The Phoenix Suns should not trade for D’Angelo Russell this season – but that doesn’t mean that he should not remain on their radar.
The Phoenix Suns need a point guard, or at least someone who can work side-by-side with Devin Booker in a seamless manner that benefits the franchise for the foreseeable future.
There is no doubt that D’Angelo Russell might be that type of player, a dynamic offensive player who can both score (he is averaging 22.1 points per-36min) and dish the ball (7.5 assists per-36, both career-highs).
Adding Russell to the back court with Booker would allow both to handle the ball on offense, but most importantly keep defenses spread thin as opponents will not be able to key in on one guard as they can both score, and find the open man with a quick pass for the shot, or dunk.
Remember when Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic were supposed to be the next Kevin Johnson and Jeff Hornacek? The combination of Booker and Russell would blow the more recent duo away.
So why then am I building up Russell as a future back court partner to star Devin Booker and yet saying that the Suns should not trade for him? (Oh, and they are also best friends, so then there’s that.)
Because now that the Brooklyn Nets have signed Spencer Dinwiddie to a contract extension, they have made it known that he is their future at point guard, and not Russell.
If this is so (Brooklyn will be paying $34.3 million over the next three years for someone who currently slotted as their backup point guard when they would then need to pay even more for a starter), then why would Phoenix move valuable assets (whether it’s Josh Jackson, Kelly Oubre, et al, or draft picks) for a player who is likely going to have to be overlooked by the Nets this offseason when they would be benefited to focus their financial savings on improving the roster in other positions?
They already have Dinwiddie (who many Suns fans would have been happy if Phoenix had had the opportunity to target him), who is more than capable of being a solid starter for them moving forward.
Russell isn’t having a bad year either, so it’s not like he would be dumped off because his game is so poor. While I noted his per-36 stats earlier, his traditional scoring and assist averages are both career-highs, and he doesn’t even average 30 minutes a game.
That less than 30min a game stat is also well worth noting.
Why isn’t Russell averaging at least 30 minutes a game?
Because while he starts, he doesn’t always finish as Head Coach Kenny Atkinson allows Dinwiddie to close out games as well.
In particular, in a double-overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets on December 26, Russell, who started the fourth quarter, was pulled with 7:35 remaining.
He never returned.
With only 4 fouls and playing fairly well, Atkinson let Dinwiddie finish the game, and afterwards noted that it was strictly “the matchup.”
Sure, let the other team dictate that you are taking one of your starters off the court in favor of a backup.
While Russell is still Brooklyn’s regular starting point guard, his lack of higher minutes per game average, plus the occasional benching in favor of a backup point guard, is more than enough to drop an asking price, or at least what teams might be willing to offer in free agency, giving Phoenix that much more flexibility to attempt and acquire him.
Thereby, if the Suns are able and interested in pursuing him in restricted free agency (it is a dance, but one the Suns can be competitive in with their impending cap space and the ability to create more if Ryan Anderson is able to be moved) and not make a trade for him during the regular season, they will remain in a better position to improve the roster this off-season trough trades, while also not hurting their lottery chances by adding him too early and possibly moving out of the top-three.
Unless the Brooklyn Nets are willing to trade D’Angelo Russell for a steal on a second round pick in a salary dump ala the Suns with Marcus Morris, then Phoenix should avoid making a move for the point guard until seeking his services this summer in restricted free agency.
In the mean time, they should bide their time. D’Angelo Russel is not the Brooklyn Nets’ future at point guard. The Suns know it. Russell knows it. The Nets know it.
Patience is key, and the Suns should not overplay their hand.