next question.
Okay, I’m just kidding. Kind of. Bol Bol, who was one of the last additions by James Jones, has put up plenty of Twitter-worthy highlights in gymnasiums playing against guys with my athletic ability as of late.
Bol Bol playing pick up in the gym during the NBA offseason pic.twitter.com/Wu3D1mGMIc— 2Cool2Blog (@2Cool2Blog) September 19, 2023
I hope he can prove me wrong, but I am not sure if he is a top ten talent on this team. He possesses physical skill sets that suggest different, but he is fundamentally a player in between. He’s too skinny to be an effective center as defenders can easily push him off his spot due to his center of gravity. He is too slow to be an effective perimeter defender and was the worst perimeter defender in the NBA last season.
So can he crack the rotation? Or will he simply be a garbage time addition that the fans will start to cheer on once he approaches the scoring table?
What will the Suns offense actually look like?
This is one of the fun questions that we truly won’t know until we start to see a play out in real time on the court. You have three amazing scorers. You have one of the most efficient interior scorers in the league, although he never gets the touches. You have a non-traditional approach to the game as a team doesn’t have a truly defined point guard. So what the heck is this gonna look like? Does the team have the ability to play selfless basketball and not simply try to take turns on offense? Will it be seamless or a struggle to achieve?
Will we ever see Toumani Camara?
The rookie out of Dayton was exciting in his Summer League performances. He looked like he belonged. It felt like he belonged. His 6’8” frame, basketball IQ, and instincts were clearly a level above those he played against in the summer version of the NBA.
So will we ever see him this season? Can he carve out a little piece of real estate and be productive in the time allotted to him?
Where are the tacos?
I don’t know. But Fanning the Flames’ Dervish of Whirl is wondering.
One week until training camp. One week until some of these questions are accompanied by answers. One week until we have new questions that need new answers. One week.