36 unbothered: Phoenix Suns preseason takeaways

Oct 20, 2023, 1:45 PM | Updated: 4:04 pm

Josh Okogie...

Josh Okogie #2 of the Phoenix Suns reacts to a three-point shot against the Denver Nuggets during the NBA game at Footprint Center on October 10, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Nuggets defeated the Suns 115-107. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/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 four days away from Friday, 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 to trade for a point guard?
Day 11: The Suns need Josh Okogie

Day 10: How Phoenix Suns can build a championship defense
Day 9: How Suns can lose the Deandre Ayton trade
Day 8: Who is the Suns’ most important player outside Big 3?
Day 7: Is there a way for the Chris Paul trade to come back to bite the Suns?
Day 6: Do the Suns still have the best star duo in the NBA?
Day 5: Multiple ways Suns benefit from elite spacing

Day 4: Preseason takeaways

Kellan Olson: Most of my takeaways had less to do with the players fighting for minutes or roles and more to do with what all of it looked like when we saw it on the court.

The spacing is going to be glorious. This team has more slashing ability to apply rim pressure than anticipated. The amount of shooting that can be on the floor at once is preposterous.

Vogel has too many deserving options for the rotation. Okogie will likely put together an even better regular season than last year Gordon is really good at basketball. Allen started on an elite team last year for a reason. Like those two, Watanabe is not just a shooter and offers a lot. Eubanks was quietly the best center in Portland a handful of nights for a reason. Whoever gets to play after those guys better take advantage of it.

Booker is the “point guard.” He will be quite good at it. Beal’s going to at least put in the work defensively and may wind up being more solid than you’d think. Nurkic’s defensive fit may indeed be an issue once the real basketball starts in April, although he will provide more value on offense than we might have thought the day of the trade.

Why can’t this be Day 1!? Can’t wait for Tuesday.

Kevin Zimmerman: I learned there’s a lot to learn, especially regarding a wing group that, while there are options, has a lot to be sorted out.

Let’s start with what we know: Booker is taking the defensive identity of the team seriously, and the offense will be in a good spot whatever there’s left to figure out. Of guys we can put a checkmark next to in terms of being in the rotation, Nurkic, Gordon and Allen are there, though the two guards might have to compete for a limited number of minutes.

We know who Okogie is, and that might be enough to peg him as the fifth starter. Eubanks will get significant time at center, and Jordan Goodwin’s unique talents will help him contribute even if he can’t fit in the initial rotation. Watanabe will be utilized in spots but could start out in a big role if my view on the other wings is as unclear as it appears to be.

Nassir Little, Keita Bates-Diop and Chimezie Metu can still separate from one another. Metu showed a three-point shot in the preseason, but otherwise, the Suns still need a trusted jumbo wing and it’s unclear who that is at this point.

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