36 unbothered: Drew Eubanks brings pop to Suns’ center group
Oct 7, 2023, 6:55 AM
(AP Photo/Matt York)
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.
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
Day 18: Suns’ championship expectations
Day 17: Drew Eubanks brings pop to center
Erik Ruby: Before Deandre Ayton got traded, Drew Eubanks was an intriguing signing by James Jones this offseason. The 26-year-old, 6-foot-9 big played in 78 and started 28 games for the Trail Blazers last season. He signed a two-year deal with the Suns in their flurry of moves at the start of free agency.
If you’re bored and want to pass a few minutes while waiting for the season to start, I would highly recommenced watching Eubanks’ highlights because, whew, he has some incredible moments.
Drew Eubanks with the POSTER 😤pic.twitter.com/ID5TpZc1hy
— Blazers Nation (@BlazersNationCP) December 11, 2022
💥 Drew Eubanks hammers down a POSTER!
— NBA (@NBA) December 11, 2022
Not only does he try to put his opponent on a poster, he isn’t afraid to be on the receiving end of a monster slam. Eubanks puts his body on the line and sells out to make a big defensive stop, plus his athleticism and drive is a good counter to the more methodical and skilled Jusuf Nurkic.
These two even played on the same team in Portland, and while they might not share the floor together, they do have off-court chemistry that every locker room needs. Especially this one, with so few players being on the roster for more than 365 days.
Eubanks has the chance to provide this team a burst of energy and different looks that can help keep defenders honest and those driving to the bucket on edge. Mix in the factor of playing in tons of space next to other bench contributors’ three-point shooting and the gravity of their top players, we could see some special moments from the Oregon State product this year.
Kellan Olson: In my July crash course of watching limited tape on all of the new additions, Eubanks popped the most. His feel in ball screen situations and ability to finish in those situations is impressive. It’s not the most skillful stuff you’ve ever seen but he uses his dribble to get to some hook shots and floaters he can knock down.
Suns now have two very efficient centers.
Drew Eubanks shot 75% at the rim (Ayton 79%) and an excellent 54% in the short midrange (Ayton 48%), per @cleantheglass.
Eubanks' short roll profile is great. Comfy with the dribble, goes to floaters and uses either hand on the hook. pic.twitter.com/qY14o7RfSQ
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) July 1, 2023
Defensively, he is fearless when challenging shots and has a knack for getting a piece of the ball.
Eubanks had one of the better block percentages in the league last year.
Good recovery skills and anticipation for when drivers are tunneling. Also is great at getting his hands on shots when guys go straight at him. pic.twitter.com/DPd3fjQzV6
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) July 1, 2023
He’s just really solid with all the little stuff and that’s all the Suns need their center to be this year.
When it still felt like Ayton could get traded and some of the fake deals to consider included Phoenix not getting a center back, I told a few people I was confident Eubanks could fill the spot starting job of 18-24 minutes. If I’m right, that could prove to be vital considering Nurkic’s injury history.
Kevin Zimmerman: My Empire of the Suns co-host and I years ago made up the “Aaron Holiday Rule.” The rule states that if you watched a college basketball game without noticing a player who eventually makes the NBA, it’s reasonable to assume that player might not belong in the NBA.
Eubanks was the opposite of that. He was that guy who played for a blah Oregon State team or two who just popped off the court. His energy and athleticism showed up in the box score but also juxtaposed next to regular old college basketball athletes.
That athleticism has translated, but so has the motor and the attention to detail. A few of the advanced stats say the backup center is underrated in most of the important big man categories: Rebounding, screen-setting, rolling, finishing and rim-protecting. Low-key, his post-up figures are elite, though low in volume.
Eubanks has been hidden on not-very-good Spurs and Blazers teams in his NBA career, and it’s curious to wonder if he’s one of the main beneficiaries of hitting his prime and breaking out with a winning club (think Josh Okogie last year). Yes, he’s on a minimum deal, but Eubanks might be at the top of the list of Suns to become a highly utilized, fan-favorite bench player.