THE Phoenix Suns have been languishing at the cellar of the NBA standings for most of the decade, with the Sacramento Kings the only team riding a longer playoff drought. Since their last postseason appearance in 2010, the Suns have found some pieces to build a team around but have failed to find a point guard to figuratively and literally steer them in the right direction. Should things fall their way on Draft night, Phoenix could finally have their answer in Murray State PG, Ja Morant.
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PHOENIX’S roster is flooded with talented wing players and the reigning No. 1 overall pick in DeAndre Ayton, but they’ve been crying out for a stable, reliable floor general. Eric Bledsoe and Elfrid Payton have played that role to some success over the past two seasons, but this year the responsibility was thrust upon Devin Booker. Booker has established himself as an All-Star calibre 2-guard but was forced to play the role as Phoenix’s primary distributor thanks to their lack of talent at point guard. He responded well, averaging a career-best 6.8 dimes this year, more than the likes of Mike Conley, Stephen Curry and Ricky Rubio. If the Suns want to remove themselves from the bowels of the Western Conference though, they need to find a long-term contingency plan.
THAT’S were Ja Morant comes into the picture. After a dazzling sophomore season at Murray State, the highly-touted product declared his intentions to play in the NBA next season, with many slating him as a consensus top-2 selection. At 6′ 3″, Morant averaged more assists than anyone in the nation this past year, with his 10.0 dimes pacing the collegiate world. There’s a possibility he could have averaged more if Murray was surrounded by better talent, with some incredible passes littering his highlight reel.
MORANT can do so much more than just pass the ball though, illustrated by his triple-double durin March Madness for the Racers. His court vision is a key to his success, make no mistake, but Morant’s athleticism and shot-creating ability helped him average the 7th most points this season in college at 24.5 a night. He can provide the Suns with another solid source of scoring, and if given the chance to develop his basketball IQ in the pro’s, he and Booker could form a lethal backcourt duo.
SHOULD defenses choose to simply play the passing lanes to defend him, Morant can get to the rim and make teams pay by hanging 20+ on them. If they close those driving lanes, then Morant has the ability to get his teammates a lot of open looks, boasting an assist percentage over 50% from the past season. To put that into perspective some of the NBA’s best assist-ers this year like Russell Westbrook (44.0%), Ricky Rubio (31.3%) and James Harden (39.4%) didn’t eclipse that mark.
THERE is a lot more to playing point guard than just chalking up assists, but the great playmakers and floor generals are adept at finding the open man at the right time. That’s one skill of Morant’s that is expected to translate to the next level and with the Suns in desperate need at the position, it’s not impossible that they’ll do whatever they have to in order to secure Morant’s services. If they were able to land Ja, they could roll out a starting five of Morant, Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson and De’Andre Ayton to commence the 2019-20 season. That’s a pretty exciting young group if you ask me.
Image from washingtonpost.com
THE NBA draft lottery will determine a lot for the Suns and their future, as it will for the rest of the teams who missed the playoffs this season. Should they land the No. 1 overall pick, they would be faced with an interesting conundrum that could see them pass up on bonafide superstar Zion Williamson. When a historic talent like that lands in your lap, you don’t get fancy, but Phoenix might prefer to finish second in the lottery and take Morant as a ‘consolation prize’.
AFTER four straight seasons posting less than 25 wins the Suns will be eager to find their future franchise point guard as soon as possible to launch the franchise up the standings. There is a scenario where the Suns throw a stack of cash at someone like Kemba Walker or Ricky Rubio, or even justify taking Morant with the first overall pick, likely sending NBA Twitter into chaos. No one fits their current team, timeline and offers as much upside as Morant does and should they be able to land him, then he could be the piece that finally launches their rebuild into the next phase.
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