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Center of the Sun: Will the Phoenix Suns acquire a starting point guard before the season begins?

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After trading away Brandon Knight, it seems as though they must get coach Kokoskov a better option to start at point.

NBA: Summer League-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Well, the big trade with Houston that moved out Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss for Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton seems to have created more questions than it answered for Suns fans.

First and foremost, although no one was really excited about Knight returning to the court as the Suns’ starting point guard, now what in the world are the Suns going to do to replace him? In Shaquille Harrison, Elie Okobo, Isaiah Canaan and newly added De’Anthony Melton, the Suns have what look to be a fairly strong group to choose from for the backup PG position. But as is often said about players at any position, four quarters does not add up to a dollar... and the Suns dearly need a dollar player at the point this season if they are serious about actually winning some games. One or two of the players I mentioned might actually be a 50 cent piece but that’s not good enough either. Not as a starter.

I strongly hope that Ryan McDonough has at least one practical trade already lined up for at least a passable starting point guard - a hypothetical ‘75 cent piece’ if you will. By that I mean someone who has at least proven himself competent as a starting PG. That full dollar type player would be great but - let’s be honest - what are the odds of getting that type of player without trading away the farm (ie - core players/future 1st round picks)? Slim to none in my opinion.

That means trading for a player that’s ‘adequate’ but not great. At this point, I’d be happy with that. Who could the Suns possibly acquire that fits that bill? That’s the 64 thousand dollar question.

Terry Rozier actually looked like a dollar player for Boston this year but that was with the Celtics. Could he be that same player with this Suns team? Who knows but I’d only put him near the top of my ‘75 cent’ players until I see him in action with a lesser team. Rumors say that the Suns have already tried to acquire him but I’m sure you all know that Danny Ainge is asking more than a top dollar price to part with him. Ainge may actually give in a little on his price as the season approaches but don’t count on it.

Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic from the Clippers have often come up as trade options. Beverley is the best option of the two but he missed all but 11 games last season after undergoing microfracture and meniscus surgery on his right knee. Teodosic only played in 45 games last season due to injuries. Either one would be an upgrade but trading for 30-something point guards that might miss significant time due to injury could be worse than just rolling with the players the Suns already have unless they could get one of them at a bargain price.

Ish Smith anyone? I loved Ish back when he was with the Suns and he’s improved his game since then. Would Detroit let him go for a reasonable price? That’s the real question. It seems that they would much rather move on from Reggie Jackson but Ish could be a relatively low cost option if the Pistons are willing. He’s also on an expiring $6 mil contract which a trade for him wouldn’t be a long-term commitment.

Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets could also be that option. He started 58 games for the Nets last season and put up respectable numbers (12.6 ppg, 6.6 assists, 3.2 rebs). At 6’6” he has above average height and length for a PG and might fit in well with the Suns. He wouldn’t be my first choice but, as he’s on an expiring contract, it wouldn’t be a terribly bad move if a better option doesn’t present itself.

T.J. McConnell might also be an acceptable and reasonable fallback option. With Ben Simmons and a healthy Markelle Fultz ahead of him in Philly’s depth chart, the Sixers might part ways with him without too much of an asking price. I say that because he’s on the final year of his rookie contract and they might not see him as part of their long term plans.

I’m sure there are other options that I didn’t mention but that’s not the real point. The point is that McDonough must find at least a passable starting point guard for the Suns before this season begins.

At this point, the trade with Houston has just left me feeling more uncertain and uneasy about the Suns. Without an upcoming trade for a starting level point guard, I would say that it has actually made the Suns worse in the short-term. With just three weeks and a day left before training camp opens, getting something done to fix the problem at the point should be McDonough’s ONLY concern.

The outlook for this season is grim as long as that box remains unchecked.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. What is your grade for the Suns/Rockets trade?

2. Please rank these options for the Suns from best to worst:

  • A. They need to engineer another trade for a point guard.
  • B. They just roll with the young PGs they already have.
  • C. Plan on playing Devin Booker at point.

GuarGuar: 1. I’ll give the Suns/Rockets trade a C as a grade. I think this deal may look a lot better if we end up trading for a solid point guard very soon. But as I am writing this, that has not happened so the grade stands. There’s a few ways how I break down this trade: Anderson vs. Knight, Chriss vs. Melton, and the current impact on winning now.

I’ll start with Anderson vs. Knight. Salary wise there really is no difference from having Anderson or Knight. Ryno has contributed much more to winning over the past 3 seasons than Knight has. Ryno got hurt halfway through last season and once he came back he lost his starting spot to PJ Tucker (who we all know is pretty good). Based on his reactions on social media, it seems there was some tension in the locker room going on too. A role player taking a 6 million dollar pay cut should speak volumes as to how badly he wanted out of Houston. As Woj said, Anderson is going to be our starting 4 this season, and that is an upgrade over Chriss/Bender. Our spacing issues on offense are completely gone now, with Booker, Ariza, Anderson as our 2-4. Brandon Knight was a very bad player on a very bad contract… who THEN tore his ACL. It was fun to buy into the hype of him magically returning to Milwaukee form, but objectively the odds of that happening are very slim. Ryan Anderson is a functional role player on a very bad contract. Anderson isn’t a bad player, he just has a terrible contract.

Anderson > Knight

Secretly, I think the hardest part of the trade for me is we gave up Marquese Chriss. I’ve been a vocal supporter of #TeamChriss and I was actually hopeful he would be much better this season. He was working out every day in Seattle, completely opposite from last offseason. There were rumblings about how McDonough tried to trade him on draft night, and I guess those rumblings were indeed true. I don’t know how Chriss’s relationship with management was. It probably wasn’t good if I had to take a guess. He had numerous immature moments/incidents over the past couple seasons. He was indubitably a major disappointment for a #8 pick. It’s time to move on I guess and we got De’Anthony Melton in return. If Melton reaches his potential he is the absolute perfect fit next to Booker in the backcourt. He projects to be a VERY good defender. He’s another guy where if the jumpshot develops he could be something really great. As much as I love Quese, I’d take Melton’s potential over him any day.

Melton’s potential > Chriss

Based on those first two aspects, it seems like a solid trade. However, this third aspect is why I lowered the grade all the way down to a C. We are supposed to start winning a lot more now. Booker has stated how he’s done missing the playoffs, and McDonough has stated how he wants us to be the most improved team in the league next season. With this trade, we have a severe forward log jam (now that Anderson’s starting), and our point guard rotation consists of Shaq Harrison, Okobo, and Melton. TJ, Mikal, and Josh are all in the 2nd unit currently. How a rookie like Mikal is going to get solid minutes to develop is very questionable. None of Shaq, Okobo, or Melton are even CLOSE to a starting caliber NBA point guard. I like this trade from a long-term view, but in a short term view we are probably worse. The timing of this trade is very weird too. You would think McDonough makes this deal if he knows he’s got a trade for a solid point guard in the bag. But as of right now, a trade has still not happened.

Like I said, if we acquire a solid point guard and clear up the rotation, this trade probably looks MUCH better. But as of right now, that hasn’t happened.

2. My ranking would be: A, B, C.

Our #1 focus by far should be acquiring a good starting point guard. Reports are out there how we’ve tried to get Lillard, Walker, and Rozier. I’d be fine with all of them (assuming right price). If I had to take a guess, I think we end up with one of Walker, Dragic, Dinwiddie, or Beverley. We need a starting point guard desperately. I just hope our desperation doesn’t kill any leverage in trade talks. If McDonough made this trade without having a deal for a PG in the bag, I’d be pretty upset. Coach Igor has already said Booker will not play point, and it’s probably for the best. Booker is an elite scorer, let’s maximize that.

Sun-Arc: 1. I give the trade a C+ at this point because it is mostly a sideways move, though I am a BIG supporter of getting Melton. After really diving in deep to Melton prior to the draft, I had him really high up on my big board, particularly for fit. Evan’s writing on him really turned me on to Melton as a prospect- but the more I looked into him the more I liked, especially as a fit next to Booker. A defensive versatile, good-sized guard that can do a bit of everything else (including shoot now) seems ideal. Not sure he’ll be as good as Shaq is on defense, but could be close and he shoots a whole lot better that Harrison.

I also feel so relieved we won’t be watching Knight play for us any more. At first I was excited about seeing if he was going to turn it around. But then I saw highlights of him and remembered how terribly painful it was watching mistake after mistake after face-palming mistake. Seriously: I think we dodged a bullet there. And also... Seriously: Harrison was probably going to be better for us than Knight anyway. And after the reports that we are trying to get a true starter, this trade looked better still.

Chriss... I don’t really mind/care either way. He had potential to become a 15 mpg bench-role player. But I’ll take Melton’s potential over Chriss’ after what I’ve seen from both thus far.

Anderson is kind of interesting in that he’s played next to Ariza before and is a true PF. He’s a great 3pt shooter, but doesn’t provide much else. Is he a good vet presence? Probably meh as a leader and locker room guy. But even with his defensive lows I bet he’s still a more productive player for us than Knight would have been overall. BK wasn’t a great defender either, and Ryan not only shoots better from 3 but also doesn’t dribble his way into worse shots.

So to recap, we turned a meh vet player (Knight) into a meh+ vet player (Anderson), and a non-shooting meh possible-bust PF into a high-level prospect rookie PG who could be a great fit next to Booker long term. C+

2. In descending order... A, B, C.

A. They still need to make the big PG acquisition through a trade. But with Knight out of the way, this feels easier and better to me now. But they actually need to do it to be a good team.

B. I would not put Harrison up for most-improved player or a top 20 NBA PG at this point, but I think he is a good fit next to Booker - dare I say better than Knight would have been. Yeah, I dare. People say, rightly, that Shaq couldn’t get the ball into Ayton in SL - but do you really trust Knight to do that? I wouldn’t. The way Knight should have played it is to bring the ball up and get it in Booker’s hands so he can play PnR with Ayton. Harrison can do that and is much better equipped on the other end of the court to help the team. Knight would have hit more 3’s (obviously), but Shaq is a good dirt worker and doesn’t make dumb mistakes. Okobo or Melton behind him is fairly scary as hell right now, but one or both may surprise us.

C. Point Book has had some success, and I think we’ll see some of it this season, but should not be the way we roll a majority of the time.

SDKyle: 1. I’d give this trade a C, because I see it as probably not affecting wins very much either way. I’m personally not that big a fan of Ryan Anderson. He’s an oft-injured over-30 “three point specialist” who is really only a moderately above average shooter while being a poor defender and below-average rebounder. I’m happy to be shed of Knight and indifferent about Chriss, but I don’t think we got anything back to be too excited about. Melton may be a decent bench guard in a couple years, but I don’t see future starter potential in him.

When one also considers that this wasn’t a salary-reducing move, it really feels like a move that was just two GMs swapping bad contracts because “hey, maybe you’ll have better luck than we did.”

2. In best-worst order: A, C, B.

I’m not a fan of Point Book except as a situational lineup for limited minutes. I’ve said this many times, and I’m not going to deviate from that now. That said, though, I think I’d rather have Booker hold on to the ball than give those duties to a deep bench or G-league quality PG.

Rumors have the Suns aggressively pursuing a real PG of some kind. That’s clearly the ideal situation if we actually intend to compete this season. To be brutally honest, this season smells of another “stealth tank” if we’re rolling out Shaq Harrison or Elie Okobo as our starting PG, with two old journeymen starting in the frontcourt. How that team wins more than 30 games in this Western Conference is beyond me.

SouthernSun: 1. Really this grade is largely contingent on whether the Suns trade for a point guard. If they do then they get a B+ for this. If they don’t, then they get a D. This trade leaves them without a point guard who’s not a rookie for a G League player. However, it did net them a decent young prospect, and a starting quality power forward.

Contrary to what seems to be the narrative here, Ryan Anderson, if healthy, can absolutely still be a quality contributor on a good team. He becomes less effective when playing against teams like Golden State. But not every team is Golden State. In fact, only Golden State is Golden State. So Anderson should be fine.

2. A, C, B.

#1. Engineer a trade for a starting point guard.

Why? Because the Suns simply don’t have a starting quality point guard on the roster. Booker is a pretty decent playmaker for a shooting guard, but he isn’t a point guard. Every other point guard on the roster either can’t make plays or score (Harrison) or is too young to be expected to contribute to anything resembling winning basketball for at least a season or two (Melton, Okobo).

#2. Play Devin Booker at point.

This is a horrible idea. Devin Booker is not a point guard. However, he’s a better playmaker than Shaq Harrison, and he’s not 12 like Okobo and Melton. So, okay I guess.

#3. Just roll with the young guys they already have.

This is also a horrible idea. Shaq is a fantastic defender, by Phoenix Suns standards, and an athletic specimen, but he’s godawful at literally every other aspect of basketball. Okobo just started playing point guard recently. Melton is apparently decent at defense and getting to the rim but has a shaky jump shot. Both Okobo and Melton are too young to actually help the Suns win games this season anyway.

If you care about the Suns trying to win games this season, you really shouldn’t be okay with anything other than trading for a point guard. Because the answer at that spot is not currently on this roster.

Alex Sylvester: 1. C+. Initially, I wasn’t impressed with the return but then I did come to terms with the fact that Knight and Chriss were two major struggles that the Suns have had to deal with over the past couple of seasons. No more Bender/Chriss debates, no more Knight forced iso shots, no more questions with them.

Now, we get new question marks! Whose the starting PG? Does Anderson actually play minutes? Whose the better prospect to pair alongside Booker long term, Okobo or Melton?

If the Suns can make a move for a real starting PG, this trade will rise to a B+ for me.

2. A, B, C.

A is the clear cut favorite for what the Suns should do. Our assets are starting to diminish (not that we had the best assets to begin with) but this is a big priority for the FO for the next few weeks. Pat Bev, please.

B is risky as hell, but I do like our PG prospects. This would ensure another sub .500 record this year, but we would learn a lot about what’s on our roster.

C is a no for me. Devin can play point in spurts but our focus should be to put Devin in a position to succeed. He is our franchise player, there’s no need to try to annoy him in any way possible.

Summary: Overall, the Suns/Rockets trade might slightly improve the Suns... but only if Ryan McDonough can bring in a true starting level point guard before the season begins. It’s no surprise that everyone agrees that making a trade for a starting point guard is really the only viable option if the Suns want to attempt to play competitive basketball this season. Both of the remaining PG options are undesirable.

Special thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input and extra effort this week! (I had already sent out FT questions before the trade happened that had to be scrapped and replaced.)


2017-18 Season Highlights

Devin Booker Full Highlights 2017.12.02 at Celtics - 38 Pts, 5 Assists!

Devin Booker & TJ Warren 55 Pts 2018.03.04 Phoenix Suns at Hawks - 35 For TJ!

Elfrid Payton Triple-Double Full Highlights Suns vs Jazz (2018.02.14) - 13 Pts, 11 Reb, 12 Assists!


Quotes of the Week

”I want to build my own legacy here in Phoenix. I feel like I’m off to a pretty good start. Just gotta keep going. Turn these losses into wins and make the playoffs and go from there.” - Devin Booker


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

ESPN’s Pelton, Elhassan assess Suns trading Knight, Chriss to Rockets. Logan Newman/Arizona Sports

Five potential point guard trade targets for the Phoenix Suns. Hoops Hype

The Phoenix Suns Still Have Work To Do After Acquiring Ryan Anderson. I Sports Web

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker has long memory for snubs and seems poised to take it out on NBA. Greg Moore/Arizona Republic

30 Teams in 30 Days: Phoenix Suns finally ready to turn corner. NBA.com

Grant Hill reveals the reason why Shaq once choked out his Suns teammate. For The Win


Suns History in Video

Phoenix Suns vs New Jersey Nets 161-157 Full Highlights (2006.11.07) Fourth highest scoring game in NBA history.


Suns Trivia

Former Sun and soon to be Hall of Fame member, Charlie Scott played four seasons for the Suns (1971-72 through 1974-75) and is still the all-time Suns leader in career points per game average with 24.82, 4th in single season total points (2,048) and 17th in career total points (5,163) as a Sun. During Scott’s time with the Suns, the NBA had yet to add the three point line.


Previewing the (still too many) Weeks Ahead

September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

September 7 - Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Enshrinement Ceremony.

September 24 - First allowable date for veteran players to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time).

September 25 - Training Camp opens in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University.

September 29 - OPEN team practice at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 12 noon.

October 1 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZT (Preseason)

October 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers, 7:00 pm AZT (Preseason)

October 5 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT (Preseason)

  • Home games will be streamed live on Suns.com through the RISE Network.

October 8 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 7:00 pm AZT (Preseason)

October 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT (Preseason)

October 17 - Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks in the 2018-19 season opener!


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “Which player do you think will be the Suns’ primary backup at power forward?”

53% - Marquese Chriss.

35% - Dragan Bender.

12% - Richaun Holmes.

There were a total of 396 votes cast.

Obviously, everyone who voted for Chriss was wrong but only because he’s no longer with the Suns. Good luck in Houston, Marquese!


This week’s poll is:

Poll

Without adding a starting caliber point guard the Suns’ season will be...

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Great because I want another high draft pick this year!
    (68 votes)
  • 65%
    A disaster and the final straw for my sanity... and my liver.
    (240 votes)
  • 16%
    I don’t care because without a starting PG I won’t watch any of their games.
    (59 votes)
367 votes total Vote Now