EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns brewing together special blend on offense

Oct 18, 2023, 4:27 PM

Bradley Beal #3, Kevin Durant #35 and Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns watch from the bench duri...

Bradley Beal #3, Kevin Durant #35 and Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns watch from the bench during the second half of the NBA game against the Denver Nuggets at Footprint Center on October 10, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — This offseason was a particularly agonizing wait for the return of NBA basketball here in the Valley because of the wonderment surrounding how the Phoenix Suns would look on the floor together.

It’s easy to say a team headlined by Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant will be special offensively but to see it and the stylistic choices that come with it is another thing.

And woo boy, while it’s just been the preseason, the way this group wants to play offensively should produce fireworks on a nightly basis.

Phoenix first and foremost is emphasizing pace. Off a make or a miss, the first option around the basket is the outlet man. There is no designated guy. Whoever is in that spot gets it and the rest break out to fill lanes in transition.

What this does is give the outlet man an instant kick-ahead pass option, and now suddenly it’s someone like the Big 3, Grayson Allen, Eric Gordon, Josh Okogie or Yuta Watanabe attacking a defense with only three or four defenders back that are all on their back feet. All of those guys are capable drivers, especially against an unset defense, able to finish at the rim or make the correct pass to start putting it in rotation before the shot clock even reaches seven seconds or less (of runoff).

The interchangeability of Beal, Booker and Durant in these situations is tantalizing. The Suns won’t need a point guard because of their ability to be a primary initiator.

Allen was giddy talking about it on Tuesday.

“They’re scorers but they’re playmakers,” Allen said. “They’re good at just playing basketball. You can put ’em in all different spots on the floor and they can be effective as playmakers.”

“In terms of bringing it up, it’s whoever can get it up the fastest,” Allen added.

The crazy part is Allen said the group has “flowed into it” and there hasn’t been a definitive directive from the coaching staff to always be pushing it in this way. They’re just playing.

It’s basic principles to send guys out on the wings and fill the corners. From there, attack and make the right play.

Watching this squad in the style, I wouldn’t say it has been like kids in a candy store. How about kids in a Dave and Busters for the first time? Those little rascals just want to explore that place when they first step floor in one of those meccas of entertainment for an 11-year-old.

That’s what this preseason has felt like offensively. Exploration.

The Suns almost appear to be passing up on good looks in order to, well, pass. They never want that ball to stop zipping, the machine to stop humming. Over-passing in the preseason has been an issue, if you want to call it one.

Durant said head coach Frank Vogel has been stopping offensive possessions in practice when he sees one of the Big 3 lacking aggression when all of them normally would step on the defense’s throat on “their” teams in the past.

“Him giving us that confidence when the ball touches our hands is always key because when you’re on a team with good players, you tend to try not to step on toes and be a little timid out there to figure it out,” Durant said Tuesday as a guy who knows a thing of two about what makes superteams work. “From day one, coach is telling us to be aggressive.”

“I think the unique part about us three is that we all have the capability of scoring at the highest level but we’ve always played the game the right way,” Booker said. Monday “Even when we were on different teams, we continued to play the game the right way. It hasn’t been an adjustment, for real. The only thing I tell them to do is be more aggressive.”

Look. I understand how cheesy and cliche these types of quotes can come across. But the likeminded nature in the way the trio operates as stars is rare.

“The thing I just love the most is they just love to hoop, man. And it just makes it easier for everybody,” Beal said Wednesday. “Cuz they’re not big high maintenance guys. They don’t need a lot. … I think it just makes it easier for everybody to start continuity right now but still a lot of stuff we got to work on.”

To Beal’s point, there is a long way to go in this process. Growing pains will be present in some form or fashion.

But oftentimes it comes down to the big dogs with how quick everything clicks together. Booker noted how the way in which the Big 3 is playing should serve as “a domino effect” for the rest of the team.

I hear them toppling each other over already.

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