Report Card Grades for Phoenix Suns' 2014 Offseason so Far
The Phoenix Suns are coming off a 48-win season, which wasn't even good enough to send them into the playoffs in the treacherous Western Conference. Now, they try to improve on a lottery team that wasn't particularly flawed anyway.
The Suns have gone bananas on point guards this offseason, signing Isaiah Thomas and drafting Tyler Ennis. We still don't know what will happen with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, but it would be safe to predict a return to Arizona for one of the best and most exciting young point guards in the league.
So, what do the Suns do at the point? What have they done this offseason with a squad that already has Goran Dragic in place?
Has Phoenix been reckless or calculated?
Drafting T.J. Warren 14th Overall
Warren has been lighting it up in the summer league, dropping 22-plus points in three of his first four games while shooting better than 50 percent from the field in each of them. Still, he hasn't necessarily been scoring in the most sustainable ways.
Warren can't shoot threes, and that's a problem.
He ended his N.C. State career without connecting from long range in his final six games. Really, he's a guy who attacks off the dribble, and that's perfectly fine—if you can do it at an elite enough level in the NBA to control the game.
But can Warren do that?
He has moves around the rim. He can score in penetration and transition. He even perfected a feathery floater that he uses multiple times per contest. But still, that lack of a long ball kills him.
What will Warren's role be on the Suns? Solid bench scorer? If he's not going to distribute, though, do you want the ball in his hands all the time?
He could keep the rock away from Isaiah Thomas, who will likely come off the bench as long as Dragic and Bledsoe return. The Morris twins and Gerald Green are in that reserve rotation as well.
Where is Warren going to get the consistent time with the ball? And if he can't shoot off it, he could struggle to find a spot at the start of the season.
Drafting Tyler Ennis 18th Overall
Ennis doesn't count as a freshman.
He may look like a freshman. He may talk like one. He may have had a freshman course load. But Ennis was most certainly not a freshman.
He is one of those classic high-floor, low-ceiling guys. Simply put, he doesn't make mistakes. The kid just doesn't play like a one-year college athlete.
He may not have the athleticism or shooting ability to become a perennial All-Star, but he does the one thing the Suns love: run the pick-and-roll without making mistakes.
The 19-year-old had the second-lowest turnover rate of any qualifying guard in the nation when running the pick-and-roll at Syracuse, according to Synergy Sports. He just won't throw the ball away. And he put up those numbers while constantly facing defenses who were trying to trap him when he was dribbling around screens in the second half of the season.
Ennis can contain an offense and run it smoothly without messing up. That's a valuable skill to find in a backup point guard who can stick around for a decade or more, and the Suns love some pick-and-roll.
That's how Phoenix gets its points: scoring off the screen-and-roll and creating corner threes off it. Ennis first beautifully into that offensive scheme.
Drafting Bogdan Bogdanovic 27th Overall
Bogdanovic is another guard who can run the pick-and-roll. It's shocking that Phoenix would have an interest in him, right?
The Suns averaged 0.98 points per play on plays that began with pick-and-rolls last season, per Synergy. That ranked their screen-and-roll attack second in the NBA.
Bogdanovic's ability to command the floor while dribbling around screens, paired with his 6'6" height, was too strong for Phoenix to pass up with the No. 27 pick. Then, there's the shooting.
He hit 37 percent of his threes in the Euroleague last year. He can shoot off the dribble and spotting up, posting a 60.2 percent adjusted field-goal percentage on catch-and-shoot attempts, according to Synergy.
Maybe he'll start a trend in Phoenix. Maybe John Smith will change his last name to Johnovic.
First, he has to contribute to the Suns offense, and that's something he has a good chance to do from a skill-set perspective.
Signing Isaiah Thomas
More point guards!
To quote DJ Casper, "Now's time to get funky."
Phoenix is loading up on point guards, but really, this move seemed like it was about compiling good contracts. Isaiah fits in Phoenix well, too.
Remember, it's all about the pick-and-roll, which Thomas excels at running.
He may be small at 5'9", but he's still one of the more efficient point guards in the league, and lord knows he's consistent. We're talking as consistent as one could possibly be, considering he has had a 57.4 true shooting percentage every single year he's been in the NBA.
Still, five point guards! What is this?
It's funny the way we evaluate decision-making. Sometimes, it has everything to do with the guy making the choice as opposed to the decision.
If the Spurs do something, we automatically evaluate it as brilliant.
It's the Spurs! How could they ever make a mistake?
What was Kahn thinking? How could he take that many point guards and expect them to play together?
Now though, the Suns, who have proved to be a crafty organization under general manager Ryan McDonough, have done the same thing. After signing and trading for Thomas, Phoenix can throw out a five-point guard lineup of Thomas, Dragic, Bledsoe, Ennis and Archie Goodwin (assuming they match on any Bledsoe offer).
Seriously, can we make this happen if only for five minutes?
So, what the heck are the Suns doing?
We can't really be sure yet.
Are they preparing to let Bledsoe walk in restricted free agency if someone makes him a max offer? Are they thinking about trading away Dragic, who can become a free agent in 2015 and will surely have a chance at a max deal (which would be a higher max than Bledsoe's) with another strong season?
Are they preparing a Dragic, Morris twins and picks package to send to Minnesota for Kevin Love, one that would probably trump anything the Cleveland Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors could give if Andrew Wiggins or Klay Thompson is off the table?
We don't know. But Phoenix has earned a pass, so for now, we'll say four years, $27 million is a fine contract for Thomas. Accumulating assets is never a bad thing, considering how tradable they are at any given point. If Phoenix ends up with Love, fans are going to treasure a three-point guard rotation of Thomas, Bledsoe and Ennis, with Love as the perfect pop man for that pick-and-roll-heavy offense.
For now though, compiling good contracts tends to work out, and we, at least, have to give the Suns props for that.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.
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