36 unbothered: Eric Gordon will be leaned on around Suns’ Big 3

Oct 11, 2023, 2:26 PM

Eric Gordon, Phoenix Suns...

Eric Gordon #10 of the LA Clippers looks on during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on March 29, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Ford/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
Day 18: Suns’ championship expectations
Day 17: Drew Eubanks could bring pop to Suns’ center group
Day 16: Olympic implications
Day 15: Jusuf Nurkic changes the Suns in the middle
Day 14: Jon Bloom takes over for Al McCoy on the airwaves

Day 13: Eric Gordon was the Suns’ biggest offseason signing

Erik Ruby: First off, great name. Second off, the Eric Gordon signing was one of the best moves by James Jones and his staff this offseason. Gordon is one of the few true veterans on this team, and the only one on a minimum contract.

Not only will Gordon’s experience come in handy while Phoenix chases a championship, his skill set will help bring the best out of the team.

The nearly 35-year-old is unafraid to launch from deep, not just behind the line, but legitimately a few steps beyond it. That spacing will pay dividends while sharing the court with the big three and even the bench mob, giving them plenty of space to operate in. But he will also bring rim gravity with him.

Gordon is on the smaller end of the height department at 6-foot-3, but his muscle and build give him the tools to drive to the rim, absorb contact and finish. That stocky build also makes him a valuable defender, more than someone his age and height would normally be.

Going into his 16th year in the league, the guard is certainly looking to add a ring to his resume, and there is a good chance he is a part of the closing lineup in the playoffs that tries to do exactly that.

Kellan Olson: Gordon is the one role player outside the Big 3 with his role the most solidified. If his role is in question at all when we get toward the back half of the season, that is a best-case scenario for the Suns because it means their supporting cast is full of players showing out.

Gordon’s rim pressure and ball handling are two qualities that would have him on the floor even if he was a below-average shooter. Turns out he’s a great one. His effort is there defensively and he’s been around long enough to know where to be through various schemes.

His minutes are going to be situational given how much of his value is on the ball. The addition of Grayson Allen provides a better off-ball version of what Gordon’s role is supposed to look like. But there will be ups and downs for every role player, which is where Gordon’s veteran stability will be valued all year.

Kevin Zimmerman: The fact that the Suns got three-level play-makers outside of their Big 3 only adds to the belief that the offense will be a disappointment if it’s not in the top three of the NBA all year long. Allen and Gordon are on-ball players who have enough shake to cause massive problems if they swing the rock to the weakside where Booker, Beal and Durant are flying off screens and catching on the move while the defense is already in shambles.

Gordon’s defensive pop showed last playoff run when the Los Angeles Clippers actually used him to bury into Durant’s waist and keep him quite literally off balance. That’s where the most appealing thing about Gordon is to me.

We know what he is offensively. He can take pressure off the stars, vertically stretch the court and wiggle into the midrange or to the rim even at his age.

But that he’s willing to do those little things? It will matter a ton.

Already this preseason, we’re learning everything we don’t know about the Suns’ other new role players, for better and worse: Is Chimezie Metu a reliable jumbo wing? Is Bol Bol even close to finding a rotation spot on this squad? Can Allen actually be the team’s biggest surprise?

We don’t need to wonder about Gordon. The Suns will lean on him more in some moments and maybe less in others, but that’s the key to this title-contending team.

The more known commodities you have, the better off you’ll be.


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