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Phoenix Suns replace Brandon Knight’s skillset with Jamal Crawford

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Brandon Knight was a productive player who just didn’t want a smaller role. The Suns found the happy medium in Jamal Crawford

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On one hand, the Phoenix Suns signing Jamal Crawford to a league-minimum deal to back up Devin Booker off the bench this season is a no-brainer.

J-Crossover, with a 15 point, 3.4 assist per game 18-year career, is a better NBA player than either Troy Daniels or Davon Reed, even if he doesn’t make catch-and-shoot threes at Daniels’ rate nor does he (theoretically) defend as well as Reed.

In fact, by signing Crawford, the Suns basically brought Brandon Knight back. Except a happier, cheaper version.

Crawford will likely produce at about the same rate as Brandon Knight would have while taking $28 million fewer dollars. And he will provide coach Igor Kokoskov some peace of mind besides Booker in his back court.

Some of you (okay, many of you), won’t take that as a compliment to compare Crawford to Knight, but Crawford embodies everything you wished Knight would become: happy with a rotational role while being one of the most liked and respected voices in the locker room along the way.

And their career stats are eerily similar.

The part of you that wished the Suns hadn’t traded Knight, while harboring visions of him coming off the bench (occasional starter) with a great attitude, got their wish granted.

The other part of you that was looking forward to watching a handful of unpredictable but talented youngsters get all the minutes at point guard and backup guard, must have felt quite disappointed today.

Let’s take a look at the kids’ preseason stats vs. the veteran’s career stats.

Gone now are Harrison and, likely, Reed while Isaiah Canaan, Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton and Troy Daniels get to divvy up those 40-50 minutes per night not taken by star Devin Booker and the newly signed Crawford.

None of them are great options. But adding Crawford to the mix gives the Suns a sense of predictability next to, and off the bench behind, star guard Devin Booker that did not otherwise exist even when Knight was on the roster. Knight, who’d missed half his Suns games in 2+ seasons due to injury, is even now nursing an infection in his surgically repaired knee and will miss the start of this season in Houston too.

Crawford has always been healthy and predictable. He’s missed just five games in the last three seasons combined.

He is not a great passer — never has been — but he’s a willing passer and sure-handed playmaker adding to the mix of Booker, Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton. Frankly, Crawford likely jumps to second on the team in the playmaking ranks. I know that’s like being the ballest playa at band camp, but it is what it is.

Take a look at his career highlights.

Sure that looks like Brandon Knight. But isn’t it so much easier to watch this style of play in a healthy guy on a league-minimum, one-year deal rather than injury-prone 5-year, $70 million?

Youth is trimmed

You simply cannot develop everyone at the same time. In the last few months, the Suns have had under contract ELEVEN prospect-y players with two or fewer years of NBA experience. ELEVEN!

And that’s not to mention their 21 year old superstar with a gob-load of THREE whole years’ experience!

So yeah, youth had to be trimmed.

Gone are former #8 pick Marquese Chriss, second round picks Davon Reed (almost, for Crawford) and Tyler Ulis and G-League callup Shaquille Harrison.

Still around are:

  • sure-fire rotation players: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Josh Jackson
  • mostly-certain rotation players: Dragan Bender, Mikal Bridges and the aforementioned point guards Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton
  • two-way player likely to get into 20 NBA games: George King

For those counting, that’s still eight developing prospects even after jettisoning four others before the season starts.