In hindsight, it was easy to see Phoenix’s 4th quarter struggles and suggest that a point guard was the solution to all of their problems.
They do have an untraditional roster makeup, and that makes traditionalists uneasy. What if the solution this whole time was simply getting healthy and developing chemistry?
Well, they still have issues, but point guard is not near the top of my list.
Let’s take a step back and analyze the facts.
The “Big 3” works.
The Phoenix Suns are 10-3 since Bradley Beal returned to the lineup on December 29th against the Charlotte Hornets. They have won six straight games, including two massive 20-plus point comebacks.
They have the 4th best offense in the association since then, and the big three are quickly forming chemistry. They have even posted a top-12 defense in this span since the return of Beal, getting it done on both ends.
Phoenix’s starting lineup of Nurkic-Durant-Allen-Beal-Booker has played 164 minutes and is +12.8 in their minutes together.
The lineup of Nurkic-Durant-Gordon-Allen-Booker has the BEST defensive rating in the NBA (min. 100 minutes played) at 100.3. That group has played in 17 games together, totaling 151 minutes.
The lack of depth and inconsistent rotations are still valid concerns along with health, of course. That being said, the evidence points towards this group working. Now, how can we enhance it when looking at a playoff setting specifically?
Kevin Garnett says the Phoenix Suns need a point guard, suggesting Tyus Jones as one solution. While I don’t hate that idea and have even suggested him (Tyus) in the past myself, I believe there are far more pressing needs at the moment. They don’t have the assets to get a deal done for Tyus without including one of Allen or Nurkic involved in a larger deal.
“They need a point guard, bro,” Garnett said. “That’s why that (expletive) looked like that, bro. They need a real point guard. Bradley Beal, let’s keep this real. Bradley Beal is a two. Booker is a two. Guess what they want to do? They want to score the ball, bro. I don’t want Booker coming down consolidating, I need that (expletive) cooking!”
Along with Garnett’s input, we had Boogie Cousins join the club on Monday saying Phoenix needs a traditional point guard to bolster its roster.
He prefaced it by saying they need to be “defensive-minded” which... how many defensive-minded point guards that are playable in the playoffs are A) available and B) exist?
I’ll wait for that very short, possibly nonexistent list.
The Suns have won five straight, but @BoogieCousins says they still need a point guard to compete with the NBA's most elite. Agree? All I can say is that if they do go get a PG, he better be defensive-minded.— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 22, 2024
Catch the full episode of Bully Ball wherever you get your podcasts pic.twitter.com/BROzvBpUa7
The primary need starts at the wing position, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns are limited in the “types” of moves they can make, so making the right one is more important than trying to solve a problem that we aren’t even sure exists.
Why are we in a hurry to get the ball out of the ‘stars’ hands? What actions are these point guards going to get Phoenix into that they aren’t already running?
“It’s less about needing a pure point guard and more about the balance of what they run on offense,” Steve Jones.
This was a great clip from JJ Redick’s podcast, ‘The Old Man & the Three’ featuring Steve Jones Jr. and Nekias Duncan which you can watch here.
The Suns talk begins at the 9:36 mark in the episode.
What they DO need
Don’t get me wrong. Adding a stable point guard would be nice — especially for the bench unit — but it’s not first on the list. We’ve seen what having a smaller weak link on the defensive side of the ball can do come playoff time.
Size and versatility are so important when it comes to building a team to win 16 games in the early summer. That is the ultimate goal here.
A championship roster that can match up with just about anyone. The Clippers, for example, are a nightmare for Phoenix due to their wings having the size advantage.
Adding a wing/forward that can defend multiple positions and knock down threes is number one on the list of Suns needs for me. Point-of-attack defense is a clear weakness of the Suns, and getting smaller isn’t the first thought that creeps into my mind as a solution.
They also lack a tough, physical “tone setter” that can mix it up and play the villain role.
Checking all of those boxes with a physical 3&D forward is the move. The bad news is those don’t grow on trees and the Suns are limited in trade assets and maneuverability.
Adding someone who can serve as the clear 7th man in their rotation behind the top six in Nurkic, Durant, Allen, Gordon, Beal, and Booker is vital. The Suns rollercoaster rotation outside of those six guys could use a stable presence that is low maintenance and impacts winning.
It would go a long way to give Frank Vogel another trustworthy rotation player.
I’m not asking for the moon. I am asking for an absolute dog that brings intensity and toughness to this surging Suns squad.