Monty Williams ‘excited’ about what Tyler Johnson brings to Suns

Jun 6, 2019, 6:31 PM
Tyler Johnson #16 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the first half of the NBA game agains...
Tyler Johnson #16 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the first half of the NBA game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Talking Stick Resort Arena on March 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The wild card in the Phoenix Suns’ 2019 offseason plans is guard Tyler Johnson.

Acquired at the trade deadline from the Miami Heat in February for power forward Ryan Anderson, Johnson gave the Suns both a properly-functioning player in the rotation and a large expiring contract that could potentially facilitate a future deal.

Looking past the possibility the Suns choose to extend Johnson, he will surely accept his player option for a salary of $19.2 million next season. With the limited cap space the Suns have and their aspirations to add key veterans at both point guard and power forward, Johnson seems like one of the more likely players to get traded before the start of the season.

But don’t tell that to the Suns’ new head coach Monty Williams, who is a fan of what Johnson brings to a team.

When asked about the offseason on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Suns Offseason Special, Williams rattled off names on the roster, beginning with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton — as one normally does. But the third player he brought up and went on to describe was Johnson.

“I’m really excited about Tyler,” Williams said Thursday. “I think Tyler’s a guy who has been in a winning program and he brings intangibles to the team that really excite me.”

In the 13 games Johnson played, he was adequate, but certainly showed why he’s unable to escape a combo guard label and admitted as much by saying that being a full-time point guard was a new thing for him.

Averaging 11.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists, Johnson’s 36.8% shooting from the field in a short sample size was disappointing. But the winning traits Williams brings up shine through on the floor and Johnson’s young teammates spoke highly of the experience Johnson brought into the locker room as a 27-year-old who has “been there before” with the Heat.

Most impressively, Johnson had a 3.86 assist-to-turnover ratio, notably using some of those assists to set up Booker’s shooting when the franchise two-guard was playing off the ball.

If Johnson can take care of the ball, compete defensively and hit a couple more shots, that’s a guy the Suns and Williams should want in their rotation.

But it gets complicated with Johnson on the roster if the Suns add another guard, which sure seems to be the plan and should be.

If that’s a veteran point guard on a healthy-enough salary, the Suns would likely be spending at least $25 million on their point guard rotation, if not more depending on the price of the theoretical point guard. They could create that space by trading one of their wings, such as T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson.

If the Suns draft a point guard with the No. 6 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, say Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland or North Carolina’s Coby White, that’s where Johnson as a stop-gap option for a season and a veteran mentor is more logical.

But, again, $19.2 million is a whole lot of money and if the Suns do what most assume in re-signing wing Kelly Oubre Jr. to an eight-figure deal, spending will be tight.

There’s also the chance they find a trade for either a point guard or another position that involves a large salary and would require Johnson’s expiring to make the deal function. After Booker and Johnson, the next highest-earning Suns player is Warren making $10.8 million.

Williams’ high level of interest in the skills Johnson provides adds an interesting dynamic to the Suns’ offseason decision-making chart. If their plans to add a point guard fall apart or what they believe to be a greater opportunity to use their assets to upgrade another position presents itself, they’d at least have an option that their head coach seems to trust.

Empire of the Suns

Devin Booker #1, Kevin Durant #35, Deandre Ayton #22 and Josh Okogie #2 of the Phoenix Suns stand o...
Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns will force Denver Nuggets, NBA to pick their poison

The Phoenix Suns are going to be putting opposing defenses in challenging positions the rest of the season.
18 hours ago
Chris Paul #3 and Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate after defeating the Minnesota Timb...
Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns claw to scrappy win in Kevin Durant’s home debut

Kevin Durant's home debut did not go the way anyone expected but the Phoenix Suns were still able to get an important win.
2 days ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena on...
Kellan Olson

Devin Booker’s lifelong dream of Nike signature shoe reportedly on horizon

Devin Booker's completion rate on his bucket list puts just about all of us to shame. A signature shoe with Nike is the next box to check.
3 days ago
Phoenix Suns Forward Kevin Durant (35) and Phoenix Suns Guard Devin Booker (1) looks on during a NB...
Kellan Olson

What to watch in Kevin Durant’s return, closing stretch of the season

Wednesday is expected to bring the home debut of Kevin Durant and the resumption of the Phoenix Suns' incorporation process.
3 days ago
Karl-Anthony Towns #32and Mike Conley #10 of the Minnesota Timberwolves react after Towns hit the g...
Kellan Olson

Timberwolves finally at full strength ahead of crucial matchup vs. Suns

The Phoenix Suns have a big-time game on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have a few things coming together right now.
4 days ago
Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul, right, gets congratulations from Kevin Durant, left, and Devin Booker, mi...
Kevin Zimmerman

Mess of the West: Suns’ tiebreakers come into focus with 7 games left

Kevin Durant's return against the Minnesota Timberwolves could help the Phoenix Suns lock up an NBA standings tiebreaker.
3 days ago
Monty Williams ‘excited’ about what Tyler Johnson brings to Suns