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Suns going ‘0.5’ on offense flows with front office’s moves in offseason

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams smiles as he answers a question about the re-signing of Kelly Oubre Jr. with the Suns NBA basketball team during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — If you’re tuning in and listening to the likes of Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones, head coach Monty Williams or the players speak, you’re going to hear them refer to “point-five” quite a bit.

This refers to their central philosophy on offense, which is quick-trigger decisionmaking on offense in 0.5 seconds or less.

“For me, it’s a free way to play basketball,” Williams said Wednesday. “You either shoot it, pass it or drive it. Just don’t hold the ball, and it has to happen in 0.5 seconds. So we’ll play faster because of that.”

Now, if this sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. Last year’s head coach Igor Kokoskov referred to it as more of a “blender.”

Here is the now-fired Kokoskov last September on that offense.

We use that term ‘blender.’ Put them in a blender. Drive-and-kick and (an) extra pass … attacking from all different angles. Let ’em figure (it) out so it’s not one guy on a spotlight and everybody else standing and watching.

The core difference here is that there is a central alignment between general manager and coach on the types of players they want. Yes, this is where we get back to the cliches we heard all summer of “players who play the right way” and blahblahblah.

But there’s a plan in place to get the most out of those players on the court, a system that will get the most out of “high IQ players” and not the likes of Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and so on, players the Suns attached assets to in order to get rid of last offseason.

In come the likes of Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome. All four players looked comfortable with the high pace in Tuesday’s win that demanded them to make the right basketball action time after time in a rapid manner.

“I think that’s where James and I have synergy,” Williams said. “We know the kinds of guys that we want in our system. High character guys who make the right plays from a basketball standpoint, that know how to work, know how to handle a situation, but they can play in point-five. I think that’s where the league is heading.”

And having a point guard like Rubio in place makes it easier for him to not only take the lead on playing that way but making sure guys are keeping it moving and playing within the system.

This is also going to favor versatility, where Devin Booker’s combo guard skills, the players on the wing and playmaking of Dario Saric and Deandre Ayton help as well.

Speaking of Booker, a guy whose primary skill is as an individual scorer might not seem like a match made in heaven.

Turns out it’s the contrary and it sounds like the proper fit.

“He’s probably been the best point-five guy we’ve had because he wanted to play this way,” Williams said. “I think his ability to score and shoot — point-five fits his talent base.”

Booker was asked how that style can help him.

“It’ll make me more efficient. Scoring without the ball, playing without the ball and everybody playing with each other,” he said. “You look at the successful teams in the playoffs, the Warriors, Spurs — teams that have been generally successful — the way they move without the ball and the way the ball snaps and everybody shares it, it works out well.”

The ball “snapping” as Booker puts it is some of what we saw Tuesday night. Cam Johnson, in particular, seemed to really understand his role.

Johnson probably held the ball for a total of less than 30 seconds against the Minnesota Timberwolves but touched it at least 10-15 times. Johnson was either shooting with space or driving hard against an aggressive closeout with one or two dribbles before either shooting or passing.

Williams brought up Johnson unprompted when asked about the specific players the Suns targeted to do well in point-five.

“I think it allows for a younger guy by class to be able to look like he’s not as young by his play,” he said.

So, again, to take you back a few months when the Suns “reached” on Johnson with the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, they obviously had him rated right around there or even higher based on the basketball intangibles that meshed with the ideology.

It’s telling that when Johnson was given the question of the game being a step or two quicker than they expected like so many rookies say, his reply was “not really.”

“That’s what we want to do — play quick,” Johnson said. “I think it benefits me for sure.”

GOOD INJURY UPDATE

— Aron Baynes (broken nose), Mikal Bridges (right knee) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (right wrist) all practiced on Wednesday. That marks the first time Bridges and Oubre have practiced fully this season. Williams would not say if any of the three will play on Thursday against the Sacramento Kings.

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