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Suns’ Frank Kaminsky prideful of playmaking growth, hopes to return

Phoenix Suns' Frank Kaminsky celebrates after hitting a three point shot against the Los Angeles Clippers during an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

Frank Kaminsky is one of potentially many moving parts in the Phoenix Suns’ frontcourt this offseason.

He, Aron Baynes and Dario Saric all stepped up at separate points to help Phoenix put together a 34-39 year capped with an 8-0 run in the NBA’s bubble, but none are guaranteed to return. Kaminsky, signed last year on the room mid-level exception, has a $5 million team option.

“I’m not nervous about anything,” he told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “I’m excited that I have the opportunity to come back. Obviously I really like it here.

“I learned a lot last year — it was my first time going through free agency. A lot of it is out of your hands. I hope that I’m back, and I’m going to keep working for whatever happens.”

Ideally, Kaminsky would slot in as a third or fourth power forward or center, but it’s a matter of how general manager James Jones attacks the offseason regarding his three backup bigs.

Saric has the edge on Kaminsky on three-point shooting (36% to 33%), dribbling ability and finishing ability (67% to 60% from three feet and in). He also comes in a sturdier package.

Kaminsky might be the less expensive option compared to Saric, who started 51 games but in the bubble was arguably one of the Suns’ best players while being utilized as a bullying, undersized center. Saric has a $10 million cap hold and will likely command more money than Kaminsky on the open market.

Kaminsky averaged 9.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in 2019-20, but it was his playmaking that Phoenix valued.

Both he and Saric brought value as “connectors” in Phoenix’s offense, in the words of head coach Monty Williams.

Their ability to swing the ball and space the court was something that’s becoming a necessity, especially as the Suns have filled the roster with shooting (Mikal Bridges, Devin Booker and Cam Johnson), a massive rim-runner (Deandre Ayton) and slashers (Kelly Oubre and Bridges).

“You see it … with a lot of teams in the NBA,” Kaminsky said. “I think my skill that I’m most proud of … is my ability to be a playmaker at the four or the five position.

“It definitely helps when you have skilled bigs who can go out there and help people play to their strengths. That’s something I’ve been very prideful about. I’ve been able to learn people-I’ve played-with’s games and been able to help them play better and put them in better positions.”

Kaminsky showed an ability to take two dribbles — defenders respected his shot enough to close out on him — then make a pass to a cutter. Or he would simply swing the ball.

His ability to pick-and-pop off a dribble also gives his teammates something that won’t show up on the stat sheet.

How the Suns, giddy off their turnaround season, act will be intriguing. This is expected to be frugal offseason by most NBA teams because of the pandemic.

For Phoenix, a trade is the most likely pathway to shaking up a frontcourt that could use more size to complement the success of wing-heavy usage from last season. The draft always comes with its surprises, though there is limited forward talent there if the Suns stick at picking 10th.

Kaminsky’s minutes were spotty with a relatively healthy team in the bubble, and his last two games there is what makes his place on next year’s roster curious.

He scored 13 points in 12 minutes in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers but didn’t leave the bench in the finale against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I’m excited for what the Suns can do, and I’m excited that I was able to be of part of this small turnaround that we had here the last few months and dating back to last season,” he told Doug & Wolf.

“I think a lot of people progressed. We spent a lot of time together so we were pretty much forced to learn each other better. That just gives you a heightened sense of excitement going into next season, knowing what we know know and what we can do when we really prepare the way we did in the bubble and what we did in the bubble.”


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