When Markieff Morris started out the season playing like his feet were in quicksand and Mirza Teletovic couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a basketball, it was Jon Leuer that electrified Suns fans hearts with his hustle and grit off the bench.
Remember this posterizing of DeMarcus Cousins in preseason?
The best part of that jam was the Suns bench going NUTS when it happened. And this was preseason.
But after rising up thanks to his hustle and production for 22 starts this season, Leuer now rides the bench full-time for Earl Watson's Suns. Leuer averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes per start this season, and overall has produced at a 15/10 pace per 36 minutes. But in the five games that Watson has coached, Leuer has played in only one of them for a grand total of four minutes.
Watson has told Leuer he's the 5th big man in a rotation that's only 4 deep, and so far Leuer is being quite mature about the whole thing. I talked to Leuer after a game last week, and he said he understood the Suns' position, that "it is what it is" and that he'd be ready when called upon again.
Since Watson took over, Markieff Morris has been "amazing" (per Watson) as the team leader and Mirza Teletovic has been highly productive off the bench. Morris has averaged 20 points and 7.6 rebounds in 30+ minutes, while Teletovic has averaged 15 points per game off the bench over the last four, making 40% of his threes.
Very good production from your power forwards, to be sure, but Jon Leuer rebounds and defends better than either Morris or Teletovic, and is making 40% of his own threes this season (but a MUCH lower volume than MT).
Let's take a look at these guys on a per-36-minute basis this season.
You can likely discount Morris' numbers a bit since he was clearly underperforming for Jeff Hornacek. I mean, anyone watching THIS Morris knows this fact, no matter how dense Morris seems to think we are. Morris has been averaging more than 20 points per 36 minutes since Hornacek was fired.
Watson says Leuer is too much like Morris, and that Keef's backup needs to bring a change of pace. And, the Suns need scoring desperately. Morris and Teletovic are a much bigger threat to score than Leuer.
Trade Deadline Tomorrow
Jon Leuer's future as a Phoenix Sun will depend highly on what happens in the next 24 hours. The Suns are clearly dangling Markieff Morris in trade offers, and are entertaining offers for the sharp-shooting Mirza Teletovic and gritty P.J. Tucker (who spots minutes at PF) too.
With Leuer in the wings, ready to offer starter-level production at a moment's notice, the Suns have the luxury of trading for talent or picks rather than position. The Suns don't need to bring back a PF. Heck, they don't even need to bring back a player at all if the acquiring team has the trade exception or cap space. The Suns can easily subtract 1-3 PFs in exchange for future picks, injured players and/or players at other positions and not miss a beat.
If the Suns clean house with an eye "on a longer lens" as GM Ryan McDonough put it last week, it's possible that all three of Morris, Teletovic and Tucker are gone by Friday. My best guess is that at least two of those three are gone.
Which means Jon Leuer is back in the rotation. And while he won't lead the Suns to wins, he will be productive in those losses as the Suns crawl closer and closer to a Top-3 pick in the 2016 draft.