EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Empire of the Suns free agency PG primer: Targets, players to avoid

Jun 28, 2019, 11:02 AM | Updated: Jun 30, 2019, 3:23 pm

(Getty Images)...

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

With the start of free agency coming Sunday afternoon, the Phoenix Suns still don’t have a point guard.

“Still,” as in, they haven’t had a point guard since Eric Bledsoe didn’t want to be at a hair salon three games into the 2017-18 season. That’s nearly two full regular seasons.

Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman dive into free agent point guards on the market to monitor for the Suns — hopefully for the last time in the foreseeable future. Who best fits the Suns and at what price point?

Olson: Kevin! The Suns still don’t have a point guard as we enter free agency. While the 2019 free agent class at the position is quite underwhelming, it’s actually in a great spot for where the Suns sit.

With around $13-14 million in space, Phoenix’s top desire is to add a veteran point guard, particularly one that isn’t going to be on the ball all that much and will be more of a role player.

That’s actually where this group shines, from the top around the Malcolm Brogdon tier to the lower tiers with the Cory Josephs of the world. We can cross off Kemba Walker, who looks like he won’t return to Charlotte but has interest from Boston and Dallas to already consider. Ditto for the already-probably-wearing-Nets-apparel Kyrie Irving.

The elephant in the room is D’Angelo Russell, who fits the age group of the team, is an All-Star point guard and is besties with Devin Booker. He also is going to need a lot of money and the ball.

I gave my thoughts here on Russell. Where do you stand on the hoops to jump through if he indeed wants to come to Phoenix?

Zimmerman: I completely understand why Suns fans want Russell. Appeasing Booker is necessary, winning soon is too and having a decently exciting team to watch — even if it’s topping out at 35 wins — is important.

I also get why Suns GM James Jones is grabbing at the neck of his very tight collar because D-Lo costs a lot of money, and the Suns don’t have a lot of wiggle room financially this summer. As you wrote, Russell will make upward of $27 million to start, and just getting enough to sign him includes stretching Tyler Johnson and an additional more minor move to find the space. Then, all that space is gone this year and well beyond.

Look, I think you’d have to do it if Russell wants to team up with Booker. Take a risk — at least you’re spending a whole lotta cash on a core group of players years out from their prime. But that’s all assuming Russell wants to come to a down situation in Phoenix. That said, I think there’s better value in re-signing Oubre for nearly half the price (Nabbing both of them is even that much more financially restricting).

(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Olson: Let’s quickly address Brogdon. It’s just about impossible to see Phoenix getting Brogdon because his skillset fits on every team, including Milwaukee, which should do everything to keep the restricted free agent given where the team’s championship window is right now. Maybe the Suns could overpay Brogdon up front and catch the Bucks in an odd spot, but I don’t see it.

Now we move into the range of guys who make the most sense for the Suns. This is the Ricky Rubio, Patrick Beverley and Darren Collison space.

I think Beverley is perfect. We, rightfully so, laud him for the intangibles and what that would do for the Suns. He’s also a pretty awesome fit next to Devin Booker. I’d pay him $10-14 million a year in a jiffy and he’s my favorite free agent target for them.

Please give me your hottest of takes on Rubio.

Zimmerman: I agree on Beverley. Sign a bunch of the best fighting men on the basketball court and put them around Booker, Deandre Ayton and Kelly Oubre Jr., and this offseason is a small win. Also, he’s a leader, an underrated shooter, etc.

Rubio? I’m not seeing the fit in Phoenix. The team clearly needs a secondary playmaker and solid defender at point guard, and while he’s that, I’m thinking he’s going to command too much money for the Suns to justify paying a guy who cannot space the floor when Booker is going to be handling the ball so much. In other words, they shouldn’t pay a point guard to hurt them when he doesn’t have the ball.

If Pat Bev and Rubio are off the table, do you give a thought to Collison? And if not him, either, who do you like in the next tier of point guards? And is going into this tier all that bad if the money allows the Suns to spend a little more on, say, a backup power forward?

Olson: I think you spend all the money on a point guard if you find the right guy. Backup power forward minutes are whatever if you finally address the roster’s biggest issue as a consequence. To your Rubio point, I will quickly bring up Terry Rozier here on the same parameters as a guy who will cost too much and is a clunky backcourt mate for Booker.

Man, with Collison, I really get some Trevor Ariza vibes for whatever reason. I like the player but hesitate with him in Phoenix. On a cheap enough deal I wouldn’t mind it. The Suns, though, will not get him on an affordable contract if they do get him. Playoff teams will covet Collison.

(Editor’s note: Collison has since announced his retirement from the NBA)

My favorite point guard target outside of Beverley is Washington’s Tomas Satoransky. He passes the eye test as a guy who does a bunch of little things well and the deep numbers are incredibly encouraging.

His usage rate last season was in the minuscule 12th percentile among point guards but he managed 5.0 assists per game off that, making his assist to usage ratio one of the best in the league, per Cleaning the Glass. That’s a number he has maintained for all three seasons with the Wizards, and that includes taking 37% of his shots at the rim the last two seasons and shooting over 65% there. While it’s on low volume, he was a 40% 3-point shooter last year too. That’s how he manages a terrific career true shooting percentage of 58.4.

The defense is “fine” but I love the offensive playstyle next to Booker. The issue is Satoransky is restricted and the Wizards, like the Suns, need to keep every good player they can. I think Washington would even match some big overpays, but the Suns should definitely try.

Any sneaky names even lower on the totem pole you like before we depart?

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Zimmerman: We can’t go without mentioning Cory Joseph. Clearly we’re not enthralled by that potential signing, but the guy is a straight up solid basketball player who can run an offense, defend and occasionally hit a three-pointer. He’s just never averaged double-digits even though he’s been a 25-minute per night player, and next to Tyler Johnson, who has been in double-figures the last three years, you wonder if that’s enough scoring to complement Booker.

Beyond that, the Suns could take a look at these following guys and take a low eight-figure swing that they could blossom into starting-caliber point guards: Seth Curry (not point-guardy enough), T.J. McConnell (can’t space the court) and Emmanuel Mudiay (restricted and erratic and a poor shooter).

But are those guys better than Johnson?

After that we’re in likely third-string point guard territory: Jerian Grant, Trey Burke and Tim Frazier.

So yeah, the Suns — without a point guard for two years running — should take the consolation of Joseph over those options.

Olson: A bonus name I want to mention is Minnesota’s Tyus Jones.

While he’s undersized, Jones has proven himself to be one of the better defensive point guards in the league. On top of that, Jones is worthy of the “floor general” label we hear so often for the position. He assisted 28% of his team’s possessions he was involved in last season while turning over only 9% of ’em in 22.9 minutes per game, which translates to 7.5 assists and 1.1 turnovers per 36 minutes.

If that sounds absurd, well, it is. Those percentages on those minutes have only been done once ever since the stats started being recorded, and of all the guys it was 23-year-old Tracy McGrady in 2003, per Basketball-Reference. Bump the turnover percentage to 12 and we’ve got Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker and Lou Williams joining as the other players to do it this past season.

This is not to suggest the 23-year-old Jones is an All-Star in the making but he’s perhaps getting a little undervalued.

The trouble is that Jones is a restricted free agent. The Timberwolves have Jeff Teague on an expensive one-year deal, no further point guard solution and drafted Jarrett Culver over Coby White when they had a chance to get one.

What would it take for Minnesota to not match on Jones? The guess is somewhere in the range of “starter money,” flirting with eight digits and potentially going beyond $10 million a year.

That’s a whole lot of belief in Jones being a capable starting point guard but he could be the precise type of target for the Suns that’s under the radar at a need and potentially a steal.

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