36 unbothered: What Grayson Allen brings to Suns beyond past antics

Oct 5, 2023, 7:00 PM

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns dribbles the ball against Grayson Allen #12 of the Milwaukee Bu...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns dribbles the ball against Grayson Allen #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half of the game at Fiserv Forum on February 26, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Devin Booker left the Phoenix Suns’ second elimination game blowout loss in the conference semifinals without saying a word. At least to the media.

He went into the offseason without addressing what happened, both after the game and at exit interviews the next day, only posting a vague social media post “36 unbothered” afterward, two days following the firing of head coach Monty Williams. What was first speculated by fans as a reference to his and Kevin Durant’s added-up jersey numbers was later corrected by Booker: He was just cruising through 36 holes of golf.

Regardless, he unknowingly created a nickname for the Suns’ superstar duo in the process.

To keep us occupied until the Oct. 24 season opener against the Golden State Warriors, which is 23 days away from Sunday, Empire of the Suns podcast co-hosts Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman will be joined by Arizona Sports contributor Erik Ruby to dish on 36 key storylines for Phoenix’s 2023-24 season.

Previously –

Day 36: Devin Booker enters his prime
Day 35: The Suns have put in the work this summer
Day 34: Suns do have some continuity with returning bench players
Day 33: Kevin Durant gets integrated
Day 32: Bradley Beal proving something
Day 31: How the Big 3 develop chemistry

Day 30: Mat Ishbia’s first full season as owner
Day 29: How does Suns’ place of play change without Chris Paul
Day 28: Suns can maximize Yuta Watanabe in proper role
Day 27: Deandre Ayton finally is traded
Day 26: Who is Suns’ biggest threat in Western Conference?
Day 25: Matrix and STAT in Ring of Honor
Day 24: Phoenix Suns’ most appetizing lineups combinations
Day 23: The importance of Kevin Young’s return to the Suns
Day 22: The revamped Suns sunburst jerseys

Day 21: TV antennas and Phoenix Suns basketball for all
Day 20: Is there room on the Suns to unlock Bol Bol?

Day 19: What Grayson Allen brings to Suns beyond past antics

Erik Ruby: Every great team needs someone who will rustle some feathers. In previous years, the likes of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder filled this role for the Suns. Now they turn to Grayson Allen. You have to have two different conversations when talking about the former Buck:

His on-court play and his on-court antics.

I will be the first to say that Allen has made some questionable decisions in his career, leading to injuries for opposing players. You can argue if his tripping and physical play are anything more than putting his all into the game at the time, or something premeditated, but you can’t give a definite answer either way.

I will never condone injuring another player or putting someone’s health in risk, but I will condone being a bully on the court (within reasonable limits). Allen can, and has, done that with his defensive mindset and no-fear shooting from deep. His confidence and passion can rub off on a team hitting a dull moment in a regular season game, or bring another level of hype during an important playoff series.

Not only does his personality play well into a team chasing a championship led by three high-level, triple-threat scorers, but so does his skill set does. Allen is a sharpshooter from deep, and unafraid to hoist shots when called up, and sometimes when he calls upon himself. He should have plenty of opportunities to do so playing off of Booker, Beal and Durant along with the passing of Jusuf Nurkic.

It is worth mentioning that Allen has not always been the best contributor in the postseason and there is a chance that he becomes a liability with his defensive ability, his hustle is always there but sometimes that doesn’t matter, and some Bucks fans are happy to see him gone.

Allen is a competent starter option among many for Frank Vogel, so don’t be surprised if he gets the nod at some point, and for those who are still trying to get past his prior antics and perception around the league, check back in halfway through the season and see if you still feel the same.

Kellan Olson: Allen spoke on media about the antics and how it’s something he’s addressed plenty. It’s going to follow him for the rest of his career and he knows that. He’s the first to admit “99% of it was immaturity” with what mostly comes from his play in college at Duke. There have been a few incidents in the NBA, with easily the worst coming last year for a flagrant foul on Alex Caruso that earned Allen a one-game suspension and fractured Caruso’s wrist. Allen says it was an accident, noting how fans can choose to believe him or not.

Allen pointed out how he’s seen the fanbases for his previous teams start to change their opinions on him as a player while he’s there, and based on the reaction to the trade, that process will have to take place again here in Phoenix.

As far as his reputation as a player, Allen strengthened it over the last two years playing for Milwaukee. He’s a rock-solid rotation player. His defense will ultimately swing how much he factors into Phoenix’s rotation, given the defenders and shooters alongside Allen vying for minutes.

Kevin Zimmerman: Grayson Allen falls right behind Eric Gordon as the offseason role-player addition who certainly is not a minimum-level player. He’s a proven rotation player and arguably a starter for a contending team — a double-digit scorer at that.

Will there be playing time for him though? The skill that Allen could possess to boost his chances of seeing a regular role alongside Devin Booker and Bradley Beal is his ability to defend at least 50% of the NBA’s point guards.

I’m not sure where he falls on that spectrum. Still, Allen gives the Suns great depth. He’s a tough dude reputation aside, and offensively he does all the little things well enough. He can shoot, initiate and even create — though his burst isn’t the best of the best.

If he can defend guys Booker and Beal don’t need to burn energy against, then boy have the Suns got a job for him.

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36 unbothered: What Grayson Allen brings to Suns beyond past antics