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Phoenix Suns Free Agency Target Breakdown: Allonzo Trier

The former University of Arizona star could provide much needed bench scoring from the two guard positon.

New York Knicks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

It seems like not long ago Allonzo Trier was a 5-star recruit from Findlay Prep High School in Henderson, Nevada, by way of Seattle. As a junior he was named the 2014 Gatorade State Player of the Year for the Evergreen State, which prompted a transfer to Maryland and then Nevada. In 2015 he led the West Team in scoring during the McDonald’s All-American Game. In the Jordan Brand Classic, he won the MVP.

For Trier, these achievements were expected.

He was a sixth grader when he was featured in the New York Times, which highlighted his work ethic, his Pete Maravich-equse ball-handling drills, and his obsessive commitment to practice. Due to his desire to excel, abilities on the court, and accolades on AAU teams, the young Allonzo was a coveted prize.

Free Under Armour gear, personalized clothing, and his own tagline (“When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.”); people were lining up to get their piece of the kid. What Marcie Trier, Zo’s mother, keenly observed was, “If his game falls off, they will kick him to the curb.” (Oooo...foreshadowing)

He committed to the University of Arizona on August 3, 2014 while ranked as the 12th overall player in the country (per The expectation was he would be an effective scorer for the Wildcats and continue the long tradition of premium basketball in the desert. U of A, or UArizona as they now like to be confusingly called, is known as a pro factory, which was an appealing reason for Zo’s commitment.

Do the time and go pro.

Although he averaged 14.8 points-per-game as a freshman and earned 2015-16 Pac-12 All-Freshman honors, he broke his fourth metacarpal on his shooting hand mid-season.

This stunted his statistics and negated any chance at winning any awards, both of which assist in raising draft stock. He announced that he would be back for this sophomore year, citing, “It’s hard because it’s something you’ve worked so hard for. Your dream is right here and it’s so close, an you’re really close to grabbing it and starting that journey of your dream, but all that means is that I’m coming back to Arizona to better myself as a player, as a person, and we think that’s best for myself to have the best longevity of a pro career.”

And then his sophomore year happened. The season started suspiciously without Zo playing. It was reported that is was due to academics, but we soon learned that he tested positive for PED’s. He missed the team’s first 19 games that season. Character hit #1.

He would be reinstated in January of 2017 and proceeded to remind people that he was a viable NBA prospect. His 17.2 points-per-game with 39.1 3PT% and 5.3 rebounds-per-game garnered him a nod as a 2016-17 All-Pac-12 2nd Team player. His performance in the 2017 Pac-12 Tournament (20.7 PPG, 50 3PT%, 5 RPG), in which he marched the #2 seeded Wildcats to a tournament victory over Dillon Brooks and the Oregon Ducks, earned him MVP honors.

He could’ve declared for the NBA Draft, but chose to stay in Tucson. Why? “He is committed to bringing home a national championship,” his mother said. “He loves his teammates and his fans.” He wanted to win. You can’t fault a guy for that. Knowing that Draft Express had him at #35 on their big board and a dominant freshman center, Deandre Ayton, was arriving on compasses probably didn’t hurt either.

Trier would take another shot at winning as well as increasing his draft stock.

Zo bet on himself and put together a solid junior year for the Wildcats. 18.1 points-per-game, first team All-Pac-12; he was making a case for being considered a lottery pick.

That is until he was hit with another PED suspension. Character hit #2.

Trier appealed both of the PED suspensions he was slapped with, winning both appeals. He stated that the positive tests were a result of the pain medication he was using following a car accident in late 2016. But the damage was done.

Although he only missed a handful of games in 2018, the hit to his reputation was severe. He ended the season with an untimely first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament in a loss to Buffalo.

He would declare for the NBA Draft shortly thereafter. compared Trier to Rashad McCants, placing him #67 overall on their draft board. What greatly concerned teams was Trier’s defense, or lack thereof. Ben Parker of noted, “The major concern is whether or not he’s going to be too much of a defensive liability at the next level.”

Surprisingly he would go undrafted in 2018.

It had been 9 years since Trier’s mother worried about how the basketball world would treat her son if he didn’t perform, Trier was kicked to the proverbial curb. (foreshadowing continued)

The Fit

Allonzo Trier can be viewed as a hyped prospect whose skill set failed to transfer to the professional circuit. He can also be viewed as someone who got in his own way, didn’t properly screen those around him, and took hits to his character that ultimately hurt his value. Regardless of how you view his story, there is one clear skill he possesses: he can score.

Trier caught many off guard when he first arrived in New York City on a two-way contract, posting a 15 point, 4 rebound, 2 blocked shot stat line in his debut on October 17, 2018. He played in 64 games for the Knicks that season, scoring 10.9 points-per-game on 45% shooting (39.4% from deep), 80% from the line on 22.8 minutes-per-game.

The 2019-20 season saw a decline in playing time for Trier as he averaged 12.1 minutes-per-game in 24 games. His per-36 numbers grew, however, from 17.1 points-per-game in ’18-’19 to 19.2 in ’19-’20. His offensive rating increased from 104 to 115 and his field goal percentage increased to 48.1%.

When I watch him play offensively he reminds me of a muted Devin Booker. He is solid from the mid-range, explosive towards the basket, and has creative shot making abilities.

Trier possesses all of the scoring tools: a tricky jab-step, a sweet jumper, he can go left or go right. He knows how to create spacing. He gravitates towards the top of the key as this is where he has confidence in his shot and can find the space he needs to be successful. He is a downhill player, avoiding the baseline on offense.

Of course advanced stats guys don’t like his affinity for the shot selection he takes, much akin to how they don’t like Booker.

This is a long way of saying that he can provide offense when asked to do so. Why is this important?

The Suns were 10th in the league this season at 113.6 points-per-game. Yet their bench scoring was 27th in the league with 30.9 points-per-game. The addition of an offensive talent such as Allonzo Trier will assist with sustained guard scoring from the bench when Devin Booker takes a seat.

The obvious challenge with Trier is his defense. He has averaged 0.4 steals-per-game in his short NBA career. Per B-Ball Index his ‘Pickpocket Rating’, his lose ball steals per 75 possessions, is rated as an F.

A secondary obstacle for Trier is his tunnel vision. It has been noted that he gravitates towards being a “ball hog”. His nickname (and Twitter handle) “Iso-Zo” is both a compliment to his offensive ability and a knock on how he approaches his game. Knicks Reddit is a good source for how their fans view his offensive approach to the game. Watch his highlights. Then watch his teammates body language. Not so good.

Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter are better defenders. There is no question about that. The addition of Allonzo Trier would most likely equate to the loss of one of these two guards in the bench backcourt. The question you have to ponder is which would you rather have from your second unit? Defense to shut down the opposition or offense to cut into/increase leads while your first team is catching a breather?

The Finances

It wouldn’t take much to get the undrafted Trier onto the Suns payroll. He made $3.55 million last season after the Knicks exercised his option, only to have new Knicks president Leon Rose cut him in late-June. It was a move that shocked most fans of New York due to the size of his contract compared to his potential.

Whereas most free agents I have discussed come with a hefty price tag, you couple be able add Trier to the roster for as low as $1.7 million.

If the Suns look to land a high priced name, a pickup like Trier could fill out the roster in a cost effective manner.

The Verdict

I’ve always enjoyed watching Trier play, going back to his U of A days. As a prospect he was someone who possessed a desire to be great. He is a gym rat, a guy who you know will put the work in. He is a deceptive scorer who is an offensive spark, which I feel the Suns desperately need from the guard position off the bench.

The bang is worth the buck.

Conversely, he can be frustrating to watch. I remember seeing him play along side Deandre Ayton in college and wonder why they didn’t mesh well together. His affinity to score supersedes his desire to help his team win. That sentence alone hurt his draft stock, tanked his time with the Knicks, and is why he is available.

I continue to have a blind faith towards Monty Williams and his coaching staff, however. Could Phoenix be the organization that brings Zo in an teaches him team ball? Could having his college teammate on the roster create a sense of home? Is Allonzo Trier the next Phoenix Sun to wear #14 (sorry Cheick Diallo)?

I believe the risk is worth the reward. It’s 2020 in the NBA and scoring is at a premium. Having the ability to increase bench coring could propel the Suns into the playoff picture and bring the success we’ve desired fro a decade.

Whta hurts Zo’s chances of becoming a Sun? Simple. Rich Paul. Trier signed with Klutch in February of this year and, as most of us know, Robert Sarver and Rich Paul aren’t what we would call the best of friends. If Sarver has truly let the operation run itself, allowing James Jones to be the decision maker and GM he was hired to be, then there is a chance we could see Trier in purple. If Trier joins the team, it could put to rest the Sarver vs. Paul debate.

At the end of the day I would like to see the Suns add Trier to the lineup. Free agency may be arriving soon, so buckle up. It’s a crazy ride, and if you don’t keep up, you may get kicked to the curb. (foreshadowing complete)


Would you be in favor of the Suns adding Allonzo Trier to the roster via free agency?

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