With the annual free agency carousel halted for another year, the NBA still has its own ways of emerging from the summer darkness with something to talk about. The Phoenix Suns partnering up with the Houston Rockets to make the most minor of transactions was the latest subject of hoops debate.
The Suns sent former lottery pick Marquese Chriss and veteran guard Brandon Knight to Texas, taking rookie De’Anthony Melton and long-range gunner Ryan Anderson back in return.
While the deal isn’t going to send substantial aftershocks through the league, it could help the Phoenix Suns in ways that will matter in the long run. Specifically in the rapidly-rising game of Devin Booker, the shining beacon of hope for a Suns franchise that has failed to make the postseason in nine long seasons.
Booker didn’t only get a future partner in crime in the form of first overall pick DeAndre Ayton this summer, he also gained another rare sight, a capable floor-stretching big man to open up the floor for him.
In the three seasons since the 21-year-old entered the league as a wide-eyed freshman, the only big man to nail over 38 percent of his triples was the 2015-16 version of Mirza Teletovic … and he didn’t start a single game.
It’s in this regard that Ryan Anderson will bolster Devin Booker’s game in a way the young guard hasn’t seen at the NBA level. Anderson has shot 38.2 percent from downtown in his career, attempting over five 3-pointers per game for the last eight seasons. To put it simply, the 6-foot-10 forward is a certified sniper.
Over the 30-year-old’s last two years in Houston, his spot-up and pick-and-pop excellence have helped James Harden become one of the best passers the league has in stock. He is a stereotypical shooter with a quick trigger, 30-foot range and a sixth sense for getting himself open beyond the arc – a weapon that every ball handler needs in his arsenal.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, new Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov plans to deploy him in the starting unit. A welcome sight for his shooting-deprived squad.
Booker took much-needed leaps last year when it came to playmaking, averaging a career-high 4.7 assists per game to go along with his 24.9 points per outing. Instead of the pure bucket-getting machine we had witnessed over his first two seasons, he was forced to run the offense and create for others.
The outlook on next year spells more point-Booker. Especially when you consider the fact that rookie Elie Okobo and journeyman Isaiah Canaan are the only point guards left on the roster with Knight now in Houston.
With one of the smoothest looking jump shots in the universe, Devin Booker has been able to knock down pull up jumpers at a reliable rate since birth. However, as the lone star on the cellar-dwelling Suns, double-teams and defensive coverages tailored toward stopping him forced the ball out of his hands.
When DeAndre Ayton is doing the screening instead of Ryan Anderson picking and popping, the former Rocket will is an expert at spotting up in an open pocket of space. He finished 2017-18 shooting 39.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3’s, meaning he will provide a huge upgrade in weak-side and corner shooting over the inconsistent Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson. Now Booker’s passing skills are now sharp enough to find him consistently.
With the extra space Anderson creates, the budding young guard won’t just have more passing choices, he will also have more room to attack the rim. Booker managed to conjure up 10.1 drives per game last season, but without reasonable spacing, he could only finish 43.1 percent of those chances.
With footwork to die for and a soft touch, the newly minted max-contract man has the potential to be an elite scorer inside the paint, but he simply needs more room to work in.
Ayton’s freakish one-and-done college career included flashes of a reliable 3-point stroke, but it will be Anderson who brings the floor-stretching to the Phoenix frontcourt.
The Suns probably aren’t going to make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean trading for a seasoned 3-point sniper like Ryan Anderson isn’t going to leave a footprint on their future. With the forward in town, Devin Booker’s already exciting game could hit new heights.