Suns GM: Abundance of guards is something to look at in offseason
Can a team really have too much talent?
In a lot of ways no, because the more talent you have then the better your chances are of winning.
However, when so much of the talent is concentrated at one position, it’s possible for issues to arise.
In 2013, the Phoenix Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe via trade and paired him in the backcourt with Goran Dragic. Though both naturally point guards, the duo worked well together and helped the team win 48 games.
Of course, Bledsoe was limited to 43 games that season due to injury, and with him sidelined Dragic elevated his game to a level that earned him the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Based on the success the team had with its pair of point guards, the Suns went into that offseason and left it with another, Isaiah Thomas.
Unfortunately, while a two-headed point guard situation may have worked, the three-headed version did not. There were rumblings about playing time and role, and at the February trade deadline both Dragic and Thomas were shipped out.
That same day, however, the Suns also acquired a point guard, and were hoping then that Brandon Knight could join Bledsoe in the backcourt and recreate the kind of magic the team had the season before.
Injuries have plagued Knight since he became a Sun and Bledsoe has missed the majority of this season with a knee injury, and with them on the shelf another guard — rookie Devin Booker — emerged as not only a good player, but a potential star.
While that’s a good thing, it has led to the question of what the Suns will do next season when, presumably, Bledsoe, Knight and Booker will all be healthy and worthy of starting.
If one is the point guard and another is the shooting guard, someone will be left out of the first five on the court.
“It’s certainly something we’ll have to address as we head into the offseason,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday.
The third-year GM said the issues that arose before with their guards was that all of the players involved were about the same age and same point in their careers, and all had aspirations of being All-Stars.
“I’m not saying our group now doesn’t have some of those same aspirations — I’m sure they do — but we need to figure out how to manage that better,” he said. “What I would say, generally, is that if you have three guys between those two positions you can put on the court, ideally, if you took the 96 minutes there and divided that by three, that’s 32 minutes apiece.”
Before he was hurt, Bledsoe was averaging 34.2 minutes per game. Knight has averaged 36 minutes per night this season, and Booker is at 26.2. As a starter, however, the No. 13 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft is averaging 33.6 minutes.
Keeping their minutes down, McDonough said, would help keep the players from getting burned out while also playing enough to be able to get into a rhythm.
But when comparing the lineup quandry the Suns may be facing next season to what they’ve had in the past, McDonough said it is important to note that Booker, unlike Bledsoe, Knight, Dragic and Thomas, is not actually a point guard.
“Devin is more of a natural shooting guard in terms of his size and positional ability,” he said. “I think as he ages he’ll get stronger, he’ll get better defensively. But I think he is more of a two and he is better suited to play the two and to guard opposing shooting guards.”
At 6-foot-6 and 200-pounds, Booker is certainly more of a shooting guard than the 6-foot-1 Bledsoe or 6-foot-3 Knight, at least in terms of stature. Having him on the floor along with Bledsoe or Knight gives the team more of a traditional lineup, one that won’t be at a disadvantage due to a lack of size.
“And the fact that he can run pick-and-rolls and make plays out of the shooting guard spot, we view that as an added benefit,” McDonough said.
In the 2006-07 season, the Suns essentially had a third guard who, while not starting, played starter’s minutes. But on that team, Leandro Barbosa (who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award) was content with this 32.7 minutes per game, which were the fifth-most on the team.
Assuming Booker starts next season, one of either Bledsoe or Knight is going to have to come off the bench, with most assuming it would be the latter player.
Whether or not Knight would be OK with the arrangement no one knows, but one way to avoid a potential problem would be to make a trade. Asked if Knight, specifically, is untouchable, the GM said he wouldn’t give anyone that label.
“Being here in Phoenix where we have a number of good players on the roster, a number of talented players, but any time you had a season like the one we’re having now, I think you have to evaluate all possibilities,” he said. “But now that being said, we have three young guards — and when I say young, I mean 26 and under who all have a lot of potential and a lot of ability — we’ll look at a number of things this offseason, but I’d say as we look at our team and what need to address, we’re pretty happy with the backcourt.
“There are probably other areas we’d look to try to upgrade first.”