EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

The if of the 5th: Chaotic possibilities for Phoenix Suns with starting Bol Bol

Sep 29, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: 4:31 pm

Bol Bol #10 of the Orlando Magic in action against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Unite...

Bol Bol #10 of the Orlando Magic in action against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at United Center on February 13, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The unofficial start to the NBA season in media day is within a week, and who the Phoenix Suns make the fifth starter alongside Deandre Ayton, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant is unknown.

Well, that was how we introduced this series on Tuesday, a day before Ayton (and Toumani Camara) was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a multi-team trade in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson.

Nurkic slots in for Ayton but the question still remains of who the fifth starter is, and now the Suns have even more options.

It is a compliment to the depth Phoenix has built up but also points to how necessary it is that they must figure that out. We are going to roll through eight candidates leading up to media day on Monday with respect to names like Damion Lee, Chimezie Metu and Ish Wainright, who could hypothetically start games this season as well.

While much intrigue is percolating in regard to the player receiving the nod on opening night in the Bay, we will instead preview all of the options under the optics of who starts the first game of round one in the postseason.

This means our conversations will naturally trend toward what these players have to do over the course of the regular season to earn that spot and how they can differentiate themselves over that time, as opposed to keeping it more theoretical by projecting how training camp and such goes.

That is likely how this will pan out. Head coach Frank Vogel will try different looks and grant various opportunities across a seven-month period. Injuries will force him to do so anyway. Could the Day One starter secure that job immediately? Sure. But Vogel and his staff would be wise to sift through everything he’s got.

Bol Bol’s case as the Suns’ 5th starter

Why should he start: Three 7-footers on the floor at the same time, two of whom are mobile with perimeter skills, would form a never-before-seen amount of size and length defensively. Vogel could cook up schemes to get the most out of the benefits.

Pros: To bounce right off that, Bol would give Phoenix a third rim protector in the starting five. Does the skill set become redundant at that point? I think so? Kind of? But either way, Bol or Durant could come from the weak side to patch any holes left if Nurkic isn’t back in the paint. Rebounding possibilities would be immense, especially on the offensive glass, where Phoenix could flip the script on previous woes in the postseason. In a specific playoff matchup with size, this would be the most aggressive attempt at a counter to say the least.

On the perimeter, it’s impossible to overstate the length. If you think Durant is long, Bol’s wingspan of 7-foot-8 is three inches longer. Bol is nimble as an athlete but not necessarily agile enough to square up on the ball against bigger wings, let alone guards he’s switched onto. Even with those shortcomings, though, having those two play aggressive concepts to swallow up space with their arms getting into passing lanes certainly would be interesting.

From a matchup perspective, Booker would have to take the star guard and Durant the star wing. They’re both up for it but it’s just a matter of the trade-off in expending that much energy defensively.

Cons: On offense, most of Bol’s proven attributes come in an individual sense. He can create his own shot and shoot over anyone, with a more fluid pull-up jumper than you’d expect. But he shouldn’t be on the ball with the Big 3.

This is taking a non-shooter (29.3% on 150 career 3-point attempts) and hoping he makes defenses pay enough for leaving him to rotate toward Beal, Booker or Durant. Bol could be implemented as a screener to counter this but does he have the playmaking discipline in a short roll to get something out of it? The career 87 assists and 139 turnovers are not a great indicator of that succeeding.

With that we’ve seen in NBA games, Bol’s got a ways to go with his defensive feel too. That’s where you’d hope Vogel works his magic, particularly on the perimeter in this scenario.

Likelihood: Maybe the lowest of any candidate. The thing is, though, in this series’s game of hypothetical endings to the regular season, one of Abed’s timelines from “Community” does end in Bol starting to begin the playoffs. It’s possible. Bol has the talent. The matchup would also have to be right, as would the significant improvement in Bol’s two-way impact on a game.

Maybe a team with one primary ball-handler and enough size on the wing to deem it worthy like Sacramento? New Orleans? Dare I say Denver?

Then again, Abed’s best timeline ends in him snatching the dice, eliminating the possibility of hypotheticals and our obsession over their theoretical existence.

“Chaos already dominates enough of our lives. The universe is an endless, raging sea of randomness. Our job isn’t to fight it but to weather it together, on the raft of life. A raft held together by those few rare, beautiful things that we know to be predictable.”

Listen to our friend Abed.

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