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Phoenix Suns have GOT to find a starting quality point guard

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s like a curse.

Ever since the Suns moved on from Steve Nash, they appear to have moved on from the idea of aesthetically pleasing offense altogether.

To wit, the following is the Suns’ assist ratio over the years.

Assist ratio = percent of shots made within 2 dribbles of receiving a pass.

  • 2003-04: 29th (53.6%) — Marbury/Johnson then Marbury-Barbosa/D’Antoni
  • 2004-05: 22nd (57.5%) — Nash/D’Antoni
  • 2005-06: 4th (63.5%) — Nash/D’Antoni
  • 2006-07: 3rd (62.6%) — Nash/D’Antoni
  • 2007-08: 3rd (64.5%) — Nash/D’Antoni
  • 2008-09: 12th (56.5%) — Nash/Porter then Nash/Gentry
  • 2009-10: 11th (57.3%) — Nash/Gentry
  • 2010-11: 6th (60.4%) — Nash/Gentry
  • 2011-12: 9th (59.6%) — Nash/Gentry
  • 2012-13: 11th (60.6%) — Dragic/Gentry then Dragic/Hunter
  • 2013-14: 30th (49.3%) — Dragic-Bledsoe/Hornacek
  • 2014-15: 30th (52.2%) — Dragic-Bledsoe-Thomas/Hornacek then Bledsoe/Hornacek
  • 2015-16: 22nd (55.8%) — Bledsoe/Hornacek then Price/Watson
  • 2016-17: 29th (49.2%) — Bledsoe/Watson then Ulis/Watson
  • 2017-18: 30th (47.6%) — Bledsoe/Watson then Ulis-James/Triano

As you can see, the Suns have been one of the worst passing teams in the league without Mike D’Antoni or Alvin Gentry coaching them.

Or Lindsey Hunter.

During Lindsey Hunter’s brief coaching days, with Goran Dragic as the starting point guard, the Suns actually ranked 6th in the league with a 63.7% assist ratio.

Since then, three coaches and five primary point guards — Eric Bledsoe, Dragic, Brandon Knight, Mike James and Tyler Ulis all getting a turn as the regular starter — have finished at or near the bottom of the barrel in assist-ratio.

Is it the offensive system? Or the players? Or a combination of both?

For years under Hornacek, the Suns focused the offense on their score-first point guards, who by definition would not be assisted on most of their scores.

Was that Hornacek’s fault? In his first year running an offense he wants to run (bye, Phil), the Knicks are 13th in the assist ratio.

Was it Dragic’s fault? Since the Dragon took over the reins in Miami, the Heat have been 26th, 24th and 26th in assist ratio the last three seasons, after being 12th in the half-season between the ‘The Big Three’ and Dragic’s arrival.

Was it Bledsoe’s fault? Who knows. We need to see some time with him running the point in Milwaukee.

Was it Watson’s fault? The Suns got no worse under Watson after Hornacek left, and since Triano took over 13 games ago, the Suns are no better either.

But Triano is stuck with the not-yet-ready Tyler Ulis and won’t-be-ready Mike James.

We can only hope Jay Triano can lead a better passing team, as long as the Suns give him a starting quality point guard.

After years of All-Star caliber point guards at the helm — albeit of the shoot-first variety — Triano is being forced to earn a long-term contract with James and Ulis as his primary passers.

In fact, Triano is already done with those guys and is now turning to 21-year old Devin Booker as his Harden-lite lead guard.

Booker had eight first-half assists in the blowout loss to the Rockets as the primary ball handler for long stretches. There’s a certain romanticism to this alignment, because it allows the Suns to play another shooter/scorer on the wing (Josh Jackson, Troy Daniels) while keeping T.J. Warren at small forward and two big men on the front line.

But Booker is barely 21. He’s not going to be able to handle the workload of running point, scoring 20+ per game AND running through pick after pick to stick defensively with the league’s uber-talented array of point guards every night.

Triano needs help.

Booker needs help.

Find him some help, McD!