The Phoenix Suns’ backup shooting guard picture is currently a bit murky.
Gerald Green’s departure left the Suns with just one in Archie Goodwin. Perhaps showing a lack of faith in Goodwin, the Suns chose Devin Booker in this year’s draft and signed Sonny Weems to a two-year deal. They also still have 2014 first-round pick Bogdan Bogdanovic overseas, and he’s due to come to Phoenix in either 2016 or 2017.
At the start of the season, Weems was the first guard off the bench and appeared to have coach Jeff Hornacek’s confidence over Goodwin and Booker. After a poor opening month, however, Weems was benched and that led to Goodwin and Booker getting all the playing time.
Even in Monday night’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs when the Suns were without Eric Bledsoe, Weems only played in the last minute while Booker got the start and played 24 minutes.
A 0.47 PER (player efficiency rating) entering Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs tells most of the story for Weems.
A second-round pick in 2008, Weems spent the past three seasons playing overseas for CSKA Moscow. He was seen as an all-around player who could pass, shoot, drive and defend. The question with him was how much of this was going to translate to the NBA. So far, none of it has.
In 74 minutes this season, Weems is 3-of-12 from the field, 0-for-4 from three-point range, and has a -1.1 AST/TO ratio.
So what’s going wrong? A detailed look at his season shows a player still getting used to the increased speed and length of the NBA game.
Here’s an example against the Portland Trailblazers:
It’s a poor angle on the pass and a bad decision. Maybe in Europe the defender doesn’t get his hands up.
Another example against the Sacramento Kings displays that Weems can read the defense, but he’s just a step behind for now and the game looks like it’s moving too quickly.
The intention here is good. Jon Leuer’s defender, Caron Butler, switches onto Weems and he has a window to make the pass to Leuer. While it’s a tight window, it’s there. Weems attempts to make the pass and it’s behind Leuer and too low for him. The pass could be intended for Len and if that’s the case, this is another example of Weems not being used to the extra length defenders have at this level. Either way, this is a set designed to get Weems the ball in this scenario and there’s still over half of the shot clock left, so he could reset and look for a better opportunity.
While those turnovers show where Weems is failing to adjust, we’ve still seen glimpses of what makes him a useful player for the Suns.
This is an example of what Weems can do. He’s good off the dribble and can create and make his shot at difficult angles. This shot just doesn’t go in and probably will in the future.
Great work by Weems to get out in transition off of a make and finish through contact. When everything else is going wrong, he’s still an asset on the run.
The instincts are spot-on here to pump fake and take the much easier mid-range jumper. The shot just doesn’t fall.
That’s a good portion of what Weems does well on offense, but the only reason he’s back in the NBA is because he became a much better shooter from deep. After shooting only 28 percent in his last NBA season in 2010, Weems shot 37 percent in 98 career games in EuroLeague.
Here’s a troubling clip against the Blazers.
This is a shot that Weems has to make to stay in the rotation. The defender goes all the way to the painted area to cover Knight and it’s a wide-open attempt from the corner.
Even when his shot isn’t falling, Weems can make a positive impact through his play-making on offense and his energy and athleticism on defense.
Those previous turnovers are somewhere he should vastly improve while getting used to the speed of the game and here’s an example of him adjusting.
Here’s that same pass again from earlier against Portland, except Weems makes sure to leave his feet and the pass is at a much better angle. This was the night after that turnover and is an example of the little things that Weems will pick up on over time.
Here’s a look at his activity level on defense.
Look at Weems during this entire possession. He’s refusing to allow Devin Harris to catch the ball and stays locked onto him from the moment the ball crosses half court. He knows what play is coming and works hard to fight through an uninspired screen from Dirk Nowitzki. From there, he provides help for Alex Len on the roll and gets the deserved steal after all that hard work. Well done.
Most of Weems’ issues point to his transition to the NBA and that just takes time. That’s the same issue Devin Booker is going to deal with as he tries to get into the rotation. The former Kentucky guard just needs more time to be groomed as a rookie and then he will be the favorite for minutes because of his 3-point shooting.
Booker has already shown that, with a 15-point performance against the Pelicans and getting the starting nod from Hornacek with Bledsoe hurt against the Spurs. As the youngest player in the NBA, it looked like Booker would need some time to adapt. While he’s still adjusting, Booker looks like he’s already taking over the backup shooting guard minutes and Weems missed his opportunity.
The Suns could still use a player like Weems off the bench, but that’s how fast things can happen in professional sports. Whether or not we see Weems in a real role for the Suns is up to his coach, a sentence most Suns fans did not expect to read 15 games into the season.
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