Phoenix Suns’ point guard spot: Anybody got a scorecard?
Once upon a time, it would be nearly impossible to imagine the Phoenix Suns would have a shortage of point guards.
After all, over the last few years, they’ve had the likes of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Brandon Knight on their roster.
Now, they’re all gone, except Knight, and he won’t play a game this season due to a knee injury.
So the team that was once accused of having too many point guards has struggled to find a solution in 2017-18. Six different players have started games at the one, and the Suns have only played 57 games.
Here’s a quick rundown of all six players the Suns have started at point this season.
Total games played: 3
Total starts: 3
Bledsoe wasn’t happy in Phoenix, and he let it be known both verbally and by his effort level early in the year. In his final three appearances for the Suns, Bledsoe averaged 15.7 points, three assists and 2.3 rebounds. He had more turnovers than assists, shot only 40 percent and was exactly a stalwart on defense either. Portland’s Damian Lillard and Lonzo Ball of the Lakers both feasted on the Suns, scoring 27 and 29 points, respectively.
The Suns lost all three games (two by more than 40 points) and Bledsoe sent his now infamous beauty salon tweet the day after an embarrassing road loss to the Clippers.
He was sent home and eventually traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Total games played: 32
Total starts: 10
James was next in line to take over the offense after Bledsoe’s situation blew up. James was a feel-good story: he toiled in Europe for years following a college career at Lamar. After excelling for a second time in the Vegas Summer League for the Suns, he was signed to a two-way contract that he over-delivered on. So much so, that the Suns scramble to convert James’ two-way deal to a regular contract before the deadline and waived Derrick Jones Jr. to make room.
Just 16 days later, James was waived.
As a starter, James averaged 13.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
Total games played: 55
Total starts: 37
Tyler Ulis, come on down! You’re the next candidate to be the Suns’ starting point guard.
Ulis, a second-year player who earned “fan-favorite” status as a rookie last season, has struggled to regain his form from 2016-2017. In 15 starts as a rookie (mostly late in the season after Bledsoe was shut down), Ulis averaged 16.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game while proving to be a pesky, yet undersized, defender.
This season, those numbers are way down. In 37 starts, Ulis is averaging only 7.0 points and 4.3 assists per game while shooting only .382 from the floor.
Ulis has also been hampered by the absence of big man Alan Williams, who has missed the entire season with a knee injury. The young duo developed a synergy in the two-man game late last year that has been noticeably missing.
Total games played: 19
Total starts: 1
Canaan, an NBA journeyman, proved to be a nice pickup, especially early in his Phoenix tenure. In his first five games in purple and orange, Canaan averaged 13.4 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting a very respectable 42 percent from three-point range.
Over his next 13 contests, however, the shooting cooled off. Canaan hit only 28.3 percent from deep and averaged just 7.8 points per game while handing out 3.5 assists.
Canaan got one crack at the starting lineup Jan. 29 at Memphis, which was a 120-109 loss to the Grizzlies. In his next game, two nights later against Dallas, he suffered a horrific ankle injury, which ended his season.
Canaan was waived Feb. 8.
Total games played: 43
Total starts (at point guard): 5
Booker, the Suns’ best player, has tried his hand at the point this season due to a combination of need and intrigue. Some believe with his size and court vision, Booker could be a similar threat to Houston’s James Harden, however his early numbers don’t indicate that. Of course, that’s influenced by a couple of huge factors — Booker hasn’t been 100 percent healthy while playing the one and the talent around him is not as good as what Harden has/had in Houston.
In five starts at the point, Booker has averaged 18.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while shooting .402 from the floor.
He’s been bothered by hip and rib injuries lately, and will likely shift back to his customary shooting guard spot upon returning to the lineup.
Total games played: 2
Total starts: 2
The 23-year-old former lottery pick had 19 points, six rebounds and nine assists while hitting 8-of-13 shots from the floor. He was also effective defensively and helped limit Denver’s potent backcourt of Gary Harris and Jamal Murray to just 9-of-22 shooting.
He would follow up that impressive performance with 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
The Suns figure Payton, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, will provide a 25-game audition for them. After making a very low-risk trade (it only cost Phoenix a second-round pick), if the experiment works into a long-term plan, fine. If not, that’s fine, too.