Phoenix Suns’ Big 3 leaps them up in Lowe’s League Pass Rankings on ESPN

Oct 19, 2023, 10:08 AM

Bradley Beal, Phoenix Suns media day...

Bradley Beal #3 of the Phoenix Suns poses for a portrait during NBA media day on October 02, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Heading into last season, the Suns excited few outside of Phoenix — even if the 64-win team from the year prior mostly remained intact.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe just couldn’t get excited about watching that Suns team despite those facts. He had them 14th in his annual preseason League Pass Rankings, his model of choosing the most watchable NBA squads.

Things have changed in a year with a blown-up roster and a new owner. Mat Ishbia has already inserted himself firmly into games and league circles with his aggressive acquisitions of Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal to put around star Devin Booker. Lowe has the Suns ranked No. 4 in the 2023-24 League Pass Rankings, for reasons starting with the powerhouse stars.

Beal especially will be of interest to the ESPN writer.

This is the perfect landing spot for Beal, who even as a No. 1 option spent lots of time rocketing off pindowns and bobbing and weaving for dribble handoffs — things he’ll do more as the third option. Beal blew away his career high in setting ball screens last season — a useful tool here, because opponents will often have their smallest defenders on Beal; any switch in a Durant-Beal or Booker-Beal action could generate mismatches.

There are tons of curiosities for basketball nerds to fixate on. Who will be the Suns’ fifth starter among the available wings? How do defensive aces like Josh Okogie and Jordan Goodwin fit alongside the Big 3 and shooters like Yuta Watanabe, Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen?

Will the Deandre Ayton-for-Jusuf Nurkic gamble work out?

The Suns are fun! They’re not the most fun, though.

Lowe is fascinated by the beauty of Denver’s run-it-back campaign, who rank No. 3 on his list.

The Warriors, Phoenix’s opening night opponent, climbed to No. 2 with the integration of Chris Paul, who was dealt for Beal and redirected to Golden State as the Washington Wizards added Jordan Poole.

Oh, hey, Chris Paul! Enemies becoming friends! Can Paul and Steve Kerr please find some context to recreate Paul’s classic fake-laughing meme? Have you ever used that in real life? Be honest.

Paul is blending into the Warriors’ go-go mayhem while also picking spots to impose his methodical efficiency — a care factor the reckless Warriors needed. In the flow, he’s adapting — whipping hit-aheads, running the wings, setting random pindowns and flares, touch-passing to Curry in stride on those classic relocation daggers. (Curry is in midseason form, pointing to Paul in thanks while his shot is still in midair. Is there a more exciting moment of earned hubris?)

And first on Lowe’s list is the Milwaukee Bucks, who thanks to the Suns dangling Ayton as a catalyst for the Damian Lillard trade now have one of the most exciting duos in the NBA.

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Phoenix Suns’ Big 3 leaps them up in Lowe’s League Pass Rankings on ESPN