Almost all of the point guard talk in Phoenix has rightfully centered on new free agent acquisition Ricky Rubio. It’s only natural for a fanbase that has been starving for a quality point guard for the past two seasons and, for the moment, few really care who winds up as his backup in the rotation.
It will be an interesting competition though because, including Rubio, the Suns presently have six point guards under contract for the 2019-20 season... and that doesn’t include combo guard Tyler Johnson who some fans have already penciled in as Rubio’s backup. The other five include second year PGs Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter (acquired from Memphis), 1st round draft pick Ty Jerome and undrafted rookies Jalen Lecque and Jared Harper (two-way contract).
Harper and Lecque will likely head straight to Prescott Valley and the NAZ Suns as soon their season approaches, which is about a month after the Suns’ own season begins. I believe Tyler Johnson will begin camp learning Monty Williams’ new system as the Suns’ backup shooting guard rather than the backup point guard. One of Okobo or Carter will likely be traded or even waived before the regular season begins. That could leave Ty Jerome and either Okobo or Carter to battle over the backup point guard position.
Suns fans already know Okobo and he could eventually be another casualty of the roster housecleaning that has already moved or dropped most of the players brought in by former Suns GM Ryan McDonough. The training camp battle for the backup point guard minutes could eventually be between recently acquired Carter and Jerome.
They both have their pluses and minuses and could wind up sharing the backup PG duties at the beginning of the season. Either could be the first PG off the bench depending on the nightly matchups but they are very different players.
Jevon Carter was the 32nd pick in last year’s draft and averaged 14.8 minutes per game in 39 games (3 starts) for the Grizzlies as a rookie. Carter’s calling card is his defense. At that he is very good but offensively he was something of a disappointment. He actually is not that different from De’Anthony Melton who was part of the trade that brought him to Phoenix. There was some speculation at the time of the trade that Carter and Melton - whose contracts are identical - were included in the trade only because “a change in scenery” might be beneficial for both. Perhaps it will be but that rarely pans out.
The table below shows the Per 36 statistics for both Carter and Melton.
Table courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Their numbers are very similar. Carter proved to be a poor shooter from the field (30.3%) but was slightly better from three (33.3%). His per 36 assist rate was also only 4.3. Melton had slightly better numbers in most categories and I wouldn’t expect Carter to suddenly make a leap this season. A defensive specialist at the point can always prove useful in certain circumstances but keeping Melton might have actually been the better choice in this situation as he played many more minutes as a starter against tougher opposition than Carter.
Ty Jerome is almost the opposite of Carter. While he possesses excellent defensive fundamentals, his lack of foot-speed and short wingspan (6’4”) will likely be a detriment in the NBA. He might not become a defensive liability in the NBA but he’s not likely to be a plus defender either. He’s less athletic than Carter but is 3.5 inches taller at 6’5.5”. Jerome is also considered a high IQ player who uses his smarts to make up for his lack of athleticism. He has very good court vision, passing ability and dished out 5.5 assists per game in his final year at Virginia. He also shot 39.9% from three and surprisingly hit 40.6% of his three-point attempts from NBA range for the season.
Between these two, Jerome seems to most closely fit the mold of the type of player that James Jones has been working to add to the Suns. Because of his three-point shooting, he might even sneak into a few games at shooting guard when Devin Booker needs a rest.
It really depends on how quickly he can adjust to the NBA game. From the brief video below, it looks as though he’s already on his way there.
Here’s Ty Jerome running with some NBA ballers completely wet off-dribble. pic.twitter.com/f277SLWvo3— Mike Vigil (@ImPatBurke) August 1, 2019
Ty on the court at Black Ops Basketball with Cole Anthony, Melo, Donovan Mitchell and “other NBA players”.
Is Jerome a shoo-in for the backup point guard minutes early in the season?
Of course not.
I don’t think that anyone should count him out of the running just because he is a rookie or because of his athletic shortcomings either. James Jones traded away the future 1st round pick owed to the Suns by Milwaukee to obtain the 24th pick in this year’s draft to get Jerome. Considering Jones’ other moves as the Suns’ GM, I don’t think that he would have done this if he didn’t believe that Jerome would become a useful rotation player fairly soon. He isn’t the only one impressed by Ty either.
NBA writer, Rick Bonnell tweeted this shortly before the draft:
I asked an NBA executive his guess on a player who won’t be drafted high, but who will have a long, productive career. He said Virginia guard Ty Jerome.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 20, 2019
And ESPN’s Mike Schmitz sent this one out as Jerome was selected by the Suns on draft night:
Love the Ty Jerome move for PHX. Need more maturity and winning pedigree on that young Suns team and Jerome brings exactly that. Really think he’ll evolve into an NBA starter for a long time.— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 21, 2019
Ty Jerome isn’t the flashy, high-flying athletic type of point guard that creates highlight reels. He’s the crafty, intelligent type that thrives because of great fundamental skills and a superior understanding of the game of basketball.
That just might be enough to get him a spot in the Suns’ rotation early on this season ahead of all the other reserve point guards on the roster.