36 unbothered: What to watch for in the Suns-Warriors season opener

Oct 23, 2023, 7:27 PM | Updated: 7:38 pm

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 two days away from Sunday, 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
Day 3: Will Suns miss Chris Paul or Deandre Ayton more?
Day 2: What the Suns have to get right in the first 10 games

Day 1: What we’re watching for in the Suns’ season opener vs. the Warriors

Kellan Olson: My top question for weeks now is who guards Stephen Curry on opening night, so I’m going to stick with that as what to watch for.

The preseason rotation has indicated to us that for the time being guys like Keita Bates-Diop and Nassir Little aren’t in the running. Right now, it seems to be down to Josh Okogie or Grayson Allen. Okogie is a much better perimeter defender but this sure would be the game to really test Allen and see how he does against the best possible matchup to worry about when it comes to a primary initiator point guard. Allen’s defense is less of a liability than you’d think. That also doesn’t mean he can do a good job on Curry.

Regardless, how Phoenix matches up will be interesting because of Chris Paul’s involvement as well. That’s another tremendous ball-handler to worry about.

What do the Warriors do on defense, though, when Curry and Paul play together? The majority of the time either guy has been on the floor over their career, they have taken the least threatening matchup to hide them away from the action. That can’t happen against the Suns. If the Big 3 are all out there together, Curry or Paul will have to defend Booker or Beal. That will not go well for Golden State.

Kevin Zimmerman: The injury reports with Draymond Green out for Golden State and Booker and Beal being questionable for Phoenix will put an asterisk on this one.

Regardless of that, I think we’ll quickly figure out how Vogel manages a rotation beyond the Big 3. Does he roll with Jusuf Nurkic in a matchup against the small-ball Warriors or lean toward smaller lineups himself?

Will playing a dual-point guard backcourt give him the opportunity to play guys like Okogie and Jordan Goodwin more often in this one, or is his rotation more blind to the competition with the goal of getting a look at specific guys regardless of the personnel groupings?

The matchup problems defensively will help us answer a bit how Vogel is planning to learn about his new team.

How freely he flips in and out of different looks and whether he goes back to something that wasn’t working will be fascinating.

No offense at all to the last few Suns teams that won a lot of games, but we just knew roles and rotations and the habits of Monty Williams over the past few years. Learning a new coach — even before getting to the fact that the roster is completely turned over — begins Tuesday night against a talented and uniquely built opponent.

And, oh yeah, there’s CP3 revenge game written all over this one!


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