EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Devin Booker’s injury will test Suns’ perimeter versatility early

Sep 10, 2018, 4:32 PM
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)...
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

You do not need to be an expert nor much of a basketball head to see what the Phoenix Suns’ plan is when it comes to roster construction.

With trading up in the 2018 NBA Draft for Mikal Bridges, signing Trevor Ariza and selecting Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender in the two prior drafts, the Suns want positional versatility.

98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro reported Sunday that star shooting guard Devin Booker will be having hand surgery and the Suns announced a day later the recovery time is approximately six weeks. With the regular season already underway in six weeks time, Phoenix could be using that versatility soon.

Troy Daniels, Davon Reed and George King fill out the depth chart behind Booker at shooting guard. Daniels has started 19 of his career 241 games, Reed has 242 career NBA minutes and King has zero.

It’s less about those names, though, and more about the Suns possessing better-quality options at small forward. The long-time veteran Ariza is the favorite to start, but there is a glut behind him consisting of Bridges, Jackson and T.J. Warren.

Bridges brings the highly desirable shooting and defense, Jackson’s pace of play and skill is a plus and Warren’s know-how to score also helps. Ariza, Bridges and Jackson, in particular, also have the defensive presence and athleticism to guard some traditional 2s as well.

Starting two of those guys is an option and could be the plan while the Suns continue attempting to acquire a point guard on the trade market.

The key word there is “could.”

New head coach Igor Kokoskov already has a motion-heavy offensive system of ball and player movement to instill, on top of his other philosophies and other normal adjustments to bring as a new head coach.

Additionally, most of his team is young and inexperienced. Very young, in fact.

Ariza is the one player in the versatile wing realm with a plethora of NBA experience. Bridges is a rookie, Jackson is entering year two and Warren has had an inconsistent role prior to last season.

So, how soon would Kokoskov want to pull the trigger on abandoning the ideas of positions on the wings and instead have the shooting guard and small forward serve as two wings?

It’s another complex consideration to push by a franchise that is simply looking to start fresh with Kokoskov and build winning habits they would already have — if a solid foundation had been built two years ago.

Oh yeah, and the Suns tried this last year.

We saw how Jackson’s beginning of the season went when he started alongside Booker, Warren and Eric Bledsoe in the first three games of last season.

Yes, it’s sexy to think about Jackson, Bridges, Ariza, Bender and Deandre Ayton all playing together, switching everything on defense and bringing an ocean of spacing to the floor, at least compared to the past few seasons.

It’s not that simple, though, especially without the Suns’ best player and overwhelming No. 1 option on offense.

It’s an early, unexpected test for Kokoskov, one he has to ponder before even seeing a second of his team at training camp.

While Booker is out, the Suns could simply start Daniels and pick their spots with implementing the wings, or dive in right away to the concept of positionless basketball.

Either way, Kokoskov will have to do the nearly impossible and make up for the loss of Booker the best he can, and how he chooses to do so could give an inclination of where he sees the short and long-term future of his team.

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