Trade deadline day was hectic for the Phoenix Suns as not only did they move off of four players from the roster, but they were presented with the challenge as Devin Booker was unavailable to play against the Utah Jazz. He had a sore hip and the coaching staff thought it was for the better to have him sit out against Utah, a team that was also shorthanded due to assets moved at the trade deadline.
Booker has been the team's leading assist man this season, dishing out a career-high 7.1. Losing that from your starting lineup can create a playmaking void as it hurts the fluidity of the team. Phoenix hasn’t been the best team in the NBA relative to playmaking; they’re 15th in assists despite scoring 117.5 points a game.
Before the game, Frank Vogel had a conversation with Grayson Allen about the situation. “I told him pregame that he was gonna play a little point guard tonight,” Frank said, “and he wanted to show the world that he could be Steve Nash.”
Anyone in Phoenix knows, that if you want to be like Nash, we’ll love you for it.
Allen, who was averaging 2.9 assists entering the game, isn’t completely lost playing the point. In his sophomore year at Duke, on a team that included Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard, Grayson was asked to do just that. by head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Given the makeup of that team, Allen would need to be the primary playmaker.
He led that 2015-16 Duke team in assists that season.
“One of the things I felt like was really important at Duke was, each year Coach K just kind of adapted to the team we had,” Grayson said at Suns Media Day this past October. “I had a huge offensive year my sophomore year. In my junior year, we had a very different team and a much more talented team and so we played differently. I played a different way. Four years I had four very different roles.”
Grayson’s adaptability was on full display against the Jazz on Thursday night. The team — without Booker, mind you — had a season-high 37 assists. Allen? A player who entered with a high mark of 8 assists in his career dished out 14. He had 0 turnovers as well.
Yeah, I didn’t see that coming.
What we witnessed in the 129-115 win versus Utah is the versatility, not only of Grayson Allen but of the Suns. Their feel for each other on the court combined with their talent is starting to mesh in the ways we dreamed of this past July. 12-3 in their last 15 games, the team is learning new ways to win.
And that’s important.
The best teams don’t beat you one way. The best teams beat you in a variety of ways. One night they’ll beat you on the interior by controlling the glass, the next it’s their three-point shooting that becomes unstoppable. Late game execution, playing with the appropriate pace to impose their will, riding the hot hand. All of these are signs or a quality basketball team. Right now, the Suns are checking those boxes.
Watching Grayson Allen execute the offense the way he did, knowing that his assist total was so high because the Suns helped him out by shooting 59.1% from the field and 48.3% from deep, shows another wrinkle that the Suns possess. Opposing scouts who were in the building most likely left with their faces in their hands, asking themselves, “How are we supposed to defend this?”
You have to focus on Booker. And Durant. And Beal. But knowing that both Nurkic and Grayson Allen can facilitate? Defending that is quite the task.
Will we see more GA running point? I wouldn’t doubt it if Vogel uses this at times. Why wouldn’t you? Allen has a track record of being pliable and the Suns are always looking for new ways to initiate offense. BeCaUsE tHeY dOn’T hAvE a PoInT gUaRd.
A tip of the hat to Coach K for preparing Allen for the NBA in the manner he did. And to Allen for being willing to be one who adjusts to those around him.