The Phoenix Suns may be starting Frank Kaminsky and Deandre Ayton together for the time being.
On Friday night, the Phoenix Suns opted to go big against the Detroit Pistons’ frontcourt of Blake Griffin and Mason Plumlee, which meant starting Frank Kaminsky next to Deandre Ayton.
It was somewhat understandable; the Suns had squandered a 23-point lead the last time these two teams met, and with Jae Crowder out with a sore right foot, Dario Saric sidelined by a left ankle sprain and Cameron Johnson struggling to fill those minutes as a small-ball 4, head coach Monty Williams opted for size to try and limit his opponent’s points in the paint.
The Suns mostly cruised to a 109-92 victory at home and Kaminsky played great, putting up 15 points and 5 rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 shooting from deep. The temporary measure worked.
The only problem is Williams said after the game that the Suns may be moving forward with this starting lineup:
Are the Suns really going to keep Frank Kaminsky and Deandre Ayton together?
“I think that’s gonna be the way we’re gonna do this going forward,” Williams said. “Because we’re seeing all these teams who are big. They’re playing big power forwards, and points in the paint, production in the paint has been something that we’ve wanted to nullify as it relates to playing against teams like that.”
It’s understandable why Monty opted for the dual-big lineup Friday night. The Suns had just been torn up by the New Orleans Pelicans’ backline of Zion Williamson and Steven Adams, as Cam Johnson just couldn’t contain the Pelicans phenom inside.
Zion erupted for 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists on 12-of-14 shooting, and though it was curious that Crowder didn’t start in that game to put some strength on the former Duke sensation, Crowder ultimately played low minutes due to foot soreness. After getting beat up on the interior, and remembering what the Pistons frontcourt did last time to Phoenix, this kind of changeup makes some sense.
However, if Williams is serious about rolling with this starting lineup moving forward, Suns fans should be very concerned — either about the health of Crowder and Saric, or about the sanity of their head coach. Even in a game where Kaminsky was hitting 3s, he still finished as a plus-zero in a game his team won by 17. Single game-plus minus can be misleading, and it doesn’t tell the full story of Friday’s game, but it’s fairly obvious a Kaminsky-Ayton pairing isn’t sustainable for the long-term.
Williams did note that they may have to adjust their lineups again moving forward.
“It may be a deal where we change it up for the rest of the season, depending on who we’re playing against at that position,” he said.
It’s one thing to make temporary switches when guys go down with injuries, but it’s another entirely to draw up your game plan based on what your opponent is doing. That kind of strategy prevents guys from settling into comfortable roles or from dictating the style and tempo of the game. After a shortened training camp and adding so many new, big names in the offseason, the Suns need to opt for stability in their rotations.
On Sunday, the Suns face a Boston Celtics squad that started Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson together in their last game, so maybe it’ll be a defensible choice for another game. Beyond that, though, Phoenix supporters will be hoping Crowder or even Saric is back in the starting lineup again soon.