We only got to watch about 20 minutes of action on Saturday at the Phoenix Suns open practice. There were no box scores, no game notes, not even any in-house filming.
Check out the site for the live-blog and the recap, and check our youtube channel for the post-scrimmage dance off.
But the real, only important takeaway from watching the Suns in the next few games is: who will start at point guard for the Phoenix Suns this year.
De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo
Both second round rookies looked exactly what they are: 20 year old second round rookies who aren’t really ready to lead an NBA team yet. Okobo’s last year was spent in the French league as a first-time playmaker, and Melton’s last year was spent without playing competitive basketball at all.
Both have NBA size and strength. Okobo (6’3”) and Melton (6’4”) both have good size to add to the team’s switchability. They are very good athletes and showed flashes of talent at Summer League.
But at this point, they appear to be drowning in coach Kokoskov’s schemes. Neither is ready to run the offense. When they played on Saturday, they only played against each other and did not appear to take a good shot between them. Too often, the quick-strike offense wound down to the final seconds of the shot clock and ended in a heave.
It was so so good to see Canaan back on the court on Saturday. He hasn’t played a minute of basketball since badly breaking his ankle in early February, so just seeing him out there as one of the scrimmage starters put a smile on my face.
Isaiah was happy too. He walked around, said hi to lots of the fans and to the media along the front row, and reminded us all what a nice influence he has always had on the atmosphere around him. Canaan was a regular in the post-game locker room last spring and always brought the biggest smile with him.
Canaan, 27 years old, brings the most NBA experience of all the candidates. He is now entering his 6th season fighting for a roster spot, having made it at least a few games for four different franchises.
Having said all that, Canaan has some serious strikes against him making the Suns roster this season.
His contract has zero guaranteed dollars as the 17th player on a roster that needs to get down to 15 in the next two weeks. His career shooting percentage is 36% and his career-high assist rate last year in 20 games for the Suns was only 4th on the team behind the likes of Mike James, Elfrid Payton and Tyler Ulis. And that’s on the league worst passing team.
But worst of all, by his own admission at Media Day, he’s not quite all the way back from that badly broken ankle. He fine from a you-and-me stand point, but to get back to being one of the best .01% of basketball players in this country, he’s just not there. He lacked a bit of quickness and explosiveness on Saturday.
That leaves us Shaq.
By far, Harrison exhibited the most confidence in himself as the team’s playmaker of any guard on the court on Saturday.
Harrison has that quiet self-assurance that he knows what he wants to do and how to get it done. He’s a menace on defense — getting a few nice steals in the open scrimmage — and gets the ball across the time stripe and starts the blender-passing offense.
Shaq’s problem, long term, is that like all the point guards on the roster he just can’t shoot and didn’t even have an assist rate as high as Canaan’s last year. Shaq picked up almost 8 assists a game in summer league, but we all saw how much trouble he had getting the ball in to Deandre Ayton in the paint.
On the plus side, Shaq doesn’t turn the ball over, He gets it out of his hands quickly and decisively, if not in scoring position and doesn’t overthink his role.
If the Suns are starting the season with Shaq next to Devin Booker, he will provide spirited defense and safe offense.
The only danger is that when he passes the ball off to Devin and shoots across to the open corner, no good defender is going to follow him anywhere outside the paint. That allows his defender to shade toward the paint, which will clog the passing and driving lanes a bit.
Of course that’s a problem with all of these candidates.
Take a look at my pictures from Saturday!