With all due respect to Mike James and Tyler Ulis, neither of them have yet to prove that they are starting caliber NBA point guards. That leaves the Phoenix Suns with yet another problem in a still young season that has already had more than it’s fair share of problems. Is there a feasible solution?
The Fantable shares their opinions on the topic.
To think this team had 3 all-star quality point guards on this team a few years ago makes me sad. Our current point guard situation is not ideal to say the least. Personally, a lot of ideas have been thrown out the window due to the Eric Bledsoe trade. It's a shame how little value we got for him considering how high it was come end of last season. This upcoming draft is not a point guard draft so that is not an option. Trading for one right now is probably difficult to unless Ryan McDonough is willing to give up a serious asset. There aren't any realistic free agent signings we can make this offseason either. There's one solution right now that I think is feasible for the rest of the season:
Move Devin Booker to point guard: So basically we have seen and heard about Devin's playmaking ability. Why can't we take the D'Antoni/Harden approach and have Book run the offense and have Josh Jackson guard opposing point guards. JJ can't possibly be worse at guarding point guards than Mike James and Tyler Ulis have been this season. It's easier for teams to lock down Book when he has to work off ball. Putting the ball in his hands every possession and letting him make the decisions sounds like a good idea to me. The only problem we would encounter is the lack of outside shooting. With this strategy I would look to have a starting lineup of:
If we can acquire a 3 and D role player in a trade then I would be for moving T.J. Warren into the second unit. Maybe when Davon Reed comes back we could consider sliding him in. Either way, the effectiveness of this unit will come down to how well Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender can stretch the floor and knock down their 3s.
Put me in the camp of feeling that we do not currently have a starting caliber point guard on the roster. And its going to make for some seriously ugly games this season, as we've seen already. When James and/or Ulis don't have their shot going (which appears to be a majority of games), this team will struggle. Neither are providing a lot of assists either. Together they are averaging 6.9 assists per game. If either of them played 36 minutes, James would have 5.1 apg and Ulis 6.2. And that's a problem because everyone, including TJ and Booker, would really benefit from a PG that can create more for others.
On what to do about our PG position, let me start by looking at what might be available to us. See my fanpost from late this past week. I broke down the potentially starting caliber PG's that we might be able to pry away from teams, and I give my opinion as to whether or not they would be a good fit here and what it might take to get them.
The list includes: Dennis Schroder, George Hill, Elfrid Payton, Emmanuel Mudiay, Dennis Smith JR, and Frank Ntilikina as well as others - though I only included these six in the poll. Out of (as I write this) 75 votes, the most popular with our community was Frank. DSJ was 2nd in votes, with Payton and Schroder tied for 3rd. (For the record, I don't think Schroder is a perfect fit here. He'd be an immediate upgrade over what we have, and would probably do a good job overall moving forward - though I'm hoping for someone that distributes a bit more.)
In the comments, people mentioned Marcus Smart and Tyus Jones as well. But I don't see them as viable starting PG options for this team. We already have two back ups here, so if we are going to acquire a PG this season, it should be for one the team feels will be the starter moving forward.
But do we need to make a move for one this season? Depends on what you want. If you want to see a higher level of quality basketball and see the team win, say, 30 wins instead of 24 - then yes, we do need it. If you want to see if you can get another super-high draft pick in 2018, then no, you don't need to make a move. And I think the team could stand pat, for the most part. They'll be as good (or agonizingly as bad) as last season - but losing a lot of games to gain another top 5 pick may be part of the plan. According to the team, Ryan feels they are now in a spot with the pieces to make a big move - but that will only come if the right deal is available. If it isn't, we won't move yet.
A dream scenario for me would be to somehow move Monroe (and IF necessary, a pick/player) for Frank Ntilikina. This would undoubtedly include taking on a horrid contract like Noah's. It could be worth it. Frank's numbers so far aren't crazy good but his defense and passing look legit. He's averaging 9.1 assists per 36 right now. He's still pretty raw, but he's so tall and long and just seems to be a good fit next to Booker and TJ. I think Dennis Smith Jr would also be an interesting player to bring in but not as great a fit with far less length and needing a higher usage rate because he's a score-first PG.
You can see a comparison between our two PGs and these two guys here:
You can see other BB-ref.com comparisons in the fanpost.
Overall, I think McD wants to make a big move using Monroe's expiring contract to pry away a good player from a team that is desperate to shed salary. That player may or may not be a PG and Ryan may also have his eye on using multiple picks (and maybe players) to move up in the 2018 draft to grab Doncic with a "godfather" offer. Or alternatively its grabbing Bagley on draft day- meaning perhaps the in-season deal will be for a PG like Schroder, Mudiay, Frank or DSJ.
I would love to watch better basketball this season by bringing in a PG that can really run the team and set the table for other players. But we'll just have to wait and see if it happens.
The Suns point guard situation needs fixing, but I'm a bit on the fence about how the team should proceed. I think that first, the team needs to decide if it's rolling with Mike James or Tyler Ulis as the future backup, because whoever it isn't is a trading chip. Ulis probably makes more sense since he's already on a very cheap rookie deal. I'd explore the following trade deal:
- Tyler Ulis, Troy Daniels, Marquese Chriss, 2018 Miami and 2018 Milwaukee draft picks to Atlanta for Dennis Schroder.
This gives the Suns a #Timeline-friendly high-level PG and gives the Hawks some young players and picks to get themselves back together.
But if Atlanta just wasn't up to talk or started asking for too much, I'd let it ride for awhile and see what happens during the next couple of months. We own a lot of draft picks, and it might well be that some young PG talent emerges that we could grab come draft day. Or it may be that a disgruntled PG situation happens somewhere around the league and we manage to jump in there and get a good deal.
The bottom line is that this is already a tank season, and I can't imagine it making a ton of sense for the Suns to pay a hefty price for a rookie PG who might or might not be available in New York or Sacramento. I'd explore a deal with Sacramento for De’Aaron Fox along the lines of what I'd offer for Schroder, but the Kings would probably want a massive ransom for him and I don't think it would work out. In the end, Unless Schroder is available, think the Suns should watch and wait and hope we can salvage this fiasco out of someone else's misery.
This is a great question, and one I've been pondering for several days, as I'm sure many other Suns fans have been doing as well. The Eric Bledsoe sized hole left in the starting lineup at the point guard position is a glaring problem.
Mike James is not the answer. He has a good game every now and then, but let's be honest, Mike James should never be the starting point guard for an NBA team. There's a reason he went undrafted and has spent the last 5 years playing in Europe. He has developed to a point where he's certainly worthy of being on an NBA roster, but he's much more suited to being a backup/fringe rotation player than the guy you want leading your starting unit.
Tyler Ulis is a good floor general. He makes good decisions. He's adept at feeding big men in the post (provided those big men are able to capitalize on the opportunities he gives them). Unfortunately for the Suns, and Tyler Ulis, they don't have any big men who can actually score in the paint outside of lob passes and put backs. This is a guard and wing driven league now, and if your lead guard isn't a very good scorer, you simply aren't going to be a very good team. Ulis is perfect as a backup point, especially if you pair him with a big who can play in the post and be the focal point of the 2nd unit's offense (Greg Monroe or Jahlil Okafor come to mind), but his height is a liability, as is his seeming inability to score with any consistency.
Which brings me to what the Suns should do about their starting point guard position.
One option would be looking to get that player in the draft next summer. Many fans have their hearts set on Luka Doncic. I'm not convinced that it's a good idea to pick one point guard, who's projected to go in the top 3 of this draft, and say "that's definitely our point guard, we're going to plan on drafting him." That's as far from a sure thing as possible. Maybe the Suns end up being top 3. Maybe top 5. Maybe somehow the Suns end up picking as late as 6th or 7th (though that seems unlikely with how godawful they've been playing lately). If the Suns end up at 5th or so, I just think the amount of assets it would take to move up to #1 to ensure you take that one point guard worthy of drafting that high is too much, when you could probably draft a really good big man wherever you land, and then maybe package other assets together to bring in a star.
What I would like to see get done is the Suns going ahead and trading for a decent/good/very good youngish point guard between now and the trade deadline. I have some ideas (how many readers just rolled their eyes and said of course you do, Southern?).
Option 1: Dennis Schroder
- Suns send: Tyson Chandler, Mike James, Miami 2018 1st, Suns 2018 2nd round pick
- Atlanta sends: Dennis Schroder
Schroder has recently had a bit of off the court controversy, and is kind of an odd man out in Atlanta, meaning, he's a 24 year old guard who's team is just now beginning their rebuild. This is year 1. They don't have a Devin Booker or a Josh Jackson yet. They don't have a top rookie prospect. It's very easy to see a similar situation happening with Atlanta as happened with Phoenix, where when Atlanta finally has some good young pieces in place and begins to develop some young talent in the next few years, Schroder will be aging, and he'll be their Eric Bledsoe (with off court issues to boot). Might make sense for them to go all out on the tank this year and take a good pick in return for him. That Miami pick looks like it's going to convey this season, and it could realistically be anywhere from 8th to 16th. I'd say that's a good gamble for the Hawks to take, especially after watching what just transpired in Phoenix with Bledsoe. They also get one of the Suns innumerable 2nd round picks.
Option 2: Marcus Smart
- Suns send: Alex Len, MIL 2018 Protected 1st
- Celtics send: Marcus Smart
The Celtics need size and rebounding. The Suns need a better point guard and some defense. Seems like a pretty good match. There's no plausible trade that includes Greg Monroe money-wise, or I would have used him. Alex has the option to veto this trade, and he might because if he leaves the Suns the team he goes to won't have his bird rights (which enables the team to go over the cap to re-sign him). But perhaps the draw of having a featured spot on an actual competitive basketball team is lure enough to keep him from saying no.
Option 3: Jordan Clarkson
- Suns send: Greg Monroe, Troy Daniels
- Lakers send: Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer
The Lakers are trying to shed salary for the upcoming free agency period next summer. They are rumored to be going after everyone from LeBron James to Paul George. Paul George apparently wants to play there for whatever reason, so good for them. We'll see if it happens. In the meantime, they have two contracts they would like to get out from under. One is Luol Deng, and no team is touching that contract with a 10 foot pole, which leaves Jordan Clarkson. He's not a bad player. In fact, he's a pretty good one, but he's making 11 million per year, the Lakers just drafted Lonzo Ball, and they want all the cap space they can get for next summer. The Suns send them Greg Monroe's 17 million dollar expiring, along with Troy Daniels 3 million for 2 years deal, and the Lakers send back Clarkson, along with Corey Brewer's 7 million dollar expiring contract. This deal opens up a substantial amount of extra cap space for them this summer, and really gives Lonzo full run of the Lakers offense this season. The Suns get a pretty good, slightly overpaid point guard, and take back a smaller expiring contract in Brewer as well. I think this trade serves both teams purposes.
I tried to stay within the realm of possibility here. The Suns can't go out and get Dennis Smith Jr or Fox, and I'd take one of these sure things over the small chance we happen to have the opportunity to draft Doncic this summer.
I'm curious to see other Suns fans ideas on obtaining an actual starting caliber NBA point guard.