EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Anthony Davis saga gives Suns more avenues to finding a PG
It’s not a domino effect that the Anthony Davis saga in New Orleans will have across the NBA.
The impact will rumble across the league to a far more widespread and seemingly random degree. Potentially, that includes in Phoenix, where the Suns continue their search for more stability at the point guard position.
To circle back to a topic Kellan Olson and I touched on Friday, before Davis publicly requested a trade from the Pelicans, the Suns need to make something happen at the point guard position — and soon. Whether finding a rental to ease the load on Devin Booker for the rest of the year, or taking a risk and trading key assets to put a still very good Mike Conley next to Booker and Deandre Ayton, Phoenix might have to overpay.
As our Dan Bickley reiterated Monday, Davis’ situation shows just how much frustration can build for an NBA star if the supporting cast isn’t good enough around him. Phoenix needs to make a move.
While the Davis trade request should remind the Suns to get it together, it also brings up a point about what, for the team’s sake, is hopefully aggressive patience on the part of co-interim GM James Jones and the front office.
Aggression is needed to find solutions. But patience is the key after the Davis news, because within hours of it coming to light, two new potential avenues to improving the Suns cropped up.
Lonzo Ball’s inclusion in a Davis deal
Among the very first tremors caused by Davis’ trade request were the sources of The Athletic’s Shams Charania, who reported second-year Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball would want to be redirected to a third team without an established point guard rather than land on the Pelicans. Alarm bells in the Suns’ offices should have gone off if they hadn’t before.
Ball was widely considered the second-best draft prospect in what now appears to be a more talented 2017 class than first thought. While his stroke remains a mess to the point where he’s converting 45 percent from the free throw line, Ball is averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds with 1.7 steals per game.
He added a significant amount of weight to his 6-foot-6 frame and, as the first play in the clip below shows, has been a surprisingly strong defender as a 21-year-old.
Ball would fit well alongside Phoenix’s shooters, slashers and rim-rollers alike. Within time, he could bolster a team scuffling in finding its defensive mojo.
Maybe adding another 21-year-old wouldn’t change the immediate future, but it could quell concerns on Booker’s end, giving him confidence in the front office and a player who can take away some of the play-making burden placed upon him.
Jrue Holiday’s future in NOLA
The combo guard inked a five-year, $125 million deal to remain with the Pelicans in 2017 and called Davis “like 90 percent of the reason that I stayed.” Don’t expect Holiday to walk away from his other teammates so easily, but do expect that New Orleans would consider deals for him to hurry up a reset that starts once Davis is gone, especially if that means taking on young stars and draft picks in exchange for the big man.
Holiday is the perfect in-between of Conley and Ball. He’s 28 years old and makes $26 million for the next two years before a $27 million player option in 2021-22. At minimum, that’s $6 million less than Conley’s deal at $33 million next year and $35 million in 2020-21.
Holiday is averaging 21.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. While shooting 33 percent from deep this year, he is a career 36 percent three-point shooter.
Oh, and he’s played mostly off the ball while doing all that, taking on the best perimeter player on the defensive end as a 6-foot-4, 205-pound player who is the even more perfect fit alongside Booker than Conley.
Whether those players are reasonable options for the Suns to pursue is hard to say.
If not, the point still stands that possibilities for Phoenix will be available and more could crop up as the rest of the NBA landscape shifts, in this case like tectonic plates.
Meanwhile, New Orleans will attempt to remain patient with Davis still under contract through next season.
“Relative to specific talks of a trade, we will do this on our terms and our timeline,” the team said in a statement. “One that makes the most sense for our team and it will not be dictated by those outside of our organization.”
Whenever a trade does happen — be it before the Feb. 7 deadline, during this offseason or somehow lasts until next February — shockwaves from an eventual deal could lead to more avenues for the Suns to go down.
That timeline should be all the current front office has to finally take a big swing that former GM Ryan McDonough did just once (with the Brandon Knight deal) and never made contact in doing so.