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ESPN’s Pelton: Suns get good marks for Tyler Johnson acquisition

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By trading away Ryan Anderson to the Miami Heat for guards Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson, the Phoenix Suns made some noise ahead of the NBA trade deadline.

While it’s believed Ellington will not remain with the team, Johnson brings in a scrappy style of play and the opportunity to find his way into the team’s starting rotation.

But was it the right move to make for a team still searching for an answer at point guard?

Earning a “B+” from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the Suns may still be in the market for a true floor general, but the deal works for a team looking to next year.

Over the past couple of years, the Suns’ dilemma has been whether to acquire a starting point guard or let Devin Booker take over the position. Dealing for Johnson sort of splits the difference. A combo guard capable of playing either at the point or off the ball, Johnson can share playmaking duties with Booker while retaining value as a spot-up shooter when Booker is at the controls.

With Miami, Johnson played both point and shooting guard. The Suns, who have rotated four players — Elie Okobo, Devin Booker, Isaiah Canaan and De’Anthony Melton — into the point spot throughout the season, could use him much the same.

Due to injuries to Melton (right ankle sprain) and Booker (right hamstring tightness), Johnson’s presence on the court could be immediately felt.

The 26-year-old is averaging 10.8 points and 2.5 assists in 25.5 minutes per game mostly off the Heat’s bench this season. Overall, he’s shooting 43 percent from the field and 35 percent from long range.

Throw in the fact that the only player the Suns gave up was Anderson, who hadn’t played since Dec. 4, and it looks as though the Suns are the early winners of the deal.

The biggest downside on Johnson, according to Pelton?

He doesn’t have a specific area where he dominates.

He’s a solid 3-point shooter but not an elite one, having hit 37 percent beyond the arc in his career but just 35 percent so far this season — a tad worse than league average. Nonetheless, Johnson is a huge upgrade on the Suns’ other ballhandling options. Even if he’s not Phoenix’s point guard of the future, he can solidify the position for the short term and keep the Suns from having to overpay to get one.

While the Suns looked to add another piece to place along Booker and big man Deandre Ayton, the Heat looked at the financial standpoint of the deal. Moving Johnson helps get the team close to moving out of the luxury tax and helps reduce the team’s 2019-20 payroll.

For that, Pelton gave Miami a “B-” grade.


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