EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

22 for 22: Is point guard the way to go for Suns in 2024 NBA Draft?

Jun 17, 2024, 8:17 AM | Updated: 11:14 am

Alright, alright. OK. Fine. Let’s talk point guards.

Our series has tracked a myriad of topics relating to the Phoenix Suns’ offseason and how they could use the 22nd pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. One of them we’ve avoided to this point is point guard, the position that is overwhelmingly thought of as the biggest need on the roster. This week we will poke and prod that discussion before analyzing the five best lead guard prospects outside of the lottery.

To establish some footing first, it is an easy trap to fall into in regards to the Suns requiring a floor general. Yes, it is a need. Yes, in a perfect world, Devin Booker is playing alongside one. We are not in that world.

As soon as Phoenix traded for Bradley Beal, what a lot of people missed was that it locked in an iron-clad commitment to those two as a starting backcourt. If a point guard was going to exist in their rotation, it would be one coming off the bench. A conversation about Beal as a reserve might become more reasonable after another season like last year. But for now, it can’t happen.

Beal’s injuries, a confusing use of him when he was healthy by the prior coaching staff and the lack of cohesion didn’t let the Suns come remotely close to exploring what their backcourt is capable of. The potential of what Beal and Booker could do together, complementing each other in a way almost no other backcourt in basketball could, is still more than on the table. The ceiling of that Suns backcourt with this roster is a championship. The ceiling of a Suns backcourt featuring Booker alongside a top 20-30 point guard with this roster is the second round.

The Suns almost certainly can’t trade Beal, even if they wanted to. It’s on him and it’s on Booker to figure out their dynamic. That is the x-factor for Phoenix’s entire season, regardless of what happens across the next two months.

But a point guard would help. Once it became clear around the start of January that the Suns’ offense was particularly struggling without Booker on the floor, that was the time to pursue a 1 to aid the flow while Booker rested.

We watched Chris Paul for three years survey the scene in the opening period before his first break. That second shift to begin the second quarter is when Paul would really get going. That has to be Beal’s time too, and another playmaking guard would make that process easier.

There is a solid case that this can’t be a rookie. A first-year player directing traffic amongst three stars attempting to find their touches is a lot to put on young shoulders. But it would be more about identifying a point guard who is capable of earning the respect of his peers quickly. This is the headlining argument for Houston’s Jamal Shead, a second-round prospect who would be a reach at No. 22 while also bringing every single point guard intangible you can think of to the table. We went over the case for targeting him while trading down.

Ultimately, that respect is going to come with some obvious traits and also bringing a skill set to the table that helps elevate the team. Fortunately for Phoenix, there are a few prospects in the back half of the first round at guard that offer that.

Marquette’s Tyler Kolek sits ahead of Shead on most mock drafts and just behind Shead on the intangibles leaderboard. Kolek is tremendous about how he attacks defenses with a decided tempo in pick-and-roll. Carlton Carrington out of Pittsburgh is a more modern guard prospect with all of the sizzle and scoring. USC’s Isaiah Collier wants to live in the paint, and rim pressure is valuable. Ajay Mitchell showed an offensive package at UC Santa Barbara that matches anyone in this group. None of them pass better than Juan Nunez.

Let’s refocus our optics. If we take this draft pick for simply what gives the Suns the best chance to get an effective reserve next season at either point guard, wing or center, the easy answer is point guard. The job listing is simple. Set up the primary scorers, hit open shots, limit turnovers and defend at a passable level.

The wings in this portion of the draft, outside of Colorado’s Tristan da Silva, are hampered by either not being trustworthy enough defenders or shooters. The centers in this portion of the draft all have different attributes that grade highly, but can any of them be capable anchors defensively right away at the position that is notoriously the hardest to pick up for rookies?

That’s an example of how we land on drafting a point guard at No. 22. At the end of the day, though, the low usage of the role and lack of available minutes behind Beal and Booker are obstacles in the way of getting proper value. It’s not the best direction for one of the few remaining pieces to give the team a short-term upgrade.

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22 for 22: Is point guard the way to go for Suns in 2024 NBA Draft?