Brandon Knight is "close" to a return again with the Suns' sliver of hope riding on Sunday's game against Oklahoma City.

      
 
 

Over the course of several weeks, the Phoenix Suns have gone from being a team with a "three-PG system" to being one in desperate need of more distributors. Here's a look at who they could target in free agency.

If I told you in October that by the end of the season, the Suns would lose Tyler Ennis, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, what would you have done? Laughed in my face? Threatened to meet me in Temecula?

And yet, here we are. With Brandon Knight injured, the Suns have been reduced to relying on Eric Bledsoe for as many as 36-40 minutes per game. When he comes off the court, both shooting guard Archie Goodwin and 10-day gamble A.J. Price are used to run the offense.

That is not a sustainable system for the future, even once Knight is back in the lineup.

Whether or not the Suns try to make a big splash this summer remains to be seen, but one hole that should be relatively easy to fill is the backup point guard spot. This does not need to be another Isaiah Thomas; the Suns only need a reliable distributor who can come in off the bench for at least 15-20 minutes per game and confidently run plays while giving Bledsoe and Knight some much needed rest. If the Suns are hoping to sneak into the playoffs next season, perhaps it would be a good idea to recruit a veteran with plenty of playoff experience. Or they could just go with the best option available.

I'll assume that with Bledsoe and Knight at the helm, management will stay away from top free agent point guards like Rondo, Dragic and Reggie Jackson. But here are some realistic and affordable options.

Mo Williams

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 32
Career Accolades: 2009 NBA All-Star

The culprit behind this season's most surprising 50-point outburst, Mo Williams will hit free agency after playing as a fringe starter for both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets. However, he was a full-time backup for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2013-14, a 54-28 team. Convincing him to accept a bench role should not be a problem.

Williams' best years may be behind him, but he is proving that he can still produce on a nightly basis. He is averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 assists per game this season, and 17.2 points and 7.9 assists per 36 minutes. His field-goal percentage is fairly low (just 40%), but he is a career 38% shooter from three-point range and has no problem handling the ball. His 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 18th among 51 qualified point guards; for comparison, Bledsoe ranks 46th and Isaiah Thomas 43rd.

Don't forget that Williams has playoff experience to add to his resume. He has appeared in 49 career playoff games, and started in 25 of those. He has fought postseason battles with stars such as Michael Redd, Lebron James, Chris Paul and LaMarcus Aldridge, and even made it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.

Jameer Nelson

Type: Player Option ($2.8 million)
Age: 33
Career Accolades: 2009 NBA All-Star

While Mo Williams assisted LeBron and helped the Cavs become an Eastern Conference powerhouse in the late 2000s, Jameer Nelson played a similar role alongside Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Nelson played 44 playoff games for the Magic between 2007-2012, starting in 39 and getting as far as the NBA Finals.

Whereas Dwight Howard eventually alienated his coach, teammates and fans in Orlando, Nelson stayed with the Magic and continued to receive fan support. When he was eventually waived by the Magic last summer, this is what he had to say about the organization:

``All of the time I still hear fans saying, `Thanks for staying.’ I think they appreciate who I am. Who I am is a professional in everything that I do. I try to always handle myself the same way no matter where I am and who’s around or not around,’’ Nelson said back during the spring. ``I take so much pride in being with the Magic for as long as I have. I really think it says a lot about myself and this organization, as well. For a guy who slipped in the draft and the Magic traded for me and believed in me – really, it’s an honor for me to say that I’ve only worn a Magic jersey.’’

Since leaving Orlando, however, it's been a tough transition for Nelson. He first signed with Dallas, was traded to Boston as part of the Rondo deal, and was then flipped to Denver a couple of weeks later. Overall he's averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 assists per game as a backup, which equates to 13 points and 6.6 assists per 36 minutes. Like Williams, he is a savvy veteran with a good three-point shot (career 37% clip from deep) and a knack for distributing the basketball. The Magic under Stan Van Gundy made a living spacing the floor and finding open shooters behind the arc. Of course, with Dwight Howard down low that was easy to do.

Jeremy Lin

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 26
Career Accolades: Worldwide Asian-American Sensation, creator of "Linsanity"

Despite being on a struggling Lakers team, Jeremy Lin has only 26 games as a starter this year. But that may not be his fault, as head coach Byron Scott has puzzled Lakers fans by often choosing to start Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson ahead of Lin.

Lin is averaging 15.9 points, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes on 43% shooting from the field and 37% shooting from three-point range. His numbers aren't as impressive as they were during his magical 2011-12 campaign with the Knicks, but they're nothing to scoff at either. Lin is more turnover-prone than both Williams and Nelson, as he ranks 38th among 51 point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio.

With Lin, you're going to gain popularity. You're also going to generate more of a media frenzy. The question is, does that do more harm than good for chemistry purposes?

Wherever Lin goes, that fanbase will suddenly experience an influx of "LOFs" (Lin-Only Fans), a term invented by the Rockets fanbase. Both in Houston as well as in Los Angeles, there have been notorious fans who openly support Lin over the rest of the players. As one could expect, that is not always a welcome sight. Just imagine a crowd of new Phoenix Suns fans calling for Hornacek to bench Bledsoe.

Lin is an intriguing player with undeniable skills, but he may not be what Phoenix is looking for.

Norris Cole

Type: Restricted
Age: 26
Career Accolades: "That's two-time NBA champion Norris Cole to you, dammit!"

26-year-old Norris Cole has 60 career playoff games and two championship rings. In that sense, he's more of a "veteran" than either Nelson or Williams. He also played with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, which is a lot of pressure to handle as a youngster.

Cole also has a reputation as a pesky defender and a smart distributor, and that could be useful for the Suns. His assists per 36 minutes have gone up every single season, while his turnovers go down year after year as well. That's a great combination.

On the other hand, he hasn't improved that much in his four NBA seasons and still can't shoot particularly well or create offensive looks for himself. This season he's averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 assists per game, but on just 40% shooting from the field and 31% shooting from deep. His career-high PER this season is only 10.1, and the league average is 15.

So far Cole has stepped up for the Pelicans and is playing pretty well despite being asked to do more. He's a higher-usage player without the big three, but that hasn't effected his efficiency. Still, there are plenty of question marks about his game.

Andre Miller

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 39
Career Accolades: Three-time winner of the "How is this dude still in the league?" award.

Andre Miller just doesn't miss games. For a 14-year period, between 1999 and 2013, he missed a total of 6 games. And yet after all those minutes logged, he's still in the league, and evidently has no plans to retire just yet.

Not only is he still in the league, but he's still playing pretty well, too. Miller has never been a terrific scorer (and has always had a putrid three-point shot), but this season he's shooting 50% from the field and averaging 10.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.3 assists per 36 minutes. In his very early days with the Cavaliers he once led the league in assists while not letting his turnovers get out of hand; perhaps Bledsoe could learn a thing or too from "The Professor".

You want playoff experience? He's got that too. Unfortunately for Miller, he has only ever made the second round once in his career. But overall he has been to the playoffs 10 different times, with four teams.

Unfortunately, Miller's defense has always been more than a little questionable. If McDonough is insistent on assembling a team of physical, tenacious defenders, Miller might not fit the bill.

Shane Larkin

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 22
Career Accolades: Member of the worst Knicks team ever.

Shane Larkin, a 22-year-old 2013 first-rounder, is an unrestricted free agent. That's because the Mavericks never picked up his first team option, and it wasn't until he was traded to the Knicks that he started receiving consistent playing time.

You may be thinking, "Why would we want a player that wasn't even valued enough to be kept on a dirt cheap rookie contract?". Well, despite the terrible team that he's on, Larkin is turning at least a few heads with his performance this season.

Overall, Larkin is averaging 9.1 points, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per 36 minutes. He's shooting 44% from the field and 33% from deep, though he doesn't take threes very often.

Those may not be flashy stats, but Larkin has already been praised for his ability to rack up steals and anticipate what's going to happen on the defensive end before it happens. At only 5'11", Larkin may have some trouble closing out on opposing shot attempts. But he can force turnovers, which is always a plus for the quick-paced Suns.

At 22, Larkin could continue to develop. His three-point shot improved quite a bit since his rookie season, perhaps giving him potential as a 3-and-D player. Or, perhaps he's an unproven commodity on the worst team in the league that isn't worth the guaranteed contract. It would be a risk, but you never know.

Ish Smith

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 26
Career Accodales: First place in our hearts.

You should be familiar with this guy. He did a pretty good job in limited minutes for the Suns last year when Bledsoe went down, and right now he's playing great basketball for the Sixers. In 18 games with the Sixers, Ish is averaging 16.5 points, 8.8 assists and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes, and he's even shooting 38% from three-point range.

He's kind of like Shane Larkin, except with more years of experience. He may not provide playoff experience but he's a pesky defender who hustles and thrives in transition. He a good distributor as well as a good rebounder for his height. One of the only things holding him back from being a reliable backup point guard is his historical lack of a three-point shot. If he's managed to develop that in Philly, he could be a smart all-around guard for the Suns and is already familiar with many of the players and coaches. But banking on his recent success from behind the arc is a risky proposition considering such a small sample size.

C.J. Watson

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 30
Career Accolades: Established second-unit leader.

C.J. Watson has never been a terrific player, but for his entire career he's been a solid backup capable of taking the reigns when necessary. He's been to the playoffs with the Bulls, Nets, and now the Pacers, and this year without Paul George has stepped up his production. He's shooting 43% from the field and 40% from three, and is averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes. He has other experience stepping up in the absence of stars, notably when Derrick Rose struggled with injuries in 2011-12.

He's an above-average shooter who has the ability to spot-up, but other than that Watson doesn't have many strengths. He is a high-motor guy who plays decent but not spectacular defense, and his ball handling is nothing to rave about. He has also spent the last several years playing for slow-paced teams, though he did also play with Don Nelson and the all-offense no-defense Warriors. While he is a veteran who would be a solid pick up, I doubt he's truly the best option on this list.

The Rest

There are plenty of other backup guards who I did not list. Aaron Brooks already had one stint with the Suns, but perhaps he could come back. If McDonough wants another undersized player, Jose Barea is always available. Cory Joseph, like Norris Cole, is a fairly young prospect who has already won a championship. And then there are some combo guards, such as Gary Neal, Alexey Shved and Rodney Stuckey.

Or hey, maybe A.J. Price will prove his worth and stick around.

Poll
Which guard would you target?

  547 votes | Results

Over the course of several weeks, the Phoenix Suns have gone from being a team with a "three-PG system" to being one in desperate need of more distributors. Here's a look at who they could target in free agency.

If I told you in October that by the end of the season, the Suns would lose Tyler Ennis, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, what would you have done? Laughed in my face? Threatened to meet me in Temecula?

And yet, here we are. With Brandon Knight injured, the Suns have been reduced to relying on Eric Bledsoe for as many as 36-40 minutes per game. When he comes off the court, both shooting guard Archie Goodwin and 10-day gamble A.J. Price are used to run the offense.

That is not a sustainable system for the future, even once Knight is back in the lineup.

Whether or not the Suns try to make a big splash this summer remains to be seen, but one hole that should be relatively easy to fill is the backup point guard spot. This does not need to be another Isaiah Thomas; the Suns only need a reliable distributor who can come in off the bench for at least 15-20 minutes per game and confidently run plays while giving Bledsoe and Knight some much needed rest. If the Suns are hoping to sneak into the playoffs next season, perhaps it would be a good idea to recruit a veteran with plenty of playoff experience. Or they could just go with the best option available.

I'll assume that with Bledsoe and Knight at the helm, management will stay away from top free agent point guards like Rondo, Dragic and Reggie Jackson. But here are some realistic and affordable options.

Mo Williams

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 32
Career Accolades: 2009 NBA All-Star

The culprit behind this season's most surprising 50-point outburst, Mo Williams will hit free agency after playing as a fringe starter for both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets. However, he was a full-time backup for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2013-14, a 54-28 team. Convincing him to accept a bench role should not be a problem.

Williams' best years may be behind him, but he is proving that he can still produce on a nightly basis. He is averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 assists per game this season, and 17.2 points and 7.9 assists per 36 minutes. His field-goal percentage is fairly low (just 40%), but he is a career 38% shooter from three-point range and has no problem handling the ball. His 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 18th among 51 qualified point guards; for comparison, Bledsoe ranks 46th and Isaiah Thomas 43rd.

Don't forget that Williams has playoff experience to add to his resume. He has appeared in 49 career playoff games, and started in 25 of those. He has fought postseason battles with stars such as Michael Redd, Lebron James, Chris Paul and LaMarcus Aldridge, and even made it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.

Jameer Nelson

Type: Player Option ($2.8 million)
Age: 33
Career Accolades: 2009 NBA All-Star

While Mo Williams assisted LeBron and helped the Cavs become an Eastern Conference powerhouse in the late 2000s, Jameer Nelson played a similar role alongside Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Nelson played 44 playoff games for the Magic between 2007-2012, starting in 39 and getting as far as the NBA Finals.

Whereas Dwight Howard eventually alienated his coach, teammates and fans in Orlando, Nelson stayed with the Magic and continued to receive fan support. When he was eventually waived by the Magic last summer, this is what he had to say about the organization:

``All of the time I still hear fans saying, `Thanks for staying.’ I think they appreciate who I am. Who I am is a professional in everything that I do. I try to always handle myself the same way no matter where I am and who’s around or not around,’’ Nelson said back during the spring. ``I take so much pride in being with the Magic for as long as I have. I really think it says a lot about myself and this organization, as well. For a guy who slipped in the draft and the Magic traded for me and believed in me – really, it’s an honor for me to say that I’ve only worn a Magic jersey.’’

Since leaving Orlando, however, it's been a tough transition for Nelson. He first signed with Dallas, was traded to Boston as part of the Rondo deal, and was then flipped to Denver a couple of weeks later. Overall he's averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 assists per game as a backup, which equates to 13 points and 6.6 assists per 36 minutes. Like Williams, he is a savvy veteran with a good three-point shot (career 37% clip from deep) and a knack for distributing the basketball. The Magic under Stan Van Gundy made a living spacing the floor and finding open shooters behind the arc. Of course, with Dwight Howard down low that was easy to do.

Jeremy Lin

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 26
Career Accolades: Worldwide Asian-American Sensation, creator of "Linsanity"

Despite being on a struggling Lakers team, Jeremy Lin has only 26 games as a starter this year. But that may not be his fault, as head coach Byron Scott has puzzled Lakers fans by often choosing to start Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson ahead of Lin.

Lin is averaging 15.9 points, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes on 43% shooting from the field and 37% shooting from three-point range. His numbers aren't as impressive as they were during his magical 2011-12 campaign with the Knicks, but they're nothing to scoff at either. Lin is more turnover-prone than both Williams and Nelson, as he ranks 38th among 51 point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio.

With Lin, you're going to gain popularity. You're also going to generate more of a media frenzy. The question is, does that do more harm than good for chemistry purposes?

Wherever Lin goes, that fanbase will suddenly experience an influx of "LOFs" (Lin-Only Fans), a term invented by the Rockets fanbase. Both in Houston as well as in Los Angeles, there have been notorious fans who openly support Lin over the rest of the players. As one could expect, that is not always a welcome sight. Just imagine a crowd of new Phoenix Suns fans calling for Hornacek to bench Bledsoe.

Lin is an intriguing player with undeniable skills, but he may not be what Phoenix is looking for.

Norris Cole

Type: Restricted
Age: 26
Career Accolades: "That's two-time NBA champion Norris Cole to you, dammit!"

26-year-old Norris Cole has 60 career playoff games and two championship rings. In that sense, he's more of a "veteran" than either Nelson or Williams. He also played with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, which is a lot of pressure to handle as a youngster.

Cole also has a reputation as a pesky defender and a smart distributor, and that could be useful for the Suns. His assists per 36 minutes have gone up every single season, while his turnovers go down year after year as well. That's a great combination.

On the other hand, he hasn't improved that much in his four NBA seasons and still can't shoot particularly well or create offensive looks for himself. This season he's averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 assists per game, but on just 40% shooting from the field and 31% shooting from deep. His career-high PER this season is only 10.1, and the league average is 15.

So far Cole has stepped up for the Pelicans and is playing pretty well despite being asked to do more. He's a higher-usage player without the big three, but that hasn't effected his efficiency. Still, there are plenty of question marks about his game.

Andre Miller

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 39
Career Accolades: Three-time winner of the "How is this dude still in the league?" award.

Andre Miller just doesn't miss games. For a 14-year period, between 1999 and 2013, he missed a total of 6 games. And yet after all those minutes logged, he's still in the league, and evidently has no plans to retire just yet.

Not only is he still in the league, but he's still playing pretty well, too. Miller has never been a terrific scorer (and has always had a putrid three-point shot), but this season he's shooting 50% from the field and averaging 10.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.3 assists per 36 minutes. In his very early days with the Cavaliers he once led the league in assists while not letting his turnovers get out of hand; perhaps Bledsoe could learn a thing or too from "The Professor".

You want playoff experience? He's got that too. Unfortunately for Miller, he has only ever made the second round once in his career. But overall he has been to the playoffs 10 different times, with four teams.

Unfortunately, Miller's defense has always been more than a little questionable. If McDonough is insistent on assembling a team of physical, tenacious defenders, Miller might not fit the bill.

Shane Larkin

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 22
Career Accolades: Member of the worst Knicks team ever.

Shane Larkin, a 22-year-old 2013 first-rounder, is an unrestricted free agent. That's because the Mavericks never picked up his first team option, and it wasn't until he was traded to the Knicks that he started receiving consistent playing time.

You may be thinking, "Why would we want a player that wasn't even valued enough to be kept on a dirt cheap rookie contract?". Well, despite the terrible team that he's on, Larkin is turning at least a few heads with his performance this season.

Overall, Larkin is averaging 9.1 points, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per 36 minutes. He's shooting 44% from the field and 33% from deep, though he doesn't take threes very often.

Those may not be flashy stats, but Larkin has already been praised for his ability to rack up steals and anticipate what's going to happen on the defensive end before it happens. At only 5'11", Larkin may have some trouble closing out on opposing shot attempts. But he can force turnovers, which is always a plus for the quick-paced Suns.

At 22, Larkin could continue to develop. His three-point shot improved quite a bit since his rookie season, perhaps giving him potential as a 3-and-D player. Or, perhaps he's an unproven commodity on the worst team in the league that isn't worth the guaranteed contract. It would be a risk, but you never know.

Ish Smith

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 26
Career Accodales: First place in our hearts.

You should be familiar with this guy. He did a pretty good job in limited minutes for the Suns last year when Bledsoe went down, and right now he's playing great basketball for the Sixers. In 18 games with the Sixers, Ish is averaging 16.5 points, 8.8 assists and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes, and he's even shooting 38% from three-point range.

He's kind of like Shane Larkin, except with more years of experience. He may not provide playoff experience but he's a pesky defender who hustles and thrives in transition. He a good distributor as well as a good rebounder for his height. One of the only things holding him back from being a reliable backup point guard is his historical lack of a three-point shot. If he's managed to develop that in Philly, he could be a smart all-around guard for the Suns and is already familiar with many of the players and coaches. But banking on his recent success from behind the arc is a risky proposition considering such a small sample size.

C.J. Watson

Type: Unrestricted
Age: 30
Career Accolades: Established second-unit leader.

C.J. Watson has never been a terrific player, but for his entire career he's been a solid backup capable of taking the reigns when necessary. He's been to the playoffs with the Bulls, Nets, and now the Pacers, and this year without Paul George has stepped up his production. He's shooting 43% from the field and 40% from three, and is averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes. He has other experience stepping up in the absence of stars, notably when Derrick Rose struggled with injuries in 2011-12.

He's an above-average shooter who has the ability to spot-up, but other than that Watson doesn't have many strengths. He is a high-motor guy who plays decent but not spectacular defense, and his ball handling is nothing to rave about. He has also spent the last several years playing for slow-paced teams, though he did also play with Don Nelson and the all-offense no-defense Warriors. While he is a veteran who would be a solid pick up, I doubt he's truly the best option on this list.

The Rest

There are plenty of other backup guards who I did not list. Aaron Brooks already had one stint with the Suns, but perhaps he could come back. If McDonough wants another undersized player, Jose Barea is always available. Cory Joseph, like Norris Cole, is a fairly young prospect who has already won a championship. And then there are some combo guards, such as Gary Neal, Alexey Shved and Rodney Stuckey.

Or hey, maybe A.J. Price will prove his worth and stick around.

Poll
Which guard would you target?

  375 votes | Results

For today’s Phoenix Suns Bench Mob Podcast, the boys say goodbye to the greatest Sun of their respective lifetimes and breakdown the team’s suddenly formidable defense. The Bench Mob: An...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

As our contributor Bryan Gibberman pointed out so well, the Phoenix Suns defensive strategy to beat the Portland Trailblazers was sound and should have been good enough for the win.

Just like shutting down James Harden a week ago to beat Houston, the Suns employed a great strategy - and stuck to it all game - to keep the opponents' best scorer in check and maybe steal the game.

The reason it didn't work is because the Suns just couldn't make a shot.

After taking a 4-point lead with 9:26 left, 72-68, the Suns went on the following ignominious stretch: lost ball turnover, missed three point jumper, missed jumper, lost ball turnover, missed layup, missed layup, shot blocked, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper, made jumper, missed short bank shot, missed layup, missed short bank shot, missed three pointer. Portland was up 85-76 by that point.

That's one offensive score in 17 consecutive possessions. They also had two technical free throws, to make it only a 17-4 run by Portland to take over the game.

A lot of that is on the Suns just missing open shots, but the type of shots the Suns took were exactly the type of shots Portland makes you take.

The Blazers have the league's 7th best defense and have won 46 games this year (versus 25 losses) because they run teams off the three-point line and protect the rim with Lopez. They allow the fewest three-point attempts in the league (18.9 per game) and the fewest makes per game (6.3). And they don't give away free throws. They allow the 5th fewest free throw attempts in the league.

Their entire scheme is to lull you into jumpers anywhere from 10-22 feet. If you can make those jumpers, you can beat them. The Suns couldn't make those jumpers.

"Yeah, the way they play back (sagging into the paint), we've had good success in the past of just coming off (of screens) and shooting it in," coach Hornacek said. "Eric didn't make many and Brandon (Knight) wasn't in there to do it either. That's what they're going to live and die with, giving you that shot. If we had another shooter there, that position would come off and maybe it was easier."

Marcus Morris lamented the Suns inability to make those shots too.

"I thought so, man," Mook said afterward of whether they got open shots. "They were in-and-out. They just didn't fall in. I thought that we defended them well the entire game and the fourth quarter could have went either way."

"I thought they were great shots," Bledsoe chimed in. "They just didn't fall. Everybody got a good look at the rim and they were missing, especially me."

The Portland game was not an aberration for the new look Suns since the trade deadline, especially with Brandon Knight out with injury. But even Knight's absence fails to explain why the Suns ability to make open jumpers has gotten SO bad since the trade deadline.

"We're not making shots," Hornacek said. "Our shooting percentage has been horrible since the All-Star break."

The team as a whole is only making 30.4% of their three point attempts since the break, and 43.7% of their field goals overall. They are 25th in offensive efficiency since the break, 22nd in effective shooting % (counting 3s) and 23rd in True shooting % (counting 3s and FTs).

The Suns best three-point shooter since the break is Archie Goodwin (38%), who only takes about one per game. Of the high volume shooters on the Suns, only Eric Bledsoe breaks the 35% mark since the break.

Marcus Morris is making only 31.6% of his threes since the break after making 39.7% in the first 54 games, and 37% for his career.

P.J. Tucker is only making 30.6% of this threes since the break after making 36% in the first 54 games and 38.7% last year.

(By contrast, Ish Smith is making 38% of his very infrequent threes with Philly - 13 makes in 18 games, but still)

Part of the problem is that these two guys are the only catch-and-shoot threats left in the lineup. They put up 9 per game between them. Eric Bledsoe attempts almost 4 per game (35% since the break) but his are off his own playmaking most of the time. Gerald Green was once upon a time a catch-and-shoot threat but he's making only 26% of those this year, so no. He's not anymore.

With Brandon Knight out, the pressure is on Bledsoe to make the entire offense happen. Since the break, the Suns are -14 points per 100 possessions when Bledsoe is out, versus +3 with him on the court. That's a 17 point swing, by far the biggest swing on the team. Goodwin and Price just aren't getting it done when he's off the floor.

Getting Knight back will help.

But what will also help is to start making open shots again. Since the All-Star break, the Suns have made only 40% of their wide open shots (no defender within 6 feet) versus 43.7% before the break.

Of wide open shots at least 10+ feet from the rim (where the closest defender is 6+ feet away), the Suns have dropped from 40% shooting to 36% shooting. By comparison, the Golden State Warriors make 43% of such shots.

So while the Suns have improved their defensive execution since the break (now up to 5th overall in the league), their offense has gotten frustratingly bad.

It's amazing to think about how the personnel can make or break a scheme. With the same exact offensive and defensive scheme all year long, same coach, same staff, same video coordinators, the Suns are a completely different team before and after the trade deadline this year.

With Dragic, Thomas and Bledsoe as the focal points, the Suns boasted a Top-5 offense in the season's first three months with a bottom-10 defense.

Since the break, since Thomas and Dragic were traded, with Bledsoe as the sole point guard much of the time (Knight has missed 8 of 19 games), the Suns now suffer from a bottom-10 offense but suddenly have a Top-5 defense.

Same scheme. Same coaches. Much of the same personnel.

Which is better? Well, that's a bad question. Neither is good. Neither will make the playoffs.

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