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Opinion: Who Should Start for the Suns without Booker and Beal?

© Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns and their revamped depth will be tested early on with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal out tonight against the Lakers. 

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Of the players on standard contracts for the Suns, 11 of the 15 (including Beal) are new. Fans will get an early look at what the team’s new faces bring from a depth standpoint in the Suns’ second regular season game.

How will the Suns manage their rotation tonight without Booker and Beal?

Season Opener Rotation

We got a chance to see how the Suns’ rotation would look like against the Warriors Tuesday, granted it was without Beal. The Suns elected to start Grayson Allen over Beal, although he ended the game with 0 points.

In terms of minutes, Booker and Kevin Durant led the way with 37 minutes each. Eric Gordon played the third-highest minutes (32) off the bench, slotting in for the struggling Allen (who only played 21 minutes). Josh Okogie (32 minutes) tied with Gordon then Jusuf Nurkić (28) was after. The next main Suns’ players off the bench were center Drew Eubanks (19 minutes), forward Yuta Watanabe (18) and guard Jordan Goodwin (14). Nassir Little also played a little three-minute spurt for Phoenix in the third quarter. Out of the Suns’ players on the standard roster, Chimezie Metu, Keita Bates-Diop and Bol Bol did not play at all.

Here were the full stats from Tuesday’s 108-104 victory:

So what should the Suns change around from this rotation? What worked well and what didn’t? Here’s who I think should start for the Suns vs. who will likely start.

Who I Would Start/Rotation Thoughts

From what we saw in the season opener and in the preseason, here’s who I would start for the Suns tonight:

  1. Jordan Goodwin
  2. Eric Gordon
  3. Josh Okogie
  4. Kevin Durant
  5. Jusuf Nurkić

Going into the year, it was very unexpected that some of these players would have to play on the court without any of the Big 3 alongside them. But, that will be the case tonight.

Here’s how I think the bench should look in terms of minutes played:

  1. Grayson Allen
  2. Yuta Watanabe
  3. Drew Eubanks
  4. Nassir Little
  5. Chimezie Metu/Keita Bates-Diop
  6. Saben Lee (if needed)

Without Booker and Beal, the Suns would have no playmaking in their starting lineup if they went the likely route of starting Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon. Even though there is all this talk of them not needing a true point guard, they definitely need one without Booker and Beal. When Booker was not on the floor, Goodwin was the only one who showed the willingness to be a playmaker for the whole team and not just look for Durant.

Without mentioning both of their rough shooting nights in Golden State (it was just the first game of the year), Allen and Gordon played a lot of point guard in the preseason. Despite a good preseason, Allen was shown to be very turnover-prone, and he can be a perfect replacement for Okogie and/or Gordon off the bench. As for Gordon, he has proven early on that he operates best in this system as a scorer. Neither of these two should start at the one.

Goodwin gives them exactly what they need in the starting lineup if he’s inserted in there. He can make plays for others and defend at a high level. In my opinion, he’s an obvious choice to start tonight.

Moving forward, I actually had Gordon and Watanabe at pretty much 50/50 on who could fill in as a starter. Although he hasn’t proven to be a good playmaker so far as I mentioned above, Gordon is much more effective as a ball-handler and off the dribble. The Suns won’t necessarily need this with Goodwin and Durant in the starting lineup.

Watanabe provides more of a catch-and-shoot threat and would also give them more length in helping to defend LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, Gordon is more experienced and a willing scorer, which they will need without Booker and Beal. Gordon is pretty much a perfect replacement for either one of them in this system minus the playmaking ability. I do still expect Watanabe to get big minutes tonight, filling in for Durant whenever he’s not on the floor and playing the small forward alongside him more in this game.

As for Okogie, Durant, and Nurkić, those are obvious mainstays in the starting lineup. However, Nurkić struggled against Anthony Davis in the preseason (granted it’s preseason), so Eubanks could fill in for him for more minutes if he has a tough time again.

With Allen off the bench, he can be a perfect defensive replacement for Okogie, as well as take on more of a scoring role. He and Gordon can play point guard for short spurts, but not be the main one for the whole game. However, if they struggle that’s why I have Saben Lee in there if needed.

I mentioned Watanabe and Eubanks above, but after them is where we could see new players in the rotation. Little was very good in the three minutes he played in, so the Suns could play him a decent amount tonight. He can play a similar role to Okogie or Allen when he’s on the floor.

After that, coach Frank Vogel has a choice to make if he wants to bring on another lengthy forward, especially in a game like this. Metu and Bates-Diop are next up after not playing on Tuesday.

Metu really shined in the preseason. He would likely get the nod over Bates-Diop if Vogel chooses to use an extra forward tonight. Bates-Diop has more length if they want someone out there to guard LeBron. But, Metu showed he can do it all on the floor when he’s out there, so this will be a tough decision. This could be a game where Vogel tries one or both of them out for a decent amount of minutes to see how they play in a real-game situation. We will see what happens tonight.

I broke down more of my reasoning here in our Podcast yesterday:

That’s who I would play, but the Suns likely have something different in mind. However, we don’t know Vogel’s style of what he wants to do with the rotation quite yet with tonight being only the second regular season game.

What the Suns Will Likely Roll With

Based on the team’s practically nine-man rotation they ran in the season opener, here’s what the team will likely run. Vogel has been known for his game adjustments in the past. He could change this up a bit and get some players in that we didn’t see Tuesday.


  1. Eric Gordon
  2. Grayson Allen
  3. Josh Okogie
  4. Kevin Durant
  5. Jusuf Nurkić


  1. Yuta Watanabe
  2. Drew Eubanks
  3. Jordan Goodwin
  4. Nassir Little
  5. Chimezie Metu (if needed)

This would be the most consistent lineup from the Suns if they chose to go this route. The good thing about this being game two of 82 is that the Suns can try out some things with their lineups, which they didn’t really do in the season opener.

Tonight’s game tips off at 7 p.m. MST from Arena and will be televised on TNT.

Bradley Beal and Devin Booker OUT vs. Lakers

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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