What comes next at PG for Suns after trading Brandon Knight to Rockets?
Point guard was a precarious position for the Suns previous to Phoenix popping out of the offseason woodwork by dealing Brandon Knight to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.
In the deal, the Suns also added depth to the power forward position by adding veteran stretch power forward Ryan Anderson and dealing third-year pro Marquese Chriss. They scrunched the already-squeezed forward rotation that, if Anderson starts, will put four of Trevor Ariza, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Mikal Bridges and Dragan Bender on the bench.
The roster changes as they stand look like an immediate downgrade for Phoenix, simply because they now have no starting point guard, though they did gain an intriguing return by also acquiring rookie guard De’Anthony Melton.
All that said, this presents more questions about the point guard spot.
Here’s a look at where that could go. It seems all but certain this is the first shoe to drop — but first, a few other thoughts.
Booker the PG
Fill in the blanks, and the Suns could again point shooting guard Devin Booker to the point guard slot. With all the shifts at forward, a starting lineup of center Deandre Ayton, Ryan Anderson, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and Booker would be … questionable.
Does it work offensively? Only two of those players project as above-average three-point shooters to space the floor. The results could be more gory defensively, where zero of the players listed could be credited as above-average defenders.
There could be better lineups that include Bridges, who solves both of those major problems if it so happens Phoenix was hiding his readiness by playing him relatively sparingly in Summer League. And that’s avoiding the fact that Booker’s point guard duties last season came with mixed results, at best.
The one sell for a Booker-playing-point-guard scenario: First-year coach Igor Kokoskov doesn’t need a true point guard, and the guy bringing up the ball won’t be wasting nearly as much energy as any player who’s played the position for Phoenix in the past three decades.
The spot is up for grabs
Let’s not forget the Suns currently have four point guards signed for training camp.
Rookie Elie Okobo proved in Summer League he’s more than a microwave scorer. It’s safe to say the French product who Phoenix picked 31st overall has the best passing instincts on the team right now, and combined with an attacking style that dictates defenses thanks to the threat of his scoring prowess, his offensive upside projects well.
Melton, however, is right there with Okobo. The 20-year-old fell to 46th overall in the 2018 draft, but he would’ve been a candidates to be drafted 16th if the Suns had stuck there instead of trading up to acquire Bridges. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton’s metric- and scout-based prospect rankings listed Melton as the 12th-best prospect, ahead of Okobo, who was 16th in ESPN’s rankings.
Melton didn’t play at USC as a sophomore last season due to the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball, but he did flash as a freshman the year before.
Melton has playmaking potential to play either guard spot, and he’s the perfect fit alongside Booker at 6-foot-3, 193 pounds and a 6-foot-9 wingspan. I called him a Ben Wallace-type defender at the point guard spot due to his ability to stay in front of opponents to contest jumpers, drives and passes.
Melton could be close to a well-rounded player if his jumper showed the fluidity it did during Summer League. All that said, he still has a ways to go after he shot 38 percent overall during the summer and 32 percent from three.
All of the above is discounting Shaq Harrison and Isaiah Canaan.
Harrison’s defense was downright disruptive this summer, and his command of Kokoskov’s offense was sound enough during Summer League. That said, his lack of a quick trigger on his jumper and his lack of natural vision limits him.
Canaan, of course, is coming off an ankle fracture. He’s a big-bodied guard who holds his own in most regards but lacks an elite skill.
Now that we’ve covered that, on to the most likely scenario.
Another trade is on the horizon
Included in Adrian Wojnarowski’s report for ESPN was that Harrison is likely to receive backup point guard minutes, and that means the Suns will continue scouring the market for a starting-caliber point guard.
Among the positives in what looked like a confounding trade, dealing two players with little value for an even larger contract — Anderson is owed $20.4 million this year and perhaps $21.3 million next — and Melton at least gives Phoenix another prospect with unsoured upside.
Looking at where the Suns stand, it would appear continuing to search for a starting-caliber point guard is the priority for the next month. After all the team’s promises about attempting to turn into a competitive team, this move sets Phoenix back in the immediate term — even if you insist Knight would not have recovered from his disappointing three-year bottoming out.
What options are there?
The Hornets appear set on giving it one more go with Kemba Walker. Winds out of Portland haven’t suggested general manager Neil Olshey will blow up the Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum backcourt as every basketball nut has suggested. But as we’ve seen with stars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, things can change quickly in the NBA.
At the moment, options include a call to the Pacers (Cory Joseph, Darren Collison), Clippers (Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic), Raptors (Delon Wright), Timberwolves (Tyus Jones) and Celtics (Terry Rozier).
The Suns don’t have a starting-caliber point guard right now, but the fact that the roster is such a jumble at the forward positions also alludes to a follow-up deal.