Garrett was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam and played hist first game on Jan. 11. He came off the bench for the first two games, but by the third he had earned the starting point guard spot and held onto it for the rest of his stint. He put up solid numbers and helped his team win. After watching all of two of his games and at least a quarter of the others, I believe he can do that for the Suns as well, albeit it to a lesser extent.
But first, let's take a look at how he played.
A couple numbers jump out to me here. The first is the 3-point shooting. He shot an incredible 10-16 from deep in his seven D-League games, but even more interesting is the fact that all 10 of his makes came in three games. He shot 3-3 in his first game, 3-4 in the next and 4-4 in his last one. In the other four games in between he went 0-5 and didn't even attempt one in his sixth game.
Second, the assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5 is a solid number for a guard. He had two big turnover games of five and four, but he also had three games with only one turnover and another one where he dished out 10 assists without turning it over a single time. From watching him play, Garrett does a very nice job of taking care of the ball and finding the open man.
Garrett's strengths start with his physical tools. He has excellent size for an NBA point guard at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, and solid speed and quickness.
But beyond the physical tools, he just knows how to play the game. He is definitely a point guard who can run a team and get shots for himself and others. More specifically, he's a specific kind of point guard: a drive-and-kick point guard. Garrett's game is all about getting into the paint and making things happen.He penetrates in a variety of ways: pushing the ball in transition, using a quick first step to get past his man and attacking the defense in pick-and-roll situations.
Garrett has solid court vision, which he uses to find lanes to the basket and to hit the open man when the defense collapses on him. Garrett drove and kicked out to open shooters more than anything else during his stint, and that worked well with a Bakersfield starting lineup that featured two stretch big men in the starting frontcourt.
It only took Garrett two games to earn the starting gig, and quickly asserted himself as a leader on the court. He ran the offense as a point guard, but was a very willing passer and often moved the ball an gave other guys a chance to make a play.
He's also a guy who will stay engaged off the ball on both ends. He has good instincts and uses his length well to get into passing lanes (hence the 1.7 steals per game), is a good cutter offensively and isn't afraid to sneak into the paint and fight for rebounds on either end.
Shooting is one of the things that Garrett needed to work on the most coming out of college, an it definitely looks like he has improved. He knocked down his open 3-pointers at a high rate and also showed a fairly reliable pull-up mid-range jumper.
Garrett has appeared to have improved his shooting, but it's difficult to draw any long-term conclusions about the reliability of his deep ball. As I mentioned above, he either shot a bunch or he barely shot at all. From what I noticed, he doesn't really look for the 3-ball. He'd rather move the ball or attack when he gets it on the perimeter. But if he is open in a catch-and-shoot situation, or even off of an occasional pick-and-roll where the defender goes under the screen, he can knock it down. So while he shot over 60 percent from deep in his seven games, he's not any kin of 3-point specialist.
Defensively, he was difficult to evaluate as Bakersfield played a lot of match-up zone, meaning he wasn't asked to lock down any particular player. He did show versatility in guarding both point guards and shooting guards (his backcourt mate Jerel McNeal is a smallish combo-guard). I did see him get blown by a couple times, but I think those were more lapses and him getting caught off guard than him not being able to move his feet. He has excellent length and solid quickness, so he should be able to at the very least do a solid job defensively/
Garrett's biggest weakness is his ability to finish around the basket, and it is this weakness that limits his upside. While he has solid speed and great length, Garrett lacks explosiveness when going up to finish. He doesn't elevate very quickly or powerfully, and this leads to him missing some easier looks or taking tough shots after an initial good move to the basket. Complicating his lack of explosiveness is his lack of strength, as he is only 185 pounds or so and doesn't have the sort of wiry strength that other skinny guards may possess. These two factors really limit his upside as a scorer, and if teams decide to play him straight up and force him to try to finish, the kick-out won't be there for him.
He needs to first of all continue to work on his body and add some muscle to his frame, and second develop a better arsenal of finishing moves around the basket. If you can't go up and dunk everything, you have to do be more crafty with some scoops and floaters.
Rookie lottery pick Kendall Marshall spent some time with Bakersfield earlier in the season, and after a good start his stay did not go quite as well as Garrett's. However, the two players are at different stages in their careers at this point an comparing them directly is not all that fair. Marshall spent two years in college before declaring for the NBA Draft, while Garrett played all four years at Iowa State and spent last season honing his game overseas. Garrett is much closer to a finished product than Marshall is right now and is more ready to play. Garret's stint was about getting a chance to play, showing what he can do and fine-tuning his game. Marshall's stint was more about experimentation. Marshall is still trying to find his game at the NBA level, while Garrett already knows who he is.
Garrett has been officially recalled by the Sun and will be on the roster for the Suns' next game. Whether or not he is active I do not know, although I believe he should be. I think it's time to give him a shot. Shannon Brown is not really helping this team and should not be part of the team moving forward. However, I do believe there is a spot in this league for Garrett, and I wouldn't mind for that to be with the Suns.
Garrett is actually comparable to Goran Dragic in a lot of ways. What separates them is Dragic's explosiveness, but Garrett can step in off the bench and play a similar role to Dragic. He's big enough to defend a lot of shooting guards, particularly ones coming off the bench, and playing him next to Sebastian Telfair could help jump start the Suns' bench on both ends. Garrett would relieve Bassy of some of the playmaking duties an allow him to spot up on the perimeter and put his good 3-point shooting this year to use.
I don't know if Garrett will be able to get into the paint as well or as often against NBA athleticism, but at this point in the season I'm willing to get him out there and find out. Garrett isn't ever going to be a star, but I do think he has some promise as a solid role player off the bench. On a team with so many negatives in the second unit, a guy who is willing to do his job and play his role can go a long way.
The 2013 NBA Draft has been widely rumored to be shallow in upper-end talent. At this point, there is no clear franchise-changer like Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, or even Brittany Griner.
But there certainly are potential boom-bust guys out there. We don't know if a James Harden (#3 in his draft) or Stephen Curry (#7) or DeMarcus Cousins (#5) or Damian Lillard (#6) will emerge as All-Star talents after the fact, or if teams at the top of the draft will be stuck with a Derrick Williams (#2), Hasheem Thabeet (#3), Tristan Thompson (#4), Jan Vesely (#6) or a Wesley Johnson (#4) or Michael Beasley (#2).
All we know is that the more chances you get to draft a star, the better your chances to land one. (Cap'n Obvious reporting for duty!)
The Phoenix Suns have the potential for two lottery picks in the 2013 draft, plus potentially a third pick in the 20s.
The Suns have their own, which lately projects to be anywhere from #1 overall to #7 depending on how lucky the Suns are in the lottery ball tournament.
The Suns also have a pick from the Lakers. If the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns get their lottery pick outright. If the Lakers make the playoffs, the Suns get the worst of theirs and Miami's. Miami's projects to be in the bottom 2 or 3 of the first round.
The Suns also have Memphis' pick this year, but only if Minnesota MAKES the playoffs. If the T-wolves miss the playoffs, the Suns will get their pick as soon as they do make it (hopefully in 2014).
Let's take a look at each team's projected chances to make the playoffs with nearly half the season left to play.
Basketball-reference runs a 1,000-plus simulations on every team's schedule for the rest of the season and predicts playoff chances. Obviously, the fewer remaining games the better the prediction.
However, they've been really accurate in recent seasons. Teams with a 90+% chance at this point in the season are virtual locks for the playoffs. That leaves only the 8th spot open.
As of today, the Suns project to be second-worst in the West because they have a much easier schedule than Sacramento down the stretch. March is a particularly easy month for the Suns.
The Lakers have a better chance today to make the playoffs than they did a week ago, but still less than 1 on 3 shot to make it. The Jazz appear to be their only true competition for the 8th spot and have a tougher remaining schedule, but their current 5-win lead gives them the final edge.
Note that it currently only appears to require 42-43 wins to make the playoffs in the West this year, after needing a full-season average of 48 wins the last several seasons. It's a down year in the West.
If the Lakers can go 24-14, they have a good shot to make the postseason.
Even those of you wanting the Suns to tank should definitely root for the Suns to somehow beat the Lakers this season at least once.
The Timberwolves appear totally out of the postseason picture, with only a 1.5% chance of making it at this point. They have endured lots of injuries, which has caught up with them big time.
This is a good thing for Suns fans though. The Wolves lottery-protected pick rolls over for up to 4 years. As soon as the Wolves make the playoffs, it's the Suns' pick. With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio healthy for only one full season, that should be an easy target.
If Minny had made it this season, the Suns would get the WORST of theirs and Memphis - which is currently projected to be a pick in the 20-25 range. If Minny makes the playoffs next season, the Suns get Minny's pick outright which should be in the teens (in a better draft) rather than the 20s of a weak draft.
Getting started with the second era in Phoenix Suns (15-30) in the past seven months has to be tough, but they handled it as well as Eric Bishoff handled the final years of World Championship Wrestling. For the ten of you that got that reference, you're welcome.
@ Sacramento Kings - W (106-96)
vs. Los Angeles Clippers - W (93-88)
@ San Antonio Spurs - L (108-99)
@ Dallas Mavericks - L (110-95)
In hindsight it will be the looked at as simply a 2-2 week with two sets of back-to-backs on the schedule. For those without a sense of revisionist history (rarity) this was a week of ultimate highs and very familiar lows. The team charged out to a 2-0 start under Interim Head Coach Lindsey Hunter before dropping the next two on the road in Texas.
Before heading on the road to Texas it seemed Hunter was able maximize the effort from his team. They came out playing great defense and scoring well in the first quarter, which has been a problem this season.
The issue the previous regime had with the roster was consistency. That does not seem to have changed as they won two games behind defense and lost two games behind defense immediately after. That balance of effort on the defensive end while still scoring enough to be competitive in the fourth quarter is the item behind mystery door number three, but the Suns keep choosing doors one, two, or falling short in the speed round just before.
Through 41 games the Suns were -16 overall (468-484) in offensive rebounding as a team. Over the last four games they were -16 (35-51) in that five day window alone. One of the staples of a good defense is the ability to shut the door on the possession with a rebound or forced turnover.
Coincidentally they won the first two games despite being aggressively mauled on the offensive glass, but as a whole the team does not have an enforcer in the paint to put the finishing touch on what have been very good overall defensive possessions. Instead they are giving up multiple shots most possessions making the defense work even harder while allowing the same amount of points to the opponent, just in more attempts.
They are currently on pace to be out-rebounded -164 on the offensive glass over the second half of the season. That is unlikely, but the pace is being set.
Lindsey Hunter became only the fourth Suns coach to begin his career 2-0 joining the fraternity of Jerry Colangelo, Scott Skiles, and yes, Alvin Gentry. The winning was short lived, but showed signs of potential.
In the two wins the Suns were a +15 overall in the scoring column holding two Divisional rivals to a combined 43.8% from the field, 37.9% from three, and forced a combined 39 turnovers. All three of those intangibles are reflective of the way the defense played.
With three days of practice and against a struggling Kings team and a Chris Paul(less) Clippers team the Suns shined. On no practice the team was picked apart by a Tim Duncan (and Greg Popovich) less Spurs team and a struggling Mavericks team. That pretty much sums up the week.
There has to be consideration to the lack of practice time because Hunter is a new coach, but the Suns were outplayed from the jump in each game.
In these two games in particular however the team was simply outplayed by teams that were more prepared, coached better, and knew what to do to win games. That is going to happen often to the Suns and it is not meant as a knock in the slightest, but expectations should be realistic. The team is struggling and is going through the growing pains of a reboot.
Hunter was able to run three practices before the teams first game and they were ready to play. He emphasized defense, which the team delivered in those first two games.
Here are the highlights from practice.
There was a clear tone to Hunter and how he was going to handle things. This team is going to play defense, play hard, and make the philosophy switch never seen here in the valley before; Defense. So far that has been the case as they held their first two opponents to 92 PPG, but they were run out of the gym in Texas giving up 109 PPG. The learning curve seems to go up-and-down.
The team played hard under Alvin Gentry and gave effort on defense, but it wasn't to be. Seems Hunter is getting about the same out of his guys on that end.
A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.
Player of the Week:
Goran Dragic - 15.75 PPG 2.25 RPG 9.25 APG 43.4 FG%
An aggressive Goran Dragic is what the Suns need and that is exactly what he provided early in the weeks two wins. He was attacking the rim going in with a purpose looking to score or distribute. On the defensive end he has spearheaded the noticeably more opportunistic defense.
Dragic is the straw that stirs the drink for the Suns so when he is aggressive and making plays the rest of the team has more of a pep in their step. They go after it harder on defense and become a better overall team.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Wednesday, January 30th vs. Los Angeles Lakers (19-25)
Friday, February 1st vs. Dallas Mavericks (19-25)
Saturday, February 2nd @ Golden State Warriors (26-17)