Garrett shows promise in D-League stint

Diante Garrett showing off his drive-and-kick ability nicely right here. - Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Suns' rookie point guard Diante Garrett just completed his seven-game stint with the D-League's Bakersfield Jam. The team went 6-1 during Garrett's assignment and the first year player from Iowa State showed some real promise.

Garrett was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam and played hist first game on Jan. 11. He came off the bench for the first two games, but by the third he had earned the starting point guard spot and held onto it for the rest of his stint. He put up solid numbers and helped his team win. After watching all of two of his games and at least a quarter of the others, I believe he can do that for the Suns as well, albeit it to a lesser extent.

But first, let's take a look at how he played.

Stat Lines

  • 1/11, W117-104 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders: 20 MIN off the bench, 17 PTS, 6-9 FG (3-3 3FG), 2-2 FT, 7 AST, 3 TO, 1 REB, 4 STL, -2
  • 1/12 W95-84 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders: 24 MIN off the bench, 11 PTS, 4-11 FG (3-4 3FG), 4 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, +4
  • 1/18 W126-115 vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants: First start, 37 MIN, 18 PTS, 8-17 FG (0-3 3FG), 2-2 FT, 10 AST, 0 TO, 2 REB, 1 STL, +9
  • 1/21 W99-89 vs. Santa Cruz Warriors: Started, 33 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-17 FG (0-1 3FG), 3-5 FT, 6 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, 3 STL, +18
  • 1/23 W107-101 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders: Started, 34 MIN, 14 PTS, 6-15 FG (0-1 3FG), 2-2 FT, 7 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, +1
  • 1/25 W102-86 vs. Reno Bighorns: Started, 34 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-9 FG, 1-2 FT, 10 AST, 5 TO, 3 REB, 3 STL, +22
  • 1/26 L105-111 vs. Reno Bighorns: Started, 39 MIN, 22 PTS, 9-15 FG (4-4 3FG), 8 AST, 4 TO, 3 REB, 1 STL, +2
  • Averages: 32 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 46.2 FG%, 62.5 3FG% (10-16), 76.9 FT% (10-13), 7.4 APG, 2.1 TPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG, +54

A couple numbers jump out to me here. The first is the 3-point shooting. He shot an incredible 10-16 from deep in his seven D-League games, but even more interesting is the fact that all 10 of his makes came in three games. He shot 3-3 in his first game, 3-4 in the next and 4-4 in his last one. In the other four games in between he went 0-5 and didn't even attempt one in his sixth game.

Second, the assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5 is a solid number for a guard. He had two big turnover games of five and four, but he also had three games with only one turnover and another one where he dished out 10 assists without turning it over a single time. From watching him play, Garrett does a very nice job of taking care of the ball and finding the open man.

Strengths

Garrett's strengths start with his physical tools. He has excellent size for an NBA point guard at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, and solid speed and quickness.

But beyond the physical tools, he just knows how to play the game. He is definitely a point guard who can run a team and get shots for himself and others. More specifically, he's a specific kind of point guard: a drive-and-kick point guard. Garrett's game is all about getting into the paint and making things happen.He penetrates in a variety of ways: pushing the ball in transition, using a quick first step to get past his man and attacking the defense in pick-and-roll situations.

Garrett has solid court vision, which he uses to find lanes to the basket and to hit the open man when the defense collapses on him. Garrett drove and kicked out to open shooters more than anything else during his stint, and that worked well with a Bakersfield starting lineup that featured two stretch big men in the starting frontcourt.

It only took Garrett two games to earn the starting gig, and quickly asserted himself as a leader on the court. He ran the offense as a point guard, but was a very willing passer and often moved the ball an gave other guys a chance to make a play.

He's also a guy who will stay engaged off the ball on both ends. He has good instincts and uses his length well to get into passing lanes (hence the 1.7 steals per game), is a good cutter offensively and isn't afraid to sneak into the paint and fight for rebounds on either end.

Shooting is one of the things that Garrett needed to work on the most coming out of college, an it definitely looks like he has improved. He knocked down his open 3-pointers at a high rate and also showed a fairly reliable pull-up mid-range jumper.

Weaknesses

Garrett has appeared to have improved his shooting, but it's difficult to draw any long-term conclusions about the reliability of his deep ball. As I mentioned above, he either shot a bunch or he barely shot at all. From what I noticed, he doesn't really look for the 3-ball. He'd rather move the ball or attack when he gets it on the perimeter. But if he is open in a catch-and-shoot situation, or even off of an occasional pick-and-roll where the defender goes under the screen, he can knock it down. So while he shot over 60 percent from deep in his seven games, he's not any kin of 3-point specialist.

Defensively, he was difficult to evaluate as Bakersfield played a lot of match-up zone, meaning he wasn't asked to lock down any particular player. He did show versatility in guarding both point guards and shooting guards (his backcourt mate Jerel McNeal is a smallish combo-guard). I did see him get blown by a couple times, but I think those were more lapses and him getting caught off guard than him not being able to move his feet. He has excellent length and solid quickness, so he should be able to at the very least do a solid job defensively/

Garrett's biggest weakness is his ability to finish around the basket, and it is this weakness that limits his upside. While he has solid speed and great length, Garrett lacks explosiveness when going up to finish. He doesn't elevate very quickly or powerfully, and this leads to him missing some easier looks or taking tough shots after an initial good move to the basket. Complicating his lack of explosiveness is his lack of strength, as he is only 185 pounds or so and doesn't have the sort of wiry strength that other skinny guards may possess. These two factors really limit his upside as a scorer, and if teams decide to play him straight up and force him to try to finish, the kick-out won't be there for him.

He needs to first of all continue to work on his body and add some muscle to his frame, and second develop a better arsenal of finishing moves around the basket. If you can't go up and dunk everything, you have to do be more crafty with some scoops and floaters.

Kendall Marshall

Rookie lottery pick Kendall Marshall spent some time with Bakersfield earlier in the season, and after a good start his stay did not go quite as well as Garrett's. However, the two players are at different stages in their careers at this point an comparing them directly is not all that fair. Marshall spent two years in college before declaring for the NBA Draft, while Garrett played all four years at Iowa State and spent last season honing his game overseas. Garrett is much closer to a finished product than Marshall is right now and is more ready to play. Garret's stint was about getting a chance to play, showing what he can do and fine-tuning his game. Marshall's stint was more about experimentation. Marshall is still trying to find his game at the NBA level, while Garrett already knows who he is.

How Does Garrett Fit In?

Garrett has been officially recalled by the Sun and will be on the roster for the Suns' next game. Whether or not he is active I do not know, although I believe he should be. I think it's time to give him a shot. Shannon Brown is not really helping this team and should not be part of the team moving forward. However, I do believe there is a spot in this league for Garrett, and I wouldn't mind for that to be with the Suns.

Garrett is actually comparable to Goran Dragic in a lot of ways. What separates them is Dragic's explosiveness, but Garrett can step in off the bench and play a similar role to Dragic. He's big enough to defend a lot of shooting guards, particularly ones coming off the bench, and playing him next to Sebastian Telfair could help jump start the Suns' bench on both ends. Garrett would relieve Bassy of some of the playmaking duties an allow him to spot up on the perimeter and put his good 3-point shooting this year to use.

I don't know if Garrett will be able to get into the paint as well or as often against NBA athleticism, but at this point in the season I'm willing to get him out there and find out. Garrett isn't ever going to be a star, but I do think he has some promise as a solid role player off the bench. On a team with so many negatives in the second unit, a guy who is willing to do his job and play his role can go a long way.

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