Health. It’s been the primary challenge that Phoenix Suns head coach Frank Vogel has had to navigate the entire season. You can have all the talent in the world — and the Suns have a talented roster indeed — but if your players are not healthy enough to lace up their Book 1’s and hit the hardwood, it’s a moot point.
Per Spotrac, the Phoenix Suns have lost 109 games to injury thus far during the 2023-24 campaign. While that is the sixth most among NBA teams — the Memphis Grizzlies are first with 176 games lost — the cumulative payroll lost during those games is the highest. The Suns have paid out $25.9 million to players who weren’t playing (the Golden State Warriors are a close second with $25.0 million).
However you slice it, that isn’t good. Availability is needed for success to occur. Depth in the NBA is tested nightly, and if any aspect of your roster is compromised, you are already losing.
Just look at the team teams with the least amount of games missed:
- Oklahoma City Thunder — 24 games (25-11, 2nd in the Western Conference)
- Minnesota Timberwolves — 31 games (26-11, 1st in the Western Conference)
- Boston Celtics — 38 games (29-8, 1st in the Eastern Conference)
- Indiana Pacers — 38 games (22-15, 4th in the Eastern Conference)
What does this tell you? How many of these teams did you have leading their conference or in the top four midway through the season? The Pacers? Availability is the best ability, and these teams are taking advantage of that.
As for the Suns? The lack of availability has stunted the chemistry. The team has been in an idling state, constantly awaiting the moment to turn over the engine and press the gas pedal. Every chance they’ve had, however, a spark plug misfires and the machine abruptly stalls.
Starting Thursday night against the Lakers, however, all spark plugs will be in place and Frank Vogel can begin to rev the living hell out of the engine, unleashing the horsepower upon the league.
Phoenix Suns coach Frank Vogel said Bol Bol (ankle), Nassir Little (knee) and Udoka Azubuike (illness) are back, meaning Suns will be fully healthy for first time going into a game outside of Damion Lee (knee), who hasn't played this season after Oct. 11 surgery. #Suns https://t.co/53CeOqnMpB— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) January 10, 2024
The Suns’ Big Three has been playing of late, but ancillary players around them have been out. Bol Bol tweaked his ankle last week in a win against the Miami Heat. Nassir Little has been nursing his left knee and hasn’t played in 2024. Both players were starting to acquire traction until their injuries prevented them from continuing.
“Bol had picked up some momentum with three positive games,” Frank Vogel said. “We’re excited to get him back in there.”
What will we be watching as Frank Vogel has a full deck of cards? How does he play them? What are his visions for rotations and how will the Lakers force his hand, whether it be via a physical style of play or getting the Suns in foul trouble?
Vogel has made rotational adjustments thus far this season out of necessity. With a full roster, he can begin to make decisions based on matchups and skill sets.
It will be up to the players to execute, which has been an issue unto itself this season.