Suns’ top three candidates for fifth starting spot

The Phoenix Suns are less than a month away from their first preseason game. Suns coach Frank Vogel was recently interviewed by The Arizona Republic’s Duane Rankin, who asked what he will look for in the team’s fifth starter.

Here is what Vogel said.

“I think the one that’s going to fit the best, really,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of guys that have an opportunity to be that fifth guy. The versatility of maybe being able to guard multiple positions or maybe it’s an elite shooter. Maybe it’s just another playmaker. I think we have a lot of guys with a lot of different skill sets and we’ll put a lot of different combinations throughout the year, but I think all of those skill sets would fit the four guys you mentioned.”

The Suns will have arguably the best four-man lineup in the league with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Deandre Ayton. Suns wing Josh Okogie is a candidate to start since he did so in the last 25 games of the 2022-23 regular season.

Phoenix also added wings Keita Bates-Diop and Yuta Watanabe in free agency, who could be key pieces.

Josh Okogie

Okogie started the last quarter of the season, which was important since the team looked to establish continuity with Durant after it traded for him in February.

Consistent rotations were important for previous coach Monty Williams to establish. The Suns only played eight regular-season games with Durant after he suffered a sprained ankle. Once the playoffs started, Williams benched Okogie for forward Torrey Craig.

Craig had positive games in the Suns’ first-round series against the Clippers. However, the Suns had little time to experiment new lineups and chose to do so in the playoffs, when Williams himself said in a press conference Phoenix had closed Game 3 the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets with a lineup the team had not used previously.

The Suns’ rotation was fluid. Phoenix played some players big minutes at times and benched them for other games. As a result, they had no rhythm and played Durant and Booker the most minutes per game of any players in the playoffs.

Okogie is a player whose skills fit right in Vogel’s wheelhouse. Okogie won the 2023 Dan Majerle Hustle Award and earned playing time thanks to his defense. Okogie is yet to have a defensive rating below 112.2, according to NBA Stats.

Okogie also improved as a shooter but will need to be very consistent. ClutchPoints wrote the following in our expectations for Okogie this season.

“He will have value in Vogel’s defensive scheme because of his activity and commitment…the Suns overhauled their bench with shooting and high-potential defensive players, and Okogie needs to step out from that crowd.”

Yuta Watanabe

Watanabe shot 44.1 percent (60-of-135) from 3-point range in 2022-23 with the Brooklyn Nets, including over 50 percent on corner threes. He was assisted 14 times by Durant, who embraced Watanabe’s energy.

“He’s going to be one of those people that’s highly, if we (the Nets) don’t lock him down, a lot of people are going to want him,” Durant said.

Watanabe recently played for Japan in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. He helped the country win qualification for the Olympics for the first time since 1976.

Watanabe looked like a player who could fit next to the Suns’ big four. He is smart with the basketball and not make decisions that could enhance odds for a turnover.

Watanabe had three games with 20-plus points in the World Cup. He played on a bad ankle but still looked good.

Watanabe’s shooting would undoubtedly pay dividends for a Suns team that wants to play with pace, Vogel told Rankin. Phoenix does not have a true point guard but has three of the best isolation scorers in basketball, which means they will need to have players ready to shoot once Booker, Beal and Durant create shots for themselves.

Since Watanabe can shoot effectively from the corner, he might be called upon to make defenses pay if they help on the Suns’ stars. He is one of a few options who could take the fifth starting spot.

Keita Bates-Diop

Bates-Diop might have the highest potential of any probable Suns fifth starter. He is listed at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, which would make him an annoyance off-the-ball.

Bates-Diop started 30 of 34 games for the Spurs at the end of last season. For the year, he averaged a career-bests in points per game (9.7) and 3-point percentage (39.4). He shot 50.8 from the field overall.

Bates-Diop is 27 years old. If he maximizes his capability, he can develop into an effective defender and shooter.

He might not be as effective right now from 3-point range as Watanabe or as a defender like Okogie but has physical gifts the others do not have. He might be the Suns’ guy they go to if he can play like he did at the end of the 2022-23 season.

The post Suns’ top three candidates for fifth starting spot appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Suns coach Frank Vogel reveals plan for Phoenix’s fifth starter alongside Kevin Durant, Big 4

It’s no secret that the Phoenix Suns are going to be stacked in the upcoming season. After acquiring Kevin Durant late last season they already were, with perhaps the greatest offensive player of all time joining Devin Booker as well as Deandre Ayton. But when Bradley Beal joined them during this off-season, that lethal trio turned into a quartet, and almost unequivocally the best one in the league.

That leaves one spot in their starting lineup, and Frank Vogel has discussed what he will be looking for in a player to fill that spot.

“I think the one that is going to fit the best, really,” Vogel said. “We’ll have a lot of guys that have an opportunity to be that fifth guy. The versatility of maybe being able to guard multiple positions or maybe it’s an elite shooter. Maybe it’s just another playmaker. We’ll put a lot of different combinations throughout the year…we’ll see how it plays out.”

Evidently, whoever fills that fifth spot isn’t exactly going to be the focal point of their offense, but they’ve got plenty of options. The likes of Eric Gordon, Josh Okogie, Yuta Watanabe and Damion Lee are likely to all be in the mix, but as Vogel suggested, it won’t necessarily be the same player in that position throughout the course of the season.

Realistically, the Suns could probably put me out there and still be pretty competitive, but if they can find a fifth starter who manages to maximize the incredible talents of the quartet around them, it will make them an even more daunting prospect than they already are.

The post Suns coach Frank Vogel reveals plan for Phoenix’s fifth starter alongside Kevin Durant, Big 4 appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Frank Vogel dishes on Suns’ offensive plan with Big 4 after Chris Paul departure

Phoenix Suns head coach Frank Vogel will have a lot of weapons at his disposal when the 2023-24 season gets underway. This offseason, the Suns traded Chris Paul to the Washington Wizards for star shooting guard Bradley Beal to join their established duo of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, and they also hired Vogel after firing coach Monty Williams.

Now, Vogel is opening up about the grand plan he sees for Phoenix’s star-studded offense.

“We want most of our possessions to happen with pace. Get the ball into the nearest guy, get it up the floor with the pass,” said Vogel, per AZ Central. “…the less half-court offense we can run, the better with our group. Throughout my career, I’ve had sort of a point guard-led attack, but the game has changed over the five, seven, eight years where there is more multiple ball-handler approaches.”

It’s certainly fair to wonder just how the Suns will go about getting the ball to their three-headed monster of a star trio, especially without the services of Paul, who has cemented himself as one of the game’s greatest facilitators over his legendary career.

However, Kevin Durant for his part has lots of experience accommodating his game to fit with All-Star teammates, including with a Big Three in Brooklyn featuring James Harden and Kyrie Irving. While Booker and Beal have spent the majority of their careers as either first or second options, it’s certainly better to have elite talent to mold than the alternative.

Frank Vogel will certainly have his work cut out for him this season. However, an abundance of talent is a good problem to have.

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