If there is one thing the Suns have been blessed with in their fifty years of history, it is without a doubt great point guard play. From the likes of Gail Goodrich, Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Stephon Marbury, Goran Dragic, and more, regardless of record, this franchise historically boasts a collection of some of the greatest guards to ever play this game.
Suns fans have become accustomed to great point guard play, and the fan-base is in a bit of a whirl that Dragic, Thomas, and near All-Star level PG Eric Bledsoe are gone. Moving forward, the Suns currently lack a point guard of the future and don’t even have a serviceable point guard. This begs the question, how can they turn it around?
Analysis of Current PGs
As of now, the two point guards on the Suns roster are Tyler Ulis and Mike James. Both have had short spurts of success on this team coming off the bench, but neither have proven to be quality starters and only one of them looks like they’ll even stay in the NBA.
While Tyler Ulis showed flashes as a great pass first point guard last season after Eric Bledsoe was shut down, it must be remembered why this guy was a second round pick last year. Not only is he way undersized in terms of height at 5’9, he also doesn’t possess the muscle like an Isaiah Thomas does. This leads to him getting practically bullied on the floor night in and night out. Lacking a 3 point shot and being a liability on defensive switches spells trouble for Ulis as well. While he has the skill to be one of the better backup PGs in the league, it’s clear he’s not a starter for this team long term.
The former Euroleague PG Mike James is looking more and more overwhelmed as the season goes on. In the last six games, James has had a +/- of -63 while being benched by Triano because of poor shooting performances like Thursday night where he shot 1-13 from the field. He can perhaps still be a productive player off the bench for a team similar to Ulis, but by no means is he a starter either.
Looking to the Draft
While this year’s PG draft class is no match compared to last year’s thanks to the likes of Fox, Smith Jr., Ball, Fultz, and Ntilikina, there is still talent to be had. If the Suns can manage to nab a top-five pick, they can draft one of the best players in Europe, Luka Doncic, a 6’7 Slovenian who can play 1-3 with great vision. Doncic is a player who could run the offense alongside Booker and also help take the scoring load off of him as he can score in a variety of ways. If you haven’t witnessed his passing ability, enjoy this.
Later in the draft, Trevon Duval and Collin Sexton are both worthwhile options to look into as well especially if the Milwaukee pick conveys this year. The 6’2 defense first PG from Duke, Duval, in his first 3 games has had a combined 30 assists to only 4 turnovers. Collin Sexton, while more of a score first PG, is projected to go somewhere around the top 10. I don’t think he fits the team as well as Duval, but he is still someone to keep an eye on out in Alabama.
The ideal scenario here for PHX would be to luck into a top 5 pick this year and draft Doncic. A future lineup consisting of Doncic, Booker, Jackson, and Bender could terrorize the league and would put the Suns right up at the top of the league in terms of a collection of young talent.
Extending beyond the draft, with the Suns’ collection of assets they can certainly look to trade for a PG as well. Names to look out for are Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder, Emmanuel Mudiay, as well as other PGs recently drafted that fit the timeline of the Suns but may not be the best fit with their current teams.
Schroder right now is an underrated player in the league who is starting to blossom in the mess that is Atlanta. He is averaging 20 points and 7 assists at the age of just 24. While it may take a lot to pry him away from ATL, he could be worth it if the front office isn’t pleased with the crop of PGs in the draft.
Marcus Smart is another great potential option as he is averaging 5 rebound, 5 assists, and almost 2 steals a game while only averaging 30 minutes per contest. He could really bring hard-nosed defense alongside Booker. With Boston starting to have a logjam with Kyrie playing like a potential MVP and Rozier logging 24 minutes as well, Boston may not feel compelled to commit big money to Smart leading to a trade.
There is no need to talk a lot about free agent options here. First off, PHX is going to have a tough time attracting anyone here anyway because of the dumpster fire they look like right now. Secondly, there are only a couple of worthwhile PGs in this FA class led by Chris Paul who undoubtedly will not want to come to a rebuilding team. Isaiah Thomas is another who is probably not worth maxing out either.
After those two, the PG options taper off with an elderly Tony Parker and a shell of his former self, Derrick Rose. Utah’s Dante Exum will be a RFA and the Jazz are unlikely to match a high offer for him considering his disappointing run so far. If the Suns see something in him, perhaps they could be aggressive for him if all else fails.
The Final Verdict
Although this season may be very hard to watch with the current point guard rotation, there is assuredly light at the end of the tunnel. Players like Smart, Doncic, Duval, and others are all within the realm of possibility. It will just be up to the front office to make the right choice in the coming year.
The key is finding someone who can fit with Booker’s strengths/weaknesses while also fitting the timeline of the team. As good as Bledsoe was, he was not going to be the same player he is now in a few years when the Suns are ready to truly compete. His departure can be looked at as a sort of a positive because it forces PHX to accept the reality and look elsewhere.
Keep your heads up Suns fans, if there is one thing we know, it’s that the sun always rises.