By the numbers: Key traits of the 2023-24 Suns’ role players
Jul 7, 2023, 1:07 PM
(AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Filling out the Phoenix Suns’ roster around Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal surely was a chore.
James Jones and the front office obviously needed to space the floor with shooters and provide defensive support around their mid-range trio. Playmaking to take pressure off them, too, was important.
Phoenix added guard Jordan Goodwin in the Beal acquisition to help. They re-signed Josh Okogie and Damion Lee for different reasons.
And in the free-agent market, they scooped Eric Gordon, Drew Eubanks, Keita Bates-Diop, Yuta Watanabe and Chimezie Metu.
Here’s how a few numbers from a season ago hint at toward how some of the key role players will help the Suns in 2023-24.
Key 2023-24 stats for the Suns’ new role players
The screen-assist duo
Not many people caught wind of the sneaky good Eubanks unless you watched a lot of Oregon State, San Antonio Spurs or Portland Trail Blazers games in the last several years.
For one, he’s a great athlete as an undersized center. But he also does the little things you want in a big man.
Eubanks last season averaged 13.7 screen assists per 36 minutes, 12th in the NBA. It’s right around the range of starter Deandre Ayton, who probably doesn’t get enough credit for how productive he is as a screener.
Eubanks also had a 63.7% score frequency as a roll man that ranked in the 71% percentile of players in the league. His 1.38 points per post-up possession ranked fourth in the NBA, though those were extremely rare at 4.6% of his possessions. There could be something untapped there.
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Corner specialists unite
Lee shot 60.3% from the left corner three-pointer on 53 attempts last season.
Sixty percent! In live-game action!
We could have surmised that the third-most accurate three-point shooter (44.5%) in the NBA last season would excel anywhere. He was at 41% from right corner three on 49 attempts, not bad either.
He’s not the only sniper now.
Watanabe shot 53.8% from the left corner and 48.5% on the right side. Combined, they are both 51% from the corners, an incredible duo to have around Booker, Durant and Beal, who by the way aren’t bad spot-up dudes themselves.
And what about Gordon?
He was 15th in the NBA with 1.34 points per spot-up possession in his 22-game run with the Clippers, and that was at a ridiculous volume of 40% of his overall possessions. Five of his eight attempts overall were from three while playing with the Clippers, and that ratio might hold playing with Phoenix.
Gordon ranked 10th in what NBACourtOptix categorizes as “deep threes” of 30 or more feet. He took 34 last year — one every two games played — and shot 35% on those very deep shots.
So the Suns will stretch it vertically as well as to the corners.
Phoenix has spot-up guys across the board.
Watanabe spotted up on 49.5% of his possessions and hit 1.23 points per possession, while Lee sits not far behind those numbers at at 47.5% and 1.17, respectively.
It should be mentioned here that Durant’s time with the Suns and Durant’s time with the Nets both ranked in the top-10. He was scoring 1.67 points per possession in eight games with Phoenix and 1.43 points per possession over 39 games with Brooklyn.
That’s the frequency Jordan Goodwin was put into pick-and-roll situations as a ball-handler.
While critics of the Suns’ moves will cite injury histories to Durant, Beal and even Booker, there will be options to pull the ball out of their hands.
Goodwin, 24, played 62 games in his second NBA season. His defense is mentioned the most, but he also averaged 2.7 assists in 17.8 minutes per game.
About 34.5% of his possessions saw him work as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
The points per possession in those touches weren’t there at 0.79 as a member of the Wizards, but you’d think swinging to the Big 3 or hitting Ayton on a roll would provide a boost in efficiency on Goodwin’s own end.