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Suns have decision approaching quicker than usual on De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo

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With Melton entering the final year of his contract, plus the Suns shopping for point guards this offseason, a decision between the two needs to be made soon. Which direction should they lean?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns wouldn’t be in quite this same predicament if they would’ve waived Tyson Chandler before the end of training camp. Unfortunately, the time has arrived where a decision will need to be made likely after Las Vegas Summer League between their two young point guards: Elie Okobo (pick No. 31 in 2018 Draft) and De’Anthony Melton (pick No. 46 in 2018 Draft, traded to Phoenix with Ryan Anderson in exchange for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss).

Both Okobo and Melton provide different skill sets than the other. Okobo grew up a shooting guard before moving to the point less than two years ago, and is someone who can provide microwave scoring capabilities. Melton was raw on the offensive end, but refined defensively with extremely long arms and an innate ability to disrupt actions.

The two point guards also have another thing in common: being one of the final few moves made by former Suns GM Ryan McDonough. New GM James Jones has definitely made it known he wants to wipe his hands of whatever moves McDonough made that he didn’t also have final say on. It sure looks like Jones never was a fan of Igor Kokoskov after firing him less than a year into his tenure as head coach, so what could that mean for other moves coming down the pipe soon?

Specifically with Okobo and Melton, there’s a high probability one is gone by the end of July with the forthcoming roster makeover expected to occur with Jones and VP of Basketball Operations Jeff Bower. The point guard position itself is still the Suns’ No. 1 need nearly two full seasons after Eric Bledsoe forced his way out of another year full of losing by tweeting out his frustrations three games in. Phoenix has already been connected with Murray State’s Ja Morant, who will be a top three pick in this year’s draft, plus other options in free agency like Terry Rozier and Ricky Rubio. How would Okobo and Melton both fit into that picture? I don’t see how there’s room for the two of them, especially if they were to land Morant.

With that being said, which one makes the most sense to stay in Phoenix for Year 2 and beyond? Okobo played in 53 games (16 starts) averaging 5.7 points, 2.4 assists and 0.6 steals in 18.1 minutes on 39.3/29.5/78.7 shooting splits. Meanwhile, Melton logged 50 appearances (30 starts) averaging 5 points, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 19.7 minutes on 39.1/30.5/75.0 shooting splits. And if you look deeper into their shooting numbers, Melton converted 36 percent of his catch-and-three opportunities (75 attempts) while Okobo checked in at 28.9 percent (76 attempts).

Alongside an elite scorer like Devin Booker, I personally prioritize defense and catch-and-shoot ability over anything else. Booker’s playmaking ability continues to bloom, but playmaking is also a box that needs to be checked on the list. For me, Melton checks at least two of those boxes solidly while also flashing on a more consistent basis throughout the season than Okobo.

If Melton figures out how to add more tools to his game offensively outside of the catch-and-shoot — finishing through contact, floaters and a mid-range game would go a long way for him — he has the chance to be a very solid two-way backup in the NBA. Add in his physical traits, including a 6’8.5” wingspan, there’s no reason to believe why he can’t develop into a Patrick Beverley type of player who is a pure pest defensively who isn’t a complete zero on the other end.

Okobo still has the chance to win me over, though. He had multiple sequences throughout the season where he caught fire from the perimeter — that Clippers game early in the season continues to stand out — but far too often did he look out of place as a defender. It seemed like teams would pick on him with switches and pick-and-rolls where he had no clue how to put an end to it.

The area in which Okobo holds the trump card over Melton is contract length. Melton expires after the 2019-20 season, but Okobo can be under contract through 2021-2022 if they pick up his option after next year.

Each of these point guard prospects accumulated almost 1,000 minutes (Okobo - 958, Melton - 984) on the court this past season, which speaks to how little depth and experience was available on the Suns’ roster. More evaluation is needed on Okobo and Melton over the next three months, but that decision is coming sooner than everyone thinks. Especially if another point guard who is younger than both of them — cough, Morant, cough — is brought aboard, then one will be used as filler in a trade to help improve the team.

Arguably more so than any other young pieces on the Suns’ roster their two point guards in Okobo and Melton have the most to prove to the front office and whoever the new coaching staff is. The decision-making process over these two will find a clearer picture during offseason workouts plus Summer League action, but it’s going to be telling which side Jones, Bower and Assistant GM Trevor Bukstein choose between the former shooting guard from France and the lanky playmaking defender out of USC.

Poll

Who fits better on the Suns long-term?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    De’Anthony Melton
    (659 votes)
  • 18%
    Elie Okobo
    (151 votes)
810 votes total Vote Now