For Jevon Carter, defense is the great equalizer on the basketball court.
“There’s going to be nights when you’re going to be off on the offensive end, but I feel like you should always bring effort on the defensive end,” Carter said after his workout with the Suns on Monday morning.
While general manager Ryan McDonough has made it clear the Suns will target a point guard this summer in the draft or free agency, their approach to that problem has been just the right type of creative. Versatile like Carter, who can create their own shot while also locking down opposing guards, have been numerous at each of the team’s draft workouts.
Carter boasted an incredible 36.2 assist percentage on top of a 25 percent usage rate in his senior season at West Virginia, fighting possession after possession in a talented Big 12. His role figures to shrink early in his NBA career, but understanding that college production combined with perhaps the best defensive reputation in the country as the backbone of Bob Huggins’ press system instantly explains why Carter might be coveted by the Suns as they search for a backcourt partner for Devin Booker.
“I’m just gonna fight. I’m gonna make everything hard for the offensive player,” Carter explained when asked to describe his defensive style.
After four years in college, Carter also brings the confidence and competitiveness Phoenix desperately needs with effort so constantly an issue during their 21-61 finish this season.
“I feel like being in tough situations, knowing how to respond, knowing how to fight through adversity and just being able to come up big in the clutch,” Carter said. The Mountaineers finished second in their conference and earned a five-seed in the NCAA tournament. They won two games on their way to the Sweet Sixteen, an impressive run considering their competition but likely disappointing for a competitor like Carter.
The Suns ranked 30th in defensive efficiency in 2017-18, and on most nights had no answer for opposing point guards. The team cycled through over a half-dozen of their own point guards over the course of the season.
“He treated every workout here like it was an NCAA tournament game,” said assistant general manager Pat Connelly.
Describing Monday’s workout as hard-fought and intensive, Carter smiled to himself as he finished speaking to the media circled around him. “Right up my alley,” he chuckled.
Also at Monday’s workout was French guard Elie Okobo, a big scoring guard who burst onto the scene in the past month after a 44-point explosion on May 24. Okobo said he has a buyout in his contract that would allow him to come from Pau-Orthez to the NBA right away if he were drafted.
Asked about early feedback as he finished workout No. 2 of 12, Okobo said he hears from NBA decision-makers that they value his maturity, having played against professionals for two seasons.
Versatility, experience, hard work -- anyone else noticing a trend?