The Curious Case of Brandon Knight

After sitting out the entirety of the 2017-2018 season with a torn ACL, and a subpar season in 2016-2017 under Earl Watson, the Suns have Brandon Knight on their payroll until 2020. This raises the question: what should the Suns do with Brandon Knight?

The Suns certainly had a vision for Knight when they signed him to a contract for five years/70 million, and he didn’t disappoint for the first two years of that contract. He was a decent passer, and a good scoring option next to Bledsoe. Jeff Hornacek’s system suited Knight very well, and he was exactly what the Suns needed him to be: a fine player.

When the coaching shift was made to Earl Watson, the system changed. Booker became the center of the offense, and Knight’s numbers (to put it politely) dipped. His field goal percentage dropped under 40%, and he went from scoring 19 points per game to just 11. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

After a poor performance in 2016-2017, fans were treated to the news that Knight had torn his ACL in practice before the season and was expected to sit out the whole year. During that year, we’ve seen Devin Booker’s rise to stardom, Josh Jackson become a viable starting option, and Elfrid Payton’s entrance and immediate struggle at the starting point guard position.

A team that can’t find any consistency at point guard has a decently talented point guard on their payroll, and they don’t know what to do with him. Will he be the same quick player coming off an injury? Will Triano’s new system give him more opportunities to show off his scoring ability? All these questions have been swirling around Knight since people remembered he was on the Suns bench.

There are really four options here: waive, start, bench, or trade. Let’s start with the easiest one, waiving Brandon Knight. Just don’t even take the chance. Take the cap hit for the year, and just let him go and let him try and find footing somewhere else. The pros of this are: more roster spots for potential draftees and free agents. The cons of this are: your only remaining point guards are Shaq Harrison and Tyler Ulis (and Elfrid Payton, if they’re willing to pay him). If the Suns roll the dice on this, they could end up hurting. There’s slim pickings in free agency, and the mid-first round draft pick is always difficult to trust (the Suns are using their top pick on DeAndre Ayton don’t even fight me on this).

The next option is to start Knight to begin the year. Don’t worry about Elfrid Payton, let him walk (which is the thing I would do to handle that situation anyway) and start Brandon Knight. He can be an explosive scorer when he wants, and he’s got something to prove. Put him next to Devin Booker and bring that Kentucky Wildcat flare back to the court. The pros are: Booker and Knight are familiar playing next to each other, as they shared the court some in the 2016-2017 season. The cons are: Knight is coming off an injury, and nobody knows if Triano’s system lends itself to a player like Knight.

The third option is to bring him off the bench and move from there. This is probably the safest option. Knight still has the opportunity to show he can start, but the Suns choosing to start him to start next season is a really risky move. Put him on the bench and see if he still has that kick. The pros are: no cap hit, and you might get a diamond in the rough out of it. The cons are: who would start? Ulis? Payton? Sexton? Nobody knows.

The fourth option is the most difficult one: trade. Who wants Brandon Knight? Anybody? Probably not. Suns GM Ryan McDonough hasn’t exactly been known for his ability to work out good trades (Marcus Thornton comes to mind). So, the probability of the Suns getting something good for Knight is relatively low. The pros are: no more Knight salary on the payroll, potentially decent return. The cons are: the remaining point guards are Tyler Ulis and Shaq Harrison.

What would I do with Brandon Knight? I would start him. Why? Triano’s system is relatively guard-centric. If a guy like Elfrid Payton has plenty of scoring opportunities (granted, he never really converts), then Brandon Knight can certainly get his. He has a decent step-back jumper, a nice first step that can return with hard work, and a couple of really good options to pass to. His defense is lacking, but so is the rest of the roster so that’s not really something you can ding him on. Brandon Knight, for the money he’s making, deserves a second chance. And if it doesn’t work out, it really can’t get any worse than this season.

 

Advertisements

Whose Spot is Safe in Phoenix?

It’s no surprise that Suns fans (including myself) are looking towards next season rather than dwelling on this one. For a rebuilding team, choosing which players have a spot on next year’s roster should be first on the mind of the front office. So, the question is, who’s safe on the Suns roster?

 

Safe:

 

  1. Devin Booker (duh)

Devin Booker, currently 10th in the NBA in PPG, is a superstar in the making. Once he’s surrounded with more talent, his assist average will stop hovering around 4.5-5 and start to go up. If he keeps his rebounding consistent, we could see a player averaging 30-7-5 next year. He is the face of the franchise and prepped to sign a very hefty extension this offseason.

 

  1. Josh Jackson

After Saturday’s showing at Golden State, it’s clear what Josh Jackson can do. He’s a quality defender, something the Suns are in dire need of, with a decent jump shot and the ability to finish at the rim. When his layups fall, he’s deadly. When they don’t, he can make up for it on the defensive end, as well as make relatively smart passes. He’s brought his dribble closer to him as the season has progressed to bring down turnovers, and he seems dedicated to working alongside Devin Booker as a deadly scoring tandem.

 

  1. Jared Dudley

More than likely, Jared Dudley will retire within the next year and become an assistant coach for the Suns, which I guess makes him a guaranteed lock for a roster spot?

 

  1. Alan Williams

The Suns have Williams signed through the 2020 season, and it’s unlikely they’ll try to move him. You can read my last article on Alan here, which gives plenty of reasons why Williams wants to be, as well as belongs in Phoenix.

 

  1. Shaquille Harrison

Shaquille Harrison is one of the best defenders on the young Suns team, and he’s only played for less than half a season. He grew up wanting to be the best defender he knew, and his game reflects this fact. He’s signed for the rest of the season, and he’s definitely looking at another contract if he keeps up his current rate of defensive play and builds up his playmaking and scoring. I wrote an article about Shaq during his stint of 10-day contracts, which you can read here.

 

  1. Brandon Knight

This one is weird, but Knight has a huge contract. The Suns don’t want to buy him out and take the cap hit, no team wants that money, and he’ll be healthy enough to play next year, and the Suns have him until 2020. So, he’s safe, but not by the choice of the Suns.

 

Bonus: Alec Peters/Davon Reed/Danuel House Jr.

It’s not really that their play has set them apart, but they still need time to develop. They’re all incredibly raw and could end up seeing improvement if the Phoenix/NAZ Suns stick with them, which they probably will. They can’t exactly be moved in the offseason for anything other than a low pick, which the Suns aren’t looking to acquire.

 

50/50: These are the guys that could be dealt in trades in the offseason, but have time left on their contract.

 

  1. Troy Daniels

Daniels has another year on his contract, and he has shown time and time again that he can be a scoring piece on any team. He shoots incredibly well but isn’t great on defense. What sets Daniels apart is an intangible quality: loyalty to his team. He hasn’t even been on the Suns for a season yet, but he’s already standing up for the guys around him on the court and in interviews. Troy Daniels has a spot off the bench in Phoenix, at least for one more season, but could be dealt to a contender for a decent price.

 

  1. TJ Warren

I hate to have to say it, because I love TJ Warren, but Josh Jackson can’t come off the bench forever. There’s no good solution for playing them both at once, unless one of them plays the power forward slot and the Suns start out a game with a small lineup. Warren just signed a hefty contract extension, but he could potentially be moved for picks or a decent player at a position the Suns are lacking in (like point guard, power forward, and center). He’s worth the paycheck to any team, not just Phoenix.

 

  1. Dragan Bender

As he continues to develop, Bender has shown flashes of talent as a passer, shooter, and defender. If this development continues, Bender could be used as a piece in a trade. At this moment, he’s not an integral part in the future like Booker or Jackson, but he shows enough talent to keep in mind for the coming years.

 

  1. Tyson Chandler

Next year is the last year of his contract, but Tyson Chandler might be looking to get out via retirement sooner than later. If not, he’s definitely a veteran piece that other teams could look for in a trade package. His expiring contract is appealing to teams looking to win quickly, and his knowledge on defense could help a younger team take a big step in the right direction. If the Suns decide to stick with him next year, it will more than likely be his last season.

 

Not safe: Players that are more than likely getting traded, waived, or anything that would remove them from the Suns roster.

 

  1. Marquese Chriss

If Suns fans (mainly me) had their way, the organization would find a way to flip the Bucks and/or Heat picks (15 and 16) with Marquese Chriss for a higher in this year’s draft (that would ideally become Colin Sexton from Alabama). Chriss has had a myriad of inconsistencies in play, attitude problems, and bad habits that hold him back from being a truly talented NBA player. He’s taken a dip in athleticism from his rookie year, and he just seems to lack the drive to get better. It’s a shame, but Marquese Chriss’s time with the Suns is more than likely numbered.

 

  1. Tyler Ulis

After the season he’s had, this seems incredibly obvious. Tyler Ulis is not ready for NBA-level competition. As sad as it is, his numbers have taken a terrible hit since his breakout performance in the second half of last season, and he just doesn’t have the kick he did as a rookie. Ulis’s days are numbered as long as Shaq Harrison continues to do what he can’t: defend and hustle.

 

  1. Alex Len

Drafted 5th overall in 2013, Len’s ceiling was incredibly high. Now it seems like he’ll go down as a pretty big bust. He’s a consistent double-double guy with not much else under his belt. Shoddy post play, poor defensive effort, and lack of energy are all Alex Len has to show for five years in the NBA. He’s had flashes, but they’ve come few and far between and don’t make up for the rest of his game. His contract expires this year, and if the Suns front office has any common sense, they’ll let him walk and try to find a spot on another team.

 

  1. Elfrid Payton

After a promising start, Elfrid Payton has subverted expectation as the starting point guard for the Suns. He doesn’t work very well with Booker, he turns the ball over constantly when he drives the lane, and his finishes just don’t seem to be dropping. His contract is expiring, so he’ll probably be on the move this offseason, trying to find a good team in need of a backup ball handler. The Suns shouldn’t want to drop the paycheck that Payton is expecting.

 

Hopefully the Suns improve in the offseason, especially after McDonough’s promises to try and be more aggressive with acquiring talent. This year stands to be the worst year in Suns (and league) history, as the Suns are 11 games away from ranking 30th in both offensive and defensive efficiency for the first time in the 30-team era. Hopefully the Suns find a way to avoid that next season, through the draft and through free agency, while still keeping some of the developing talent they have.

Alan Williams: The Phoenix Son

Alan Williams is Phoenix to the core. Born in Phoenix, Arizona’s High School Player of the Year at North High in 2011, Phoenix Suns fan since childhood. You can hear all of this in Phoenix Native Futuristic’s “Phoenix Son,” a song written about Alan Williams and his commitment to Suns basketball. “Where was you born? Phoenix. Where do you score? Phoenix.”

Alan’s father, Cody Williams, was a Phoenix City Council member from 1994 to 2002 and has his Master’s Degree from Arizona State University. His mother, Jeri Williams, is the chief of police in—you guessed it—Phoenix, Arizona. Alan Williams IS Phoenix, and he wants to be one of the players bringing a winning culture and intensity back to the Suns.

Last year, Alan Williams played in 47 games, working his way into the rotation using intensity and strength to make up for the height he lacks as a 6’8’’ center. After the All-Star break last season, he averaged 11.4 points and 9.4 rebounds which certainly isn’t bad for a backup averaging 15 minutes per game. Those numbers aren’t stellar, but what Williams does pass is the eye test. Whenever he’s on the court, he fights for every rebound, which is one of the reasons he totaled 12 double doubles in 24 games after the break. His love for the game and his team, his humble nature, and his incredible work ethic define what Suns culture needs to be.

When he’s not on the court, you can find the Suns social media team making a “Big Sauce Reaction of the Week,” where they take his best celebrations and compile them into weekly videos.

giphyHis Twitter profile says it all: “#15 for the Phoenix Suns living out my dream one day at a time”. He grew up watching the Suns, and now he is leading the charge for a team that needs to turn itself around.

Why is this article coming out now? Because after a long wait, the return of Big Sauce is imminent. Williams, after signing a three-year, $17 million contract this summer, underwent a meniscus repair on his right knee. He’s been sitting out for the last six months, and now his return is imminent. Williams is approved to return on Thursday against the Jazz in Utah but has thought about waiting until Saturday in order to make his return at home.

Words cannot describe how excited I am for Alan Williams to step back on the court. I’m a Phoenix native, born and raised, and this guy really knows what it’s like to represent his city. Not only that, but he can play. He’s a tenacious rebounder, he’s got a deadly floater just outside the post, he’s a nasty defender who can stay in front of guys, he’s everything you want in a backup center, and I have missed watching him play.

Alan Williams loves where he plays, and him setting foot on the court at Talking Stick Resort Arena is worth all kinds of celebration.

Top 3 Phoenix Suns from the 2000s by Position

Hi everyone! I’m Vaughan Jones, Sideline Intel’s new Staff Writer for the Phoenix Suns! In honor of the Suns celebrating 2000s night tonight against the Thunder, here are the best of the best from the Suns winning runs of the new millennium.

 

Center:

 

  1. Kurt Thomas (6.4 PPG, 6.6 REB)

The Suns weren’t much for centers. Thomas took up space in the paint on the Suns in the prime of the “Seven Seconds or Less” era from 2005-2007. He wasn’t much of a scorer, but he was a decent rebounder and held his own against the talented bigs of his era. The Suns always played small, even in a big NBA, so Thomas’s role wasn’t as big as it was on other teams he played for.

 

  1. Channing Frye (11.2 PPG, 5.3 REB)

Ah, stretch bigs. A important piece in today’s NBA, but a tough piece to find in the 2000s. Frye was deadly from 3-point range, and could rebound the ball when called upon. He worked perfectly in the Suns pick-and-roll centered offense, where he could set picks for Nash and fade back to shoot the 3, or stand in the corner to shoot while Nash and STAT did their thing. Fans will remember Frye’s clutch performance in a 2OT game against the Nets, where he hit two straight 3s to send the game into overtime (or at least, I’ll always remember it because that game was incredible).

 

  1. Shaquille O’Neal (15.9 PPG, 8.7 REB, 60.3% eFG%)

Although he wasn’t on the team for long, Shaq made a big impact for the Suns at center. Not only that, but he helped evolve Amar’e Stoudamire’s game by forcing him to shoot midrange due to the space Shaq took up in the paint. Though the Big Shaqtus’s run was short, it was certainly entertaining for Suns fans to watch one of the best centers in NBA history don purple and orange.

 

Power Forward:

 

  1. Boris Diaw (11.3 PPG, 5.3 REB, 37.4% 3-Point%, 51.2% FG%)

History will remember Boris Diaw as an integral part of the Suns success from 2005-2009. Diaw was a talented scorer and shooter during his time with the Suns, and he was a guy who could score off the bench when the team needed a spark. Diaw was traded to Charlotte as a part of the Jason Richardson/Jared Dudley trade, and in a way, that was Diaw’s last assist to the team. Diaw currently plays overseas, but played with the Utah Jazz in the 2016-2017 season.

 

  1. Shawn Marion (18.3 PPG, 10.1 REB, 1.9 STL, 1.3 BLK)

The Matrix was the embodiment of what it meant to be a Phoenix Sun in the 2000s. A high flying defensive forward, Marion could score at will with a very strange looking jumper, and throw down highlight dunks on the fast break. He was one of the best defenders in the history of the Suns organization, ranking 2nd all-time in steals and 3rd all-time in blocks. Marion went on to win a ring with the Dallas Mavericks, and is now retired from the NBA.

 

  1. Amar’e Stoudamire (21.4 PPG, 8.9 REB, 1.4 BLK)

STAT, Standing Tall and Talented. Stoudamire could do everything. The 2002-2003 ROTY could shoot, dunk, defend, and run the pick and roll like no other during his time in the NBA. His career was beset with injuries, but that didn’t stop Stoudamire from playing 2 82-game seasons for the Suns. 6 out of 8 seasons with Phoenix, Amar’e averaged over 20 points, and he averaged over 1 block all 8 seasons. He’s 5th all-time in blocks, 6th all-time in points, and 3rd all-time in total rebounds for the Suns. Not to mention his unparalleled play alongside Steve Nash. Amar’e really was irreplaceable when he left for the Kicks. Stoudamire went on to play for the Knicks, Heat, and Mavericks. He played overseas in Israel last year, and signed a contract to play in the BIG3 this summer.

 

Small Forward:

 

  1. Grant Hill (12.1 PPG, 4.7 REB, 51.2 eFG%)

After over a decade of play in the NBA, Grant Hill found the famous “fountain of youth” in the Phoenix training staff. Hill had several seasons of stellar play and playoff appearances, playing for the Suns from 2007-2012. He was deadly from the corner pocket, and helped spread the floor on offense. Hill’s age showed on defense, but he stood his ground and helped the Suns make their famed 2009-2010 Western Conference Finals run, where he played key minutes defending Kobe Bryant and Meta World Peace. Hill currently works for NBATV.

 

  1. Jared Dudley (9.6 PPG, 3.6 REB, 41.2 3-Point%)

JYD is on this list for defensive merit alone. His defensive assignment was always the toughest guy on the other team, and for good reason. After being traded from Charlotte in 2008, Dudley defended the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, and other superstars. Dudley’s scrappy style of play, smooth 3-point shot, and overall energy was a key piece of the Suns playoff run in the 2009-2010 season, where he, like Hill, defended guys like Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili. Dudley current plays for the Phoenix Suns, where he is the “Gatekeeper” of #TheTimeline, and a good veteran presence off the bench.

 

  1. Joe Johnson (12.9 PPG, 4.1 REB, 3.2 AST, 48.1 eFG%)

“Iso” Joe, Big Shot Joe, Joe Cool, whatever you want to call him, Joe Johnson had the tools to score from anywhere on the floor. Johnson defined the early 2000s for the Suns as a wing player and NBA Superstar, and worked alongside Jason Kidd and Steve Nash playing exciting fast-paced basketball like the league had never seen. Johnson is currently searching for a ring on the Houston Rockets after a year with the Utah Jazz.

 

Shooting Guard:

 

  1. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway (12.0 PPG, 4.5 REB, 3.8 AST)

Penny, after an incredible few seasons in Orlando, began to experience trouble with his knee. After becoming an injury risk, he was traded to the Suns where the training staff worked their “magic” (pun intended). Hardaway only played 4 games in the 2000-2001 season, but bounced back to play 80 the next year. He ran alongside Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion and was a dynamic scorer. Though he never lived up to his time on the Magic, Penny was worth the paycheck as he neared retirement. Penny is now coaching high school basketball in Memphis.

 

  1. Quentin Richardson (14.9 PPG, 6.1 REB)

In only one season with the Suns, Richardson managed to space the floor incredibly effectively. A part of the 04-05 Conference Finals run, Richardson was in peak shooting form, shooting near 40% from 3-point range in those playoffs. His time with the Suns was incredibly short lived, and one could only imagine what could have been if he had spent more time with the team. Richardson is now working in front offices around the NBA, recently as a Detroit Pistons scout.

 

  1. Jason Richardson (16 PPG, 4.6 REB, 1.0 STL, 54.4 eFG%)

The key part of the Suns-Bobcats trade in 2008, Richardson had been previously known for his time on the “We Believe” Warriors. For the Suns, he was an incredibly dynamic guard. Whenever he would shoot from the corner after a deadeye pass from Nash, entire arenas would go silent and wait for the shot to fall. Richardson was arguably the 2nd or 3rd best player on the Suns during their 2009-2010 playoff run, as his shooting and dunking put the Suns on the path to success. Richardson would go on to be traded to the Magic for Vince Carter, and would end his NBA career in 2015 after injury-riddled years with the Sixers.

 

Point Guard:

 

  1. Leandro Barbosa (12.6 PPG, 2.6 AST)

Barbosa is one of the most fun players to watch. The nickname “Brazilian Blur” is incredibly fitting, as Barbosa burned defender after defender with his incredible speed and scoring ability. He wasn’t much of a passer, but his instant offense was always appreciated off the bench. Barbosa spent the first seven years of his career playing in Phoenix, where he saw several playoff berths. He went on to play around the NBA, including two pitstops in Phoenix in 2013 and 2016, and he now brings his speed and handling the Brazilian basketball, where he grew up.

 

  1. Jason Kidd (14.1 PPG, 9.7 AST, 6.3 REB)

Technically, Kidd only spent one year with the Suns in the 2000s, but played with them over the course of five seasons. Kidd was one of the best passers to ever see the floor, and used his size to effectively defend against smaller guards. Arguably one of the best point guards in NBA history, Kidd wasn’t much of a shooter but he had eyes in the back of his head, and was the teacher of the #1 point guard (and #1 player) on this list.

 

  1. Steve Nash (16.3 PPG, 10.9 AST, 50-40-90)

In one of the biggest no-brainers in sports history, Nash is the best point guard and best player on the Suns in the 2000s era. Nash shot 50% from the floor, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% from the free-throw line over his career, a mark few have hit before or since. He averaged a double-double, dishing out assists to everyone in sight. He wasn’t an amazing defender, but is still 10th in Suns history in steals. Nash ranks 3rd in NBA history in assists, just below Jason Kidd and John Stockton. “MVSteve” was a two-time MVP for the Suns, and is also known for his charity work. Nash retired with the Lakers (gross), and is currently, as of February 2018, a Turner Sports Soccer analyst. Nash’s first love was soccer, his second love was hockey, and his third love was basketball. Can you imagine being THAT good at your third favorite sport?

 

That was a fun trip down memory lane! I grew up watching all these guys play, and I can say a lot of these guys were some of the best to play the game. Thanks for reading, and keep checking out Sideline Intel for more Suns content from yours truly, and more amazing sports content in general!