With the signing of Kelly Oubre Jr., azcentral’s Greg Moore and Katherine Fitzgerald discuss why Oubre is a good fit for the Suns.
Brian Snyder, Arizona Republic

The starting lineup seems set.

The bench is more in question.

The Phoenix Suns have 15 players after the reported signing of forward Cheick Diallo. They only have six from last season’s team with four remaining from Ryan McDonough’s five-year run as general manager: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Elie Okobo.

No Josh Jackson, TJ Warren or Dragan Bender. No Troy Daniels, Isaiah Canaan or Tyson Chandler. No Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson or De’Anthony Melton, either.

This is James Jones’ team.

He hired Monty Williams and signed him to a five-year deal. Williams is the long-term answer.

He traded for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson as an interim GM last season and re-signed Oubre, who was a restricted free agent.

He traded for Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and Jevon Carter, drafted Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome, signed undrafted rookie Jalen Lecque and acquired Ricky Rubio, Frank Kaminsky and Diallo in free agency.

This isn’t a playoff team, but after all these moves, the Suns need to win more than 19 games.

Let’s look at who will start, come off the bench, finish close games and the most intriguing lineup combinations.

Starting 5

  • PG: Rubio
  • SG: Booker
  • SF: Oubre
  • PF: Saric
  • C: Ayton

How will this work? Rubio is key. His ability to set the table allows everyone else to be more effective. Booker can be more of a scorer and less of a playmaker and Ayton can get more touches playing with a pure point guard.

Oubre is the X-factor. He gives the Suns an edge and can impact games on both ends.

Saric can stretch the floor, but Phoenix needs him to be a tough guy inside to help Ayton on the glass. The Suns want to play fast, getting the ball ahead in transition. Rubio has runners in Oubre and Ayton, a trailer big in Saric and the ultimate scorer in Booker.

First 3 off the bench

  • PG: Tyler Johnson
  • Wing: Bridges
  • Big: Baynes or Kaminsky

How will this work? Johnson can lead the second unit. Bridges can play the two or three and has excellent 3-and-D capability. He improved as a playmaker and will be even better with an offseason in the weight room and gym.

Baynes or Kaminsky will be based on matchups. Baynes is the better defender and he’s tougher. Kaminsky can score and be effective in the mix of Phoenix’s offensive potential.

Carter’s a bulldog defensively, something Melton showed the potential of becoming as a rookie last season. Carter’s role could grow, especially if he gives a little offense.

Diallo is a wild card. He’s certainly a role player, but his size and athleticism makes him someone Phoenix can use in multiple lineups.

Okobo showed flashes as a rookie last season, but he has some serious competition now at the point. He’s going to have to raise his level of play to get in the rotation.

Cameron Johnson will get shot because, well, he can shoot. He knocked down 45 percent of his 3s last season at North Carolina. Ty Jerome can play the one or two. His versatility makes him valuable.

Expect Lecque to spend a bulk of his time in the G-League, but he’s very talented.

Closing lineup

  • PG: Rubio
  • SG: Booker
  • SF: Bridges
  • PF: Oubre
  • C: Ayton

This may be Phoenix’s most talented lineup.

Oubre can handle the four, but very few fours can guard him. It spreads defenses thin and creates driving lanes for Rubio to find Ayton and a cutting Oubre.

Booker is the closer. You want the ball in his hands for a final shot, but Rubio gives Williams the option of running action one way for Booker to score or create a shot for Ayton, Oubre or Bridges.

Intriguing combinations

Oubre and Bridges: These two defending on the wings could be scary.

Bridges has an NBA season under his belt and has learned from the mistakes he made. Oubre isn’t backing down from anyone, but he understands position defense is just as important as a steal or block.

Ayton and Baynes/Kaminsky: Ayton showed last season the ability to defend on the perimeter.

Say they’re playing the Los Angeles Lakers with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on the floor together. Put Ayton on Davis and Baynes on Cousins. Kaminsky can make a five play on the perimeter.

The Suns didn’t take advantage of having Richaun Holmes – who played the four with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia prior to his stint in Phoenix – and Ayton on the floor together. Baynes and Kaminsky gives them that backup who can not only sub for Ayton, but play alongside him.

Earlier: Ricky Rubio factorStarting lineup, rotations and combinations.

Later on: The future.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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