Opinion

Picking Apart the Suns-Rockets Deal

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Phoenix Suns’ fans were hearing a lot of chatter all summer about upgrading their point guard position. There were rumors about the Suns chasing Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker and even Terry Rozier to fortify that position.

Point guard is one spot where the Suns don’t have a young stud with star potential lined up. Not that they have superstars at every other position, but they do have a plan and a lots of hope up and down the roster. The point guard spot on the other hand is definitely in transition. They have now traded away their best option and look even weaker at that spot for now. The Suns traded Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss for Ryan Anderson and rookie guard De’Anthony Melton in their recent transaction with the Houston Rockets.

Brandon Knight is coming back from an ACL surgery and is owed $31 million over the next two years. He had some good moments with the Suns, like this game against the Warriors in 2016:

Knight has looked mostly out of place with the Suns for a couple of years now, however. There was some potential for him to give it another go this year with a new coach and a stronger supporting cast. Knight is still young at only 26, though it feels like he has been in the league forever. With all that said, he was clearly not the long-term answer for the Suns at point. They decided to cut the cord by trading him away for Ryan Anderson. Anderson is older and has an even more expensive contract, but he is a stretch-4 who suits new head coach Kokoskov’s offence better.

Essentially, the Suns swap bad contracts to get a guy who fits their offense better. Ryan Anderson taking $5 million less in guaranteed money next year is a nice gesture and helps the Suns out as well, though his 2018 salary is still higher than Knight’s.

It’s a perfect trade for the Rockets, as it reduces their luxury tax bill. They have been trying to get rid of Anderson’s contract for a long time now. It works for Anderson too as he went from a sought-after stretch-4 to being buried deep in the Rockets bench. Now, he will get to play more in an offense that will value his shooting and the spacing that comes with it. You would have thought Anderson would have fit Mike D’Antoni’s system well for the same reasons too. But it went south for Anderson, as Houston’s priorities and team composition changed last year. He didn’t fit their defensive schemes either in the playoffs. Now, Anderson gets a reboot and no wonder he is giving up some guaranteed money to get this going.

Other than losing a starting PG, the Knight-Anderson swap is not too bad if you are a Suns fan. What is a little more disappointing is the Marquese Chriss situation. He was the 8th pick in 2016 and the expectations for him were high. He hasn’t looked great, though he is still young and raw and entering just his 3rd year. Too early to declare him a bust, but he has not flourished or impressed in his two years. He is not a great fit for coach Kokoskov’s offense either. He also isn’t a great fit to play next to Deandre Ayton in the front court.

So, the Suns cut their losses and sent Chriss away to Houston, where their GM Daryl Morey loves taking on ex-lottery picks on the cheap and turning their fortunes around. If it works, he gets a freaky athlete who can play a decent role for them.

If not, Morey can let him walk next summer. Either way, they got rid of Anderson’s crippling contract and they now have a smaller crippling contract in Knight. The Suns on the other hand are now ready to move forward with a roster that they believe fits their coach’s offense better. They are a point guard short of a full roster and they may still try to score a PG via trades. This move also opens some room for PG Elie Okobo, the 31st pick in the 2018 draft. He may get a chance to prove he can run the team, though the front office may still want a more evolved answer at that position.

What happens at the PG position may very well decide the Suns’ ceiling this season. Making the playoffs in the brutal West feels like a pipe-dream. However, how close they get to the playoffs and how they look day-in and day-out will be vital for the development of this young team. They lose a serviceable point guard in this trade. That and Ryan Anderson’s questionable defense are definitely the concerns for the Suns after this trade. The ball is now in coach Kokoskov’s court to make it all work.

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About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the Phoenix Suns and writing. He has been a long-time Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90's. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns writer for TLSM. His favorite Sun is Steve Nash. Twitter: @15cent

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