Despite the success of “Point Book,” the Phoenix Suns’ need for a point guard is as drastic as ever. Here are the pros, cons and specific deals for 15 potential trade targets.
The Phoenix Suns need a point guard.
It’s amusing considering how many they had just a few years ago. It’s obvious considering where they are now. It’s the recurring theme, the unavoidable elephant in the room that might as well be the tagline of their 2018-19 season: The Phoenix Suns need a point guard.
Head coach Igor Kokoskov can tinker with the lineups, stagger his rotations and play Devin Booker at point to coax out a poor man’s James Harden all he wants, but at the end of the day, the Phoenix Suns still need a point guard.
To be fair, the “Point Book” experiment has worked out as a viable short-term solution. The new starting lineup of Booker, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren and Deandre Ayton boasts a +3.7 Net Rating in 73 minutes together, and the Suns have been relatively competitive against quality opponents in each of the five games that group has started.
However, it’s not sustainable for the long haul. Booker is not Harden, and though he’s a capable passer and dangerous scorer, he doesn’t possess the reigning MVP’s unparalleled court vision, playmaking, isolation scoring or penchant for drawing fouls that make it work for the Beard.
At age 22, it’s unfair for the Suns to ask so much of Booker, who’s clearly struggling to balance his responsibilities as the team’s primary scorer and playmaker.
"“It’s a neat line,” Kokoskov said. “That’s how he’s going to grow as a player, to find a neat line when the team needs it. We want him to develop the superstar mentality where every shot is a good shot for him, but also keep other guys involved. And that’s being a gamer, learning how to lead a team, how to manage the game and how to take us to the next level.”"
Developing his playmaking is fine, and Booker is averaging a career-high 7.0 assists per game (13th in the NBA). However, that also comes with a whopping 4.3 turnovers per game (second in the league), helping spark transition opportunities for opponents. The Suns rank dead-last in opposing fast break points and 29th in both turnovers and opponent points off turnovers.
Playing that dual role also fatigues Booker, who is trying to be respectable on defense, carry the offense and stash away any lingering aftereffects of a hand, hamstring and now toe injury. It’s no wonder Booker is only converting 31.7 percent of his 3-pointers this year, because simply put, he’s being asked to do too much.
"“I honestly don’t even look at it like that,” Booker said of his new responsibilities. “I just look at it as being a playmaker. I’m fine with it, whatever they have me doing I’ll do. I always wanted to credit myself as being a basketball player — not a shooter, not a scorer, just an overall player who can do a little bit of everything.”"
Wanting to round out his game is great, but the Suns need to start making Booker’s life easier. As the 22-year-old star noted himself, more of his shots are coming off the dribble than ever, and he’s not getting nearly enough looks off catch-and-shoot opportunities.
On Wednesday, the Suns waived backup point guard Isaiah Canaan, who had started in 15 of his 19 appearances with the team. That opens up a second roster spot and opportunities for rookies Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton, but even with Okobo’s career-high 19 points in Phoenix’s first game sans Canaan, the Suns still need a point guard.
According to Arizona Sports‘ John Gambadoro, nothing is imminent on the trade front.
Since this has been an issue dating back to June (when the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton) and became even more prevalent in August (when Brandon Knight was traded away), it’s time to stop worrying about all the other problems and focus on the one that sorely needs to be addressed first.
Bearing all this in mind, here are 15 point guard trade targets (in no particular order) that have either been connected to the Suns, or should be. We’ll assess the pros and cons of trading for each one, determine how realistic each swap might be, lay out a specific trade, break down what it’d take for a deal to get done and point out the hurdles to getting one done. Here’s the Phoenix Suns point guard trade target compendium.