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Suns have to start De’Anthony Melton next game

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After Elie Okobo flopped once again in a starting role, the Suns have to try another tactic and maybe Melton is it.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If the Suns have learned anything — and it doesn’t appear they’ve learned much this season after ghosting their way to a 36-9 deficit in one quarter against the Kings — it’s that you simply cannot start Elie Okobo again any time soon.

In three starts, Okobo is shooting 33% from the floor and has dished just 8 assists total. Against any defensive effort, he picks up the dribble, looking for any outlet from 30 feet away from the hoop. And that’s only on offense. On defense, Okobo has lost his man nearly every time off a single pick, and doesn’t close out when he finally clears that last hurdle.

He just isn’t ready to play basketball against starters in this league, and really after only playing lead guard for a year in a second division French league, he should not be expected to.

Okobo is just 21 years old and has a lot of promise, but needs more time acclimate to the athletic talent he’ll see night after night in the NBA, much like Goran Dragic needed a decade ago.

What to do? Devin Booker is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury. Isaiah Canaan was cut last month. Shaquille Harrison was cut in October.

Heck, why not turn to 19-year old De’Anthony Melton who didn’t play any basketball ANYWHERE at any level last year? And who has never even been a point guard in his life? And who made just 23% of his threes with a 6.6/4.6 assist/turnover ratio in the G-League so far this season (by comparison, Okobo made 36% on threes with 9/2.5 assist/turnover ratio)?

Sounds like a plan, Stan.

De’Anthony Melton should be the starter at point guard until Devin Booker returns, which could be later this week or could be after New Years.

That’s because Melton was the ONLY player who showed crazy heart in that Sacramento loss to the Kings, throwing up a career high 21 points, dishing a career high 5 assists, grabbing a pair of rebounds and steal for good measure in his 23 minutes.

“We were kind of down, and we just stayed down,” Melton said of the Kings loss. “I just wanted to go out there and give my energy, and whatever happens, happens.”

And on the defensive end, his calling card coming into the league, Melton hounded De’Aaron Fox and every other ball handler who crossed his path. He disrupted the other team’s offense enough to get the Suns out on the break for easy baskets that just weren’t there earlier in the game.

All this came with a 30-point deficit mostly against the Kings second and third string players, but Melton was the best Suns player on the floor on Tuesday and that should be rewarded with at least the start in the next game.

If Melton can be passable on offense while being a pest defensively, he should be playing 30 minutes a night from here on out. Kind of like we all thought Shaq Harrison would do, before he was cut after a really really bad preseason stint.

Watch Melton’s career high 21 points and 5 assists.