July 26, 2016, 9:18 am
The Phoenix Suns are deep in what appears to be a much needed rebuild. They shocked the league a few seasons ago, just barely losing out on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference after being expected to compete for the top spot in the draft lottery, and have seemingly struggled to live up to expectations ever since.
This recent era for the team has been dominated by the idea of having multiple starting point guards on the roster. This all seemingly began when the organization found success featuring both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and continued when the team decided to add Isaiah Thomas to that group the following off-season. Even when Thomas and Dragic were dealt at the trade deadline, Phoenix used one of the more valuable assets in the league, the Lakers top three protected first round pick, and turned it into Brandon Knight.
This strategy does not appear to be working. Isaiah Thomas has blossomed into an All Star point guard for the Boston Celtics after struggling to find a fit in Phoenix, and Brandon Knight hasn’t been able to replicate the success that he had with the Bucks just before the trade.
It’s easy to see that Knight is not the player that he was during his final season with Milwaukee. His numbers are down across the board with the Suns, and the chatter about him being more of a combo guard has gotten louder ever since.
According to Basketball Reference, Brandon Knight dished out eight assists per 100 possessions as a Buck to go along with an assist percentage of 27.5%. Those numbers drop to 6.9 assists per game and an assist percentage of 24% as a Sun. While you may expect his turnover numbers to follow this trend, he actually had a lower turnover percentage with the Bucks than he did in Phoenix.
Knight has also been asked to be more of a floor spacer as a Sun. He saw his 3-point attempts per 100 possessions increase from 7.5 to 9.2 as a Sun, and subsequently, his percentage has dropped in that category. He has also seen his 2-point attempts and free throw opportunities diminish. He’s being asked to drive to the basket and run the offense less, and has been turned into a more one-dimensional player as a result.
So what’s the problem with Phoenix? While this may not be the entire answer, part of the issue could be the adjustment to playing shooting guard more often than he’s used to. Basketball Reference shows that Knight was only asked to play the off guard position six percent of the time while he was in Milwaukee, and that number skyrockets to 55% in Phoenix.
Many have noted that Brandon Knight may be more suited to play shooting guard, but this experiment in Phoenix has to be discouraging that idea.
There should be hope that that the revolving door that has characterized the Suns’ shooting guard position could finally be solidified. Devin Booker, a true shooting guard at 6-6 with a more-than-ideal physical profile for the position, has emerged as a legitimate option far earlier than he was expected to. Booker needs minutes, and the organization would be foolish to not find them for him any way that they can.
The Suns would be equally foolish to let Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight rot on the bench as backup point guards. The organization has committed financially to both of them, and now is the time to move on from one and move forward with the other. The idea of having both of them starting hasn’t worked, and with a promising young option on the wing it’s time to pull the plug on the experiment
Which one should they commit to? That’s a complicated answer that can really only be answered by the front office. Because of his success on both ends of the court, one would have to imagine that Bledsoe would bring in a far more attractive return than Knight would, but the flip side of that is the value that each player would bring back to the team if they were to return next season. If Bledsoe is thought to command a bigger return, then he also should be the more valuable asset to his team going into next season.
The decision now comes down to what the organization can get for either player, and what type of assets the team is even looking for. If they’re looking for more of a retool than a rebuild, then maybe you look at the type of return that you’re offered. If the best offers that Phoenix receives are proven player for one guy, and a group of picks for the other, then the decision can be made easier right there. The team could also be much higher on one player than the other.
It’s hard for me to sit here and speculate about what the team is looking for. They could prefer either guy long term, and could be getting drastically better offers for one than the other, but the fact remains that one should be gone before next season starts. Devin Booker looks to be an incredibly promising player that is ready for all of the minutes the team can give him. The Suns should be serious about making him a major part of their franchise, and that starts with committing to him as their starting shooting guard.