Sebastian Telfair was the 13th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers out of Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York. He had committed to the University of Louisville and head coach Rick Pitino during his senior year, but decided instead to turn professional.
The Phoenix Suns, known for drafting brothers through the draft, have in a somewhat analogous way, kept up with this tradition of blood acquisitions: Telfair is a cousin of former Sun, Stephon Marbury.
You all know the story of Telfair-a high school phenom, an undersized point guard who has been around the league without reaching the potential many predicted he would achieve. Given the chance as a starting point guard in many of his 6 stops (PTL, Celts, Wolves-twice, Clips, and Cavs), Telfair has never broken through. With career averages of 23 minutes per game, 39% shooting, 78% from the line, to go with 3.8 assists and 7.8 points per game, Telfair will be battling Zabian Dowdell for the backup PG job.
Unless you have been following Telfair's less than illustrious career, you probably have the same questions that I have about the
To help us all out, I got a hold of Bryan Anderson over at Canishoopus with some 411 on Mr. Telfair. Here we play 6 questions with Brian:
W: Were you all happy to see Telfair go, or not? Why?
B: I have mixed feelings about seeing Telfair depart. This is actually the second time he's been on the team and left. For one, I have a good bit of loyalty to Bassy, and I think a lot of fans here in Minnesota share that feeling. Telfair did good work for us. He saved a lot of dignity for us after Garnett left and Kevin McHale came to the disastrous conclusion that Randy Foye could be a point guard. We developed a fondness for him because he was the only competent, reliable point guard on the roster for a while.
That said, he was never anything special as a player, and probably shouldn't have been a starter. He's very much ideally a sixth man. His scoring is very streaky and that's not likely to change. We were always wincing when he'd pull up for a three, especially during his second stint here under Rambis. He's not that type of player. So personal loyalty aside, I can't say I'm sorry to see him go. There's nothing he could do that Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea won't do better.
W: If Telfair makes the roster as a backup PG, do you think he could handle 15-20 minutes per game spelling Steve Nash?
B: He absolutely can handle that. Just don't rely on him to score. Put the ball in his hands and tell him to get shots for Hill and Gortat and Frye, and he'll do good work for you.
W: Telfair came into the NBA with a super high ceiling. Why do you all think he has struggled to achieve that status? Was he overrated? Low basketball IQ?
B: There's a few factors going into this. One is that he developed a scorer's mentality at Abraham Lincoln High School, but he's not a natural scorer. Another is he's just very small...like, Allen Iverson small...and never compensated for that. He gets pushed around a lot. He has trouble finishing in traffic when he gets bumped because he's so light he can't absorb the contact. He wasn't ready coming out as a high schooler. He should have spent a couple of years in college. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of Stephon Marbury, but doesn't have Marbury's size or scoring touch, and never learned any skills to compensate for that.
W: Do you think that playing on the same team with Nash will help Telfair in any way?
B: Honestly, not likely. He's 26 years old and has been in the league for 8 seasons. His numbers have been consistent through his career. He is what he is at this point.
W: If given consistent time, what kind of numbers would we expect to see out of Telfair?
B: Given about 20 minutes a night, I'd expect something in the range of 6-10 ppg and 4-5 assists. A lot will depend on his role. He had major problems under Rambis, being asked to play the Derek Fisher role of shooting a lot and passing little. That's the opposite of him as a player. He'll benefit from a more open system that asks him to pass more and shoot less, as well as one that can live with his sometimes risky decisions.
W: Bonus Question: Do you agree with SB's asessment of Telfair:
B: Not sure I would agree about him having a good shooting motion. I suppose mechanically that's true, but the result is a miss a lot more often than a make.
Suns fans, what do you expect out of Bassy, stat-wise and other?
With all the talk about the Suns rebuilding options, I thought it was informative to go back and look at what Sarver said last summer. He was very clear on his thinking.
Of course, plans can change...
One of the Phoenix Suns' biggest problems last year was scoring to close out a game. Sure, the Suns wanted more size and defense too. But winning teams have guys who can hit clutch shots in the closing minutes, be it a contested layup, a stagger-screened 15-footer or a spot-up 3-ball after PG penetration draws the defense into the paint.
The Suns' clear path for now is that they need to add a go-to scorer, more size and (to) improve defensively, in attention and scheme as well as personnel.
"We've got to be little better from the standpoint of being able to have a go-to guy where we don't count on Steve (Nash) to create every play at the end of the game and to make every shot in situations like that," coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's something that we have to look at."
The Suns appear to have checked off many other offseason goals:
The Suns have already checked off those tasks (nominally, anyway) without sacrificing a dime of 2012 cap space.
But go-to scorer for the 2011-2012 season? So far, no good.
To be fair, finding a go-to scorer is not easy when you only have only $5 million to spend on pure free agents and want to limit any commitment to 1 year unless the player has huge long-term upside. A round-up of this offseason's best-scoring guards available in free agency:
The Phoenix Suns DO still have Amare's remaining trade exception, which I believe is about $5.7 million. But the only way they'd use this money in the next week is to (a) add a one-year rental or (b) add a young, long-term guy comparable to Steph Curry, James Harden and Eric Gordon, who are all RFAs either next summer or the summer after that.
As it stands, next summer will offer some really good, young go-to scorers in Wilson Chandler, JR Smith, Russell Westbrook (RFA) and Eric Gordon (RFA).
The summer after that makes go-to scorers James Harden and Steph Curry, among others, available as RFAs.
As of next summer, the Suns will have at least $30 million in cap space to spend on any free agents - RFAs (restricted) or UFAs (unrestricted). The acquisition of a long-term go-to scorer may be better served to wait until then.
For now, don't expect miracles. Those of you begging for Michael Redd? While I hope you're wrong, I do see him fitting the Suns' 2011-2012 free agent profile - a one-year veteran-minimum contract.