Looking ahead to potential moves for Suns: Finalizing PG rotation
The Phoenix Suns still have a two-way contract spot open, but for the time being, they are as good as done with shuffling their roster during the offseason. The overhaul is complete and the depth chart is clear.
Looking ahead to training camp through to the trade deadline, however, and there are a couple of moves we could see happen for the Suns that shift the direction of the long-term roster. Empire of the Suns takes a look at a few candidates, including sorting out their, shockingly, deepest position.
When it was reported the Suns were signing former Auburn point guard Jared Harper on a two-way contract, in no slight at all to Harper’s prowess as a player, it felt like the Phoenix front office was mocking us.
“Oh, so we didn’t have any point guards on the roster last year, eh? How about another one! Yeah, that’s right, seven-deep up in here!”
With Ricky Rubio, Tyler Johnson, Ty Jerome, Elie Okobo, Jalen Lecque, Jevon Carter and Harper on the roster, that’s seven players who will most likely slot in at “point guard” on the depth chart.
Now, we need to establish that Rubio, Jerome, Carter and Harper are the only four that qualify as “clear-cut point guards,” due to size restrictions, style of play and what have you. Jerome can play off the ball a bit, too like Johnson, Lecque and Okobo.
But regardless of that fact, there’s some fat that needs to be trimmed because having almost half your roster under one position is, well, not smart.
The best way to look at this dilemma given the way general manager James Jones has gone about his business the past month is who he brought in and who he didn’t.
Rubio, his big signing, and Jerome, the player he traded back into the first round to select, aren’t going anywhere.
Johnson feels like the next-best bet to stay put, but in something we will discuss in a later piece, trading his $19 million expiring is a possibility to monitor. The assumption is the Suns value his role this season as a third guard and Jones was the one who traded for him, so let’s lock him in.
I feel the safest in projecting Lecque staying put after that.
He’s on a minimum four-year deal that is only guaranteed for two seasons, so cutting him wouldn’t really hurt you. With that in mind, it appears whoever in the front office vyed for him as an undrafted free agent signing knew they were onto something.
It’s always “just summer league” but what you can take away from the exhibitions in Las Vegas is certain player traits and characteristics within a prospect’s game you weren’t as familiar with.
The big shining example of this was Devin Booker’s pick-and-roll play, and for Lecque, it’s his physicality and fearlessness on the court.
Lecque’s got more to his game than athleticism and it’s a tremendous sign he uses it to further accentuate his slashing and defense.
Lecque didn’t bring the ball up much at all in Vegas, nor did he run the offense that much. It’s going to be a while before we see him functioning as an NBA guard. The upside, though, is fairly undeniable and a bad sign for the other guards we haven’t got to yet.
This cutoff is where we arrive at Okobo.
A Ryan McDonough high second-round draft pick, Okobo showed in his rookie season precisely what Jones has strictly veered away from in molding together the new identity of the roster. It isn’t obvious what he’s good at and he’s still figuring things out.
Okobo spent his rookie season learning how to be a point guard, the position he didn’t have much experience playing prior to his arrival in the NBA. Instead of remaining aggressive and playing to his strengths as a scoring guard, he tried to play slow and composed.
Often times, it was a mess. As I wrote in January, Okobo simply didn’t look ready for NBA minutes yet until he figured out how to balance his scoring in while he picked up the floor general cues.
Sounds like someone the Suns should bail on. That, however, would overlook Okobo showing real progress in getting better at reading defenses through his rookie year. And in an even more encouraging step, he athletically has looked the part defensively with the way he moves and competed often on that end.
There’s a reasonable chance he’s competent on both sides of the floor, particularly offensively. That’s not a player the Suns should cut loose on too soon, which is what they’d be doing if they let go of him now.
The question is if there’s room for him as the “developmental point guard” when Lecque is on the roster. And while Jerome is older and more seasoned, he’s still a rookie the team will have to bring along at a certain speed as well.
Plus, Okobo isn’t a guy Jones drafted or acquired. Carter is, was drafted only one spot after Okobo and has a go-to NBA skill already on defense.
Harper doesn’t really factor in all that much as a two-way guy and was likely someone the Suns wanted to see more of after the way he played for the summer league team. Despite him being yet another point guard, it matches up with the way Jones has looked past the idea of value and fit in roster building for the sake of getting his types of basketball players.
To be clear, the Suns could keep all of these guys. They are at 15 guaranteed contracts at the moment, with Harper’s two-way and the reported non-guaranteed deal for big Tariq Owens bringing us to 17.
But the likeliest outcome is them letting go of at least one, potentially more. Okobo had his admirers in the pre-draft process, making him a name to keep an eye on in a trade while Johnson’s expiring could be the perfect match for a team looking to get off long-term money or as a piece to help facilitate a deal with huge salaries. Carter could have simply been a required piece to finalize the Josh Jackson trade.
How Jones tidies the position up is going to be yet another indicator of how he’s choosing to build a team.