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3 Starting Lineup Options for the Phoenix Suns in the 2023-24 NBA Season

Three Starting Lineup Options for the Phoenix Suns in the 2023-24 NBA Season
Booker, Durant, Beal

The Phoenix Suns are heading into the 2023-24 season with a significantly revamped roster. Bradley Beal will be stepping into Chris Paul’s role, Jusuf Nurkic, formerly with Portland, is replacing Deandre Ayton, and the team is adding eight players on minimum contracts. The central question now revolves around the potential success of this new lineup.

Our initial prediction for the team’s regular-season performance stands at 58 wins and 24 losses, but achieving this won’t rely solely on luck and avoiding injuries. Head Coach Frank Vogel will also play a crucial role in carefully crafting the optimal starting lineup.

Three Starting Lineup Options for the Phoenix Suns in the 2023-24 NBA Season
Suns potential lineup

Fortunately, the new head coach, Frank Vogel, is in a favorable position with a roster of talented players, including star athletes and well-suited role players.

While some argue that having a strong closing lineup is crucial, it remains essential to experiment and find the perfect combination of starters. The Phoenix Suns have an advantage because three out of five starting positions are already certain.

Assuming everyone stays healthy, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and new addition Jusuf Nurkic (we’ll discuss him later) will undoubtedly start every game. Most likely, they will also be on the floor in crucial moments, especially during the playoffs. So, who should complete this starting lineup for the upcoming season?

3. Booker-Beal-Durant-Bol-Nurkic

Three Starting Lineup Options for the Phoenix Suns in the 2023-24 NBA Season

Let’s start with an unconventional idea right away: Center Bol Bol might seem like an unusual choice to start games, especially considering his defensive shortcomings that make him unlikely to be in a closing lineup.

We’ve already witnessed this during his time with the Orlando Magic last season, and the Phoenix Suns have a more competitive roster than the Magic did in the 2022-23 season. So, why did the Suns sign Bol Bol? What if the plan is for him to play around 15 minutes per game, as many believe, but also to start games to disrupt opponents’ game plans?

Think about it: New addition, Jusuf Nurkic, can handle defensive responsibilities for Bol, with Kevin Durant also contributing defensively. This would allow Bol to focus on his strengths, like some ball-handling and outside shooting.

In December 2022, Bol demonstrated his ability to shoot 44.4 percent from beyond the arc on over two attempts per game, so we’ve seen his success in this area.

Bol could be an offensive wildcard, benefiting from open looks due to the talented players he’d be sharing the court with.

Given his height, he naturally gets open opportunities, but if he could develop a two-man game with Bradley Beal or Devin Booker, those 15 minutes, including starting each game, could be incredibly valuable for the Suns.

2. Booker-Beal-Bates-Diop-Durant

Three Starting Lineup Options for the Phoenix Suns in the 2023-24 NBA Season
Booker, Durant, Beal

Here’s a more conventional approach: Keita Bates-Diop is stepping into the starting lineup, aiming to provide everything Josh Okogie can and more for the team.

Bates-Diop’s recent performances, somewhat overlooked due to his time with the San Antonio Spurs, make him a valuable addition.

At 27 years old, he’s a known quantity and precisely the type of versatile player this team needs. Bates-Diop won’t be seeking the spotlight; instead, he’ll grind it out on the defensive end and may even contribute a few baskets.

While Devin Booker has improved defensively, Bates-Diop will be tasked with shutting down formidable opponents like Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving.

In the 2021-22 season, when Bates-Diop was with the Spurs, their defensive rating was 111.7, around the league average, resulting in a 34-48 record.

However, when Bates-Diop was on the court, their defensive rating dropped to 106.2, tied for the league’s best with the Boston Celtics.

It’s worth noting that this number increased significantly to 116.6 last season, but the Spurs were intentionally tanking to secure Victor Wembanyama, which they did.

Despite that, the Spurs had the worst defensive rating in the league at 119.6, highlighting that they performed noticeably better when Bates-Diop was in action.

On paper, this lineup makes the most sense, with Bates-Diop taking on a defensive load to support the stars as they focus on scoring points.

1. Booker-Beal-Gordon-Watanabe-Durant

Three Starting Lineup Options for the Phoenix Suns in the 2023-24 NBA Season
Duran and Booker/@Suns

Let’s delve into Jusuf Nurkic’s role, considering he isn’t in the starting lineup in this particular situation. Nurkic arrived via a major trade deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, which involved Deandre Ayton moving to Portland and Damian Lillard joining the Milwaukee Bucks in the Midwest.

Interestingly, even though Nurkic doesn’t entirely replace Deandre Ayton, he could still have a significant impact on closing games.

In this scenario, the starting five would feature Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe alongside the existing three players, forming a compelling and unique combination.

While these five players will certainly share minutes during the season, the question is whether they could actually start games.

Eric Gordon has displayed impressive form this summer, helping The Bahamas come close to Olympic qualification, despite being 34 years old. He brings a wealth of defensive experience to the team.

In fact, players like Keita Bates-Diop and rookie Toumani Camara could learn a lot by observing Gordon’s contributions.

Yuta Watanabe is often underrated defensively due to his size, but he’s a solid defender, and both he and Gordon are above-average 3-point shooters.

This lineup offers an exciting mix of shooting, size, ball-handling, and athleticism on the offensive end. There’s potential for them to lead the league in offensive rating.

This adjustment would also allow Jusuf Nurkic to dominate second-unit opponents for longer stretches, helping him blend with the team.

While Nurkic might not be thrilled about coming off the bench initially, it could serve as motivation and ignite his competitive spirit, ultimately bringing out the best in him. Keep an eye on this group; there’s a lot to be excited about.

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