Isaiah Canaan’s gruesome broken ankle suffered Wednesday in the Suns’ win over the Mavericks leaves the roster reeling.
Looking far into the future, Brandon Knight’s contract that pays him $14.6 million next year and $15.6 million in 2019-20 makes him the default starter. While there might be hope, however slim, that he can recover enough athletically to be a starting point guard, there are too many questions about fit, function and who his head coach would be to find optimism there.
For the immediate future, Phoenix can turn to its G League team, and they have, as they will sign Josh Gray to a 10-day deal.
But before the trade deadline, the Suns could be tempted to make a move and acquire a point guard. A temporary solve should be considered to prevent burn-out to new starting point guard Devin Booker, but why not use a trade to also plug holes for the future?
In a perfect world, Booker shouldn’t play point in more than spurts, and Tyler Ulis’ inability to score himself has capped his ceiling until he proves otherwise.
Here are the teams Phoenix should talk to that could do without one of their point guards. Those guards should 1) fit the Suns’ timeline or are vets on reasonable deals, and 2) have the ability to either defend or shoot at a decent level — preferably both.
The Suns were linked to Emmanuel Mudiay during the draft and through the Eric Bledsoe saga.
Waiting to pull the trigger might even put them in a more favorable position. The seventh overall pick in 2015 spent a good deal of late December and early January completely out of Denver’s rotation with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris eating up the backcourt minutes.
Mudiay has reentered the rotation and might not be completely expendable yet as the Nuggets try to secure a playoff berth, but the 21-year-old’s stock isn’t exactly high. He’s averaging career lows in points (8.5), assists (2.9) and minutes (17.9), though he’s also shooting career bests (39.6 percent overall and 37.9 from three). He’s still young as well, and a former top-10 pick is always worth another look on a second team.
Mudiay has a year left on his rookie deal, paying him $4.3 million next season, which would give Phoenix more than a full year to evaluate him. A major speed bump here over all the following options: The Nuggets probably want a lot more in return than Phoenix — and the rest of the market — is willing to give up.
Assuming Danny Ainge is over the whole Josh Jackson ordeal and on speaking terms with his former apprentice Ryan McDonough, there’s a lot to work with here.
Framed-picture puncher Marcus Smart would add toughness and defensive versatility if the Suns want to hedge on chasing after a free agent, like two-way guard Avery Bradley this offseason. Smart, however, will be a restricted free agent.
Ainge, perhaps, would like to get something, even small, in exchange instead of letting Smart walk with the expectation Terry Rozier will take his minutes. Problem is, Smart is a volatile offensive player and not a true lead guard. He’s averaging 10.1 points and 4.7 assists per game but shooting 35.7 percent and just 29.9 percent from three.
There’s more to like on the Celtics’ roster. Shane Larkin, a small but shifty point, is on an expiring deal and has experience in the league. Larkin has played in half the team’s games the past two months, but usually plays 12-20 minutes when he does, so do the Celtics value him too much to be let go as a rental?
Former Arizona Wildcat and 2017 second-round pick Kadeem Allen has only appeared in four NBA games so far but was just named the G League Player of the Week. For the Maine Red Claws, he’s averaging 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He should be at minimum a decent defender in the NBA and down the road he could have enough offense to help the Suns as a secondary ball handler.
Veteran Darren Collison, 30, would lend immediate stability and his $10 million per year contract isn’t fully guaranteed next year, making him a temporary, solid option to take pressure off Booker, defend, shoot and create. He’s averaging 12.9 points, 5.3 assists and shooting 49.7 percent overall and 43.2 percent from deep. Collison, however, is the starting point guard on a 29-23 team, so it’s unlikely for Indiana to be willing to let him go.
Other options on Indiana include the younger Cory Joseph, who might be a future projection of the Celtics’ Allen in terms of skill and role. He’s making $7 million per year this year and the same with a player option next. Like Collison, Joseph plays a substantial role on the Pacers and that makes it difficult to see how the Suns could potential acquire him.
That leads us to the little-used Joe Young. He’s 25 years old and in college was a dynamite score-first point guard at Oregon. He can be a double-digit scorer if he receives more than 15 minutes per game (he’s currently not topping 10 minutes per night). While it was only 11.4 minutes a game, Young did play in every game for the Pacers in January, once again bringing us back to an Indiana point guard being a tougher sell.
Philadelphia has benched veteran Jerryd Bayless, an Arizona product who on a descending deal makes $9 million in 2017-18. His contract expires next year. The Phoenix native is a good enough shooter and solid enough to initiate offense, though, he’s not a natural point.
Ian Clark hasn’t found much success playing for the veteran-laden Pelicans — he’s averaging 5.6 points and shooting just 30.8 percent from three — and he might be expendable. On a one-year deal, his shooting numbers are down this season and he doesn’t provide much playmaking or defense, but it’s expected he could at least add some spot-up shooting off the ball to help Phoenix.
Raul Neto started 53 games for Utah in his rookie season, but his ceiling was revealed. He’s a good shooter — by this year’s standards, great, by hitting 46.9 percent from deep — and a wizard of a passer. The problem is his 6-foot-1, 179-pound frame and limited athleticism inhibit how he can set up his own passes. On defense, another yikes. Neto didn’t play over 15 minutes in any game for Utah last month working his way back from injuries and will be a restricted free agent after his $1.4 million salary this season expires.
— Ramon Sessions remains unsigned after being waived by the Knicks, who favored Trey Burke.
— Joking here but … Former Suns All-Star Stephon Marbury’s season in China ends on Feb. 11 and he’s retiring from his overseas career. He is 41 years old.
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