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The Suns bench has been a disappointment this season, look for Gentry to tighten the rotation down to nine men to try and find more consistent play.
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The Phoenix Suns are stuck in rotation hell. They have ten to twelve players who when healthy could or should be getting minutes for this team with five or even six of them playing two positions -- shooting guard and small forward.
This was a potential issue for the Suns identified very early in the summer after all the roster moves were made but it was one that Coach Gentry brushed aside with a standard cliche, "I would rather have this problem then look down the bench have no one."
His tune, along with his approach to who he plays, has taken a noticeable turn over the past few games.
Against the Grizzlies on the second of a back-to-back on Wednesday, Gentry inserted Goran Dragic as the back up shooting guard to play along side Nash. Gentry followed up with that again on Friday against Portland, giving about half of Josh Childress' minutes to Dragic at the two. It worked well and looks like a sign of things to come.
"We've got too many guys in one spot and sombody's going to have to suffer. We're trying to play five guys in two spots. You've got JRich there and Grant there and we've got three other guys we're trying to play there and just mathematically it doesn't work out," Gentry said after practice on Sunday.
Jason and Grant are going to play about 30 minutes each which only leaves 36 minutes for three other guys (Turkoglu, Childress, and Dudley) which Gentry said doesn't work well. He doesn't like to play guys six or eight minutes.
Going into this next part of the season with 1/4 of the year already gone, the Suns want to find a group that can play well together and stick with it. It may be the same nine guys each game but it could also change based on match ups. What's clear is that somebody is going to have their minutes cut.
"We've got some hard decisions to make here soon," coach said.
The problem Gentry seems to be focusing in on -- poor bench production -- is backed up by the numbers.
Below is the five-man unit production figures from 82games.com which shows just how bad the Suns bench has been.
The following numbers are from seven different five-man units the Suns have used this season that have played at least 38 total minutes.
- Every unit that is in the positive in +/- includes Steve Nash while none of the "non-Nash" groups have performed in the plus side
- The feeling is that this is less about Dragic playing well then about the players he's on the floor with not providing sufficient spacing or not knowing the plays and being out of position
- The Suns have to find a way to get better bench production and they are not going to stop playing Dragic or Frye. That means either Dudley, Childress or Turkoglu is likely to see their minutes cut.
- Dudley's intangibles and effort and floor spacing are important to this team. Turkoglu has the biggest salary and has shot the ball well from range but has yet to fit in well with the team. Childress isn't defending the perimeter as well as hoped and he doesn't give the team the floor spacing although he does rebound and score in the paint.
The Suns had Saturday off but were back in the gym on Sunday. They scrimmaged a lot and did situational stuff like 3:00 on the clock and behind in the game, etc. Gentry said the team worked hard and had a spirited practice but still had fun. He says this team has to play loose, have fun and play hard. That's the personality of this team.
"There's no reason why you can't get your work done and yet have fun doing it."
The big news is Robin Lopez approaching his return. The full story is here. There is some reason for hope as it seems the extra time off rehabbing the left knee has help his right leg recover as well.
Robin Lopez Has Good Practice, Close To Returning For Suns - SB Nation Arizona
"The nerve damage down my right leg, that was kind of a lingering problem and that takes a little while -- dating back to the back injury -- it takes a little while to heal from. Obviously, there's more time, more distance between the (back) injury and now, so it's getting better," Robin explained.
The Suns have to have Robin playing at a high level to be a really good team. That's no surprise.
His loss over these 14 games has been big and getting him back and working at full strength will make the Suns a much better team -- if he really does come back and gets back to that level after a few more weeks of playing his way into shape.
With Robin back, I would look for Frye to continue to start at power forward but he can be backed up by Hakim Warrick which allow Fyre to also play with bench which helps that group defend the paint on one end and space the floor on the other.