Something had to give for the Phoenix Suns. Their logjam in the backcourt could be framed as a good problem to have, but it was still a problem — starting Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker together would put them at a massive disadvantage defensively.
Coach Earl Watson, then, had a decision to make. Booker, who hasn’t even turned 20 yet, looks like a future star and is the only one who is a natural shooting guard. Knight and Bledsoe, though, were supposed to be the Suns’ long-term pairing — they signed five-year, $70 million contracts a year apart.
On Monday, Watson announced he has made a decision: Knight will come off the bench.
From the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro:
“That’s the starting lineup for the season,” Watson said. “We’re not wasting time. We’re not lingering with inner-competition.
“Brandon Knight is not a bench player. He’s a starter in this league. He’s sacrificed the most for our group. He took it like the pro he is because he understands the opportunity that we have to be special. Do players like coming off the bench? No, and we embrace that. That’s the inner-competitive nature that we need.”
“I knew at one point in my career I’d be a starter,” Booker said. “I didn’t know it’d be this soon but I have put in that work to be one.”
Knight elected not to talk to reporters after shootaround on Monday. As the Arizona Republic pointed out, he has started 315 of 328 games in his NBA career. After re-signing with Phoenix in the summer of 2015, he cited Bledsoe as one of the reasons he did it. Neither of them knew at that point that Booker would develop so quickly.
Last year, Knight averaged 19.6 points, 5.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 36 minutes. If he’s disappointed that he’s suddenly a reserve, that’s understandable.
Watson should be lauded for making the decision that makes the most sense, basketball-wise. Booker proved last season — when Knight and Bledsoe missed 30 and 51 games respectively — that he is deserving of as many minutes and touches as he can handle. Knight will immediately become the best backup point guard in the NBA, leading a bench unit that will also feature P.J. Tucker and Alex Len.
The question, of course, is how long this arrangement will last. Unless the Suns win a ton of games and Knight embraces his Manu Ginobili-ish role, he’ll likely welcome a trade. Bledsoe, too, could be moved if Phoenix was presented with the right kind of offer. Until then, everyone will have to try to get along. Nobody wants a repeat of what happened with Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas in Phoenix two seasons ago.
Courtesy: CBS Sports