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GM James Jones: Suns waived Tyler Johnson to open roster opportunities

Tyler Johnson #16 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the 76ers 114-109. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When the Phoenix Suns swapped Ryan Anderson’s girthy contract for Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington at the 2019 NBA trade deadline, it came with the expectation Johnson would pick up a $19.2 million option for 2019-20.

His contract gave Phoenix the ability get involved in big-time blockbuster trades for the remainder of Johnson’s deal, plus a steady veteran to start at point guard toward the end of 2018-19 — even if Johnson is naturally a combo scoring guard.

With Johnson in 2019-20 suffering through role changes, minor injuries and shooting slumps, the Suns decided to move on from the 27-year-old Sunday, a few days after the trade deadline passed.

The move opened a roster spot and gives Phoenix coach Monty Williams the chance to see what else he has on the roster. Additionally, it gives Johnson a chance to sign with a playoff-bound team after clearing waivers.

Suns general manager James Jones told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station that the team did look at potential trades involving Johnson’s contract.

“We looked at it both ways going into the trade deadline, trying to explore opportunities to improve the team. Those situations didn’t materialize,” Jones said. “To Tyler’s credit, he’s been phenomenal — he’s been phenomenal with our guys. He worked every day, he put his body on the line. He’s a guy that plays only at one speed. After we got through the deadline, we thought about it and said, as we approach the All-Star break and approach the opportunity to get healthy coming out of the All-Star break, is there an opportunity for us to improve our team?

“If we have a roster spot where we can be opportunistic and start to pick and choose how we fill in the backend of our roster, we just thought it was the best for the team to allow him the opportunity to move on and to give guys like Cam (Johnson), Mikal (Bridges), Devin (Booker), Kelly (Oubre) opportunities to make more plays and be more vital in our rotation.”

Johnson had played between 10 and 18 minutes off the bench in the last games he’s appeared, but a knee injury made him unavailable for a small stretch as well.

He’s not played in the last four games as Williams has used a short bench that includes second-year guards Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter, plus rookie Ty Jerome.

Johnson averaged 5.7 points and 1.6 assists while shooting 38% overall and 29% from three-point range in 31 games this season.

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