36 unbothered: Do the Phoenix Suns need to trade for a point guard?

Oct 12, 2023, 8:57 PM

T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers looks to pass during a game  against the Orlando Magic at A...

T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers looks to pass during a game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on January 25, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/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 12 days away from Thursday, Empire of the Suns podcast co-hosts Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman will round out the last 12 key storylines for Phoenix’s 2023-24 season after being joined by Arizona Sports contributor Erik Ruby for the first 24.

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

Day 12: Do the Suns need a point guard?

Kellan Olson: This is something we talked about a lot on the podcast and in this space over the last couple of months because, well, I’ll start by saying I don’t know how to describe what this choice with the roster is. Is it a gambit? A gamble?

I don’t want to stumble into hyperbole too conveniently here but I also do believe that traditional “floor generals” are a dying breed who still bring a ton of value to a basketball team as the conductors. But it will vary by the night who gets to pull the wire to make the train go choo-choo.

The only reason it wouldn’t work is the chemistry between the Big 3, and there’s no reason to think that based on what we’ve seen on the court and heard off the court about how they approach the game with unselfishness. That, however, is not the lone variable. There has to be a rhythm to it, a way to keep each other in the flow of the offense so that when the game gets tight it can be anyone to take it over.

The Suns won’t find that guy on the trade market and it’s too many cooks in the kitchen alongside Booker and Beal if they could. But someone in patches of the game? Sure. And that’s where the consistent rumblings of Phoenix’s interest in T.J. McConnell makes sense. Because as a fellow Wildcat, I know how McConnell can get his team in the right spots while playing his defensive irritant role. That’s a perfect match for this roster if the Suns can figure out a way to get it done.

Ultimately, though, my answer to the question is “no.” The game has changed enough to make it work, and as I’ve said, Booker is already one of the best point guards in the league right now. He’s at the perfect point in his career to excel in this role.

Kevin Zimmerman: A traditional point guard? No. But I think there’s a great value to having that guy with an innate feel of when the game needs to slow down, when the pace needs to speed up and when acting as a conductor — I am using the orchestral meaning and not the choo-choo one like Kellan — is still super important.

Last year we saw Devin Booker master the tempo and pace of games at a superstar level. There’s something to be said about having the guy who can be that guy.

This is Booker’s team. I would suspect that when things get janky and out of a rhythm on the 2023-24 squad, he again will have to learn to step in, call for the ball and pump the brakes to get things reset. Doing it for a full season is different than a single playoff series. So I don’t know if that will be the smoothest, especially on this current roster. Last year, he was the only option.

That’s not saying Beal and Durant will be at fault or the reason Booker might not be the guy who needs to manage the flow of the game this year. It could just be that it’s more complex than Booker becoming that guy. We’ve already had the Suns charge one another with being too unselfish, and I’d say Booker is the one who needs to make sure to step into selfish territory first.

I think they can make it work without a true point.

Playing devil’s advocate, there’s a reason the rest of the Suns’ roster is filled with a variety of player types. It wouldn’t hurt to add a true lead guard, for the sake of having that option at the ready if the status quo turns out to need a tweak.

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