As a rookie last year, Diante Garrett played a total of 19 games. He averaged 7.8 minutes in those games and tallied a virtually irrelevant 2.1 points and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 33 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent from the free-throw line. He also committed 0.8 turnovers per game, a high amount considering his limited playing time. Garrett played 15 minutes in the last game of the season and went 0-for-7 from the floor while committing two turnovers. In other words, it’s no surprise that a year later, he’s fighting for his job and a roster spot with the Phoenix Suns.
However, as the NBA Summer League often shows, a player’s rookie season doesn’t have to necessarily define their career. A little improvement, steady tweaking, more confidence with the ball and putting on a better display during the summer in Las Vegas can go a long way for a motivated third-stringer. And if the Suns’ first four games in the Summer League are any indication, Diante Garrett is attempting to do just that.
He hasn’t been blown anyone away, don’t get me wrong. Markieff Morris and Archie Goodwin have mostly been stealing the spotlight like I predicted they would. But Garrett has been an unexpected surprise, showing the kind of steady improvement you’d like to see out of players on a Summer League roster. Coming off the bench, Garrett is averaging 16 minutes per game and giving the Suns solid minutes as a backup point guard.
Not only has Garrett been taking care of the ball, but he’s also been making good plays and finding open players for easy buckets. He struggled to put the ball in the basket or have any major impact in his first three games, but found confidence in his skills in the third game. Although he still had problems putting the ball in the hole with a 2-for-9 performance, he racked up 12 assists while committing only one turnover.
Diante Garrett is dealing tonight. He has nine assists in 13 minutes for the #Suns. The last two were beauties off penetration.
— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) July 17, 2013
He followed that game up with a nice 14-point performance in Phoenix’s most recent game and shot 6-for-10 from the floor. He dished out three assists, didn’t commit a single turnover in 17 minutes and finished plus-20 in the plus/minus column as well. His last two games have bumped his Summer League averages up to seven points, five assists and 1.3 turnovers per game. The statistics to support his cause are decent enough, but Garrett has just looked a lot better compared with the limited playing time he got last year.
There’s a simple reason for that, of course: He’s playing against fellow Summer Leaguers now, as opposed to the best players in the world during the NBA’s regular season. Would he be putting up the same kind of numbers in similar minutes against better competition? Not necessarily. But Garrett’s seemed more confident handling the ball and is reading defenses better than he ever has, making his performances stand out.
Which brings us to the big question: Does Garrett have a good chance of earning a spot on the roster again this year? It’s no secret the Suns have a bit of a point guard dilemma that extends beyond the whole, “How will Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe work together at the same time?” problem. Basically, Garrett is auditioning for his job right now. Aside from Dragic and Bledsoe, the Suns also have Goodwin, Garrett and Kendall Marshall waiting on the bench. Logistically, that’s just too many point guards to have on a roster, especially with the offseason additions of Bledsoe and Goodwin. Somebody’s bound to get cut or traded sooner or later.
The problem is, Diante Garrett isn’t making that decision any easier for the Phoenix Suns. Heading into the Summer League, many would have predicted Garrett was a surefire candidate to get the axe first. Marshall struggled mightily in his first season and Goodwin still needed to come in and prove himself, but Garrett seemed like he was the least likely to improve or show much value to the team’s third unit.
It’s difficult to say whether or not Garrett will lock up a spot on the roster when all is said and done. The Suns certainly won’t be quick to cut ties with Marshall considering he was the No. 13 pick in the NBA Draft only a year ago. But because he hasn’t shown much significant improvement, and since there are rumors Marshall’s on the trading block, the door’s wide open for Garrett.