In one of the few nationally televised games of the season for the Suns, it looked less like a game and more like a beat down. With how spectacularly Eric Bledsoe had been as of late (with averages of 29 points, 8.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game and a scolding hot 94% from the charity stripe over the last 15 coming into this game) I was expecting him to keep that hot streak going against the Grizz Monday night in a match-up of underrated point guards.
Mike Conley came to town to steal the show, though. He scored a career-high 38 points (while going 7/10 from downtown) to go with nine assists, six rebounds, and two steals leading Memphis to a 115-96 victory. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each scored 18 and collected six boards as well for the Grizz.
Eric Bledsoe’s hot streak cooled down for a night, as he went 3-11 for 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Devin Booker led the team in scoring with 22, but also shot poorly, going 6-20 from the field. Regardless of his disappointing shooting performance, Booker was still able to continue his streak of 20-point games to 13 straight. More good news for the Suns, rookie Marquese Chriss scored a career-high of his own, 20 points on an efficient 8-12 – including a monster block early in the game and a couple three pointers. He rewarded fans who showed up with a lot of blockbuster dunk, something he’s becoming known for and rightfully so.
Aside from Conley’s big night, the same problems that have plagued the Suns all year were ever present in Monday’s loss. They recorded only 11 assists while allowing 25 by the Grizzlies, shot 5/19 from beyond the arc, and turned the ball over 17 times. And although they managed to get to the free throw line 39 times, they still only shot 74.4% from the charity stripe. Until the Suns fix their dismal three-point percentage and assist numbers, they will continue to lose more than they win.
Watching the way Memphis played, I realized how important having a player like Marc Gasol is for a team to succeed. On the season, he’s averaging a career-high 4.2 assists per game – he’s also averaging a career-high 20.8 points per game, but I’m focusing on his play-making ability here. Bledsoe is leading the Suns in assists with 6.1 per contest; but after him, only Devin Booker (3.2) and Brandon Knight (2.4) are averaging more than two assists per game. Bottom line: Phoenix needs more play-makers.
It’s been highly speculated that Brandon Knight is on the trading block – well, really, that mostly everybody but Devin Booker is – and I think that Phoenix should start looking at their options. It was rumored when Atlanta was struggling that Paul Millsap was possibly on the trading block, and if they begin struggling again he may end up being on the trading block. One of the Hawks’ top needs, if not the top need, is a backup point guard. Insert Brandon Knight. He’s certainly an upgrade at the position, but it’s just a matter of whether or not Atlanta would be willing to part ways with Millsap to make the upgrade. Phoenix would likely have to give up their first round pick and maybe more to make this happen, if there’s a chance for it to happen at all. But if I’m the Suns, I know I’m looking for a big man who can pass.
In the coming days I’m going to post some trade possibilities for the Suns, from scenarios where they are trying to win now to those where they are trying to rebuild all but completely. No matter what, Paul Millsap would be a welcome addition.
In the meantime, the Suns’ next game is Wednesday at home against the injury-riddled Clippers. Expect Phoenix to come out looking to avenge their disappointing loss to Memphis in their first game of February.