Sebastian Telfair is the Suns' forgotten man in a summer of turnover

Steve Nash now wears the gold and purple, and for a franchise that historically has given the franchise keys to the point guard, the signing of Goran Dragic and the draft pick of Kendall Marshall again places the emphasis on the 1 spot. Whomever becomes the floor general of the Suns’ future is a recipe for discussion, but the answer to that question — if it’s one, the other or neither — won’t come this season.

More immediately, we don’t know who will be the Suns’ backup point guard.

Forgotten in all of this is Sebastian Telfair, a guy whose name was lost in all the reshuffling this offseason. Dragic will be starting come the regular season and to understand why pegging Marshall into the backup spot ahead of Telfair is unfair, look no further than to last season.

From Michael Schwartz’s article rehashing Bassy’s season that went from ugly to beautiful:

The Wins Produced stat illustrates Telfair’s improvement even more clearly.

Through April 1, Bassy ranked dead last on the Suns by producing a -0.083 WP48. During the team’s final 14 games Telfair shot all the way up to first on the entire team with a 0.212 WP48 that was percentage points ahead of Steve Nash himself!

Call it a month-long fluke or not, Telfair ended the 2011-12 year on the highest of notes.

Telfair’s place on both ends became clear and in that, the eight-year pro found likely his best role as an NBA player. He’s a perfect backup point guard, a guy who knew when to give his teammates touches and when to attack himself — he even impressed with his jump shooting, the skill that has ultimately dragged him down as he’s tried to latch on to teams for the long term.

Through 14 games in April, he shot 50 percent from the floor despite taking two shots more than any other monthly split of the year. But the crux of what makes Telfair a model for an NBA backup is his defense. To go along with his improved handle on the offensive tempo with Phoenix, the firey New York City native displayed a style of pesky defense to disrupt the timing of opponent’s offenses. It was perfectly suited for short bursts off the bench.

Take an example from an April 20 game against the Los Angeles Clippers, one of the most pivotal of the season. In the final minute of the game, Telfair was playing alongside Nash to defend Chris Paul. With the Suns leading 91-90, the generously-listed 6-foot tall Telfair blocked Paul’s shot out of bounds with eight seconds left, then denied the All-NBA guard another shot attempt as Phoenix came out victorious. After the game, Jared Dudley labeled Telfair “the black Sasha Vujacic. Kind of someone you hate, gets under your skin.”

So what about Marshall, the assist machine out of North Carolina?

Gentry will obviously be in the position of needing to develop Marshall for the future, all while trying to win games in the present. But look no further than a young Steve Nash for how that can turn out. Remember, Nash played on a 1996-97 Suns team that, through much turnover, made him the fourth-best point guard to play that year behind Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd and Sam Cassell.

There’s no telling how Gentry will handle Marshall this year. Tempering expectations on a 20-year-old is something NBA execs and coaches will do. Perhaps Marshall’s defensive downfalls could make the tug-and-pull in deciding on backup minutes become one-sided in favor of Telfair. On the other token, Marshall could turn out to be so good that Gentry can’t keep the rookie off the floor. Even then, will his pass-first style translate to playing a backup role?

It’s easy to get caught up in talking about all the new pieces. But not to be forgotten, Telfair will have his say at the backup point guard spot come the beginning of the season.

Tags: Sebastian Telfair

  • shazam

    thanks for this z ..ive been thinking about him a bit lately..i think he earned the back up last year..marshal will have to take it away and i just dont think he can this soon.

  • Keith

    Marshall isn’t that good, and Bassy’s got the job. I don’t expect Marshall to play much at all this year.

  • JT’s Hoops Blog

    Say what u want about Telfair, but you have to agree that Telfair is a survivor. He has bounced from team to team and many have thought it would be the end for him. Yet, he still manages to hang around in the league.

    It’s just too bad that he did not go to college. he would have learned a lot from Pitino if he would have stayed in Louisville. Now it’s all too late. Telfair has just about reached his ceiling. He’ll be nothing more than a journeyman and sooner or later he’s going to reach his last stop.


    Thats is what i’ve been saying from the beginning sebastian telfair deserves that spot right now if marshall comes in and out plays bassy then so be it but as of right now Telfair deserves that role

  • Andres

    Its going to be interesting if Gentry figures out to play Marshall alongside Dragic in order to have bassy run the 2nd unit with Brown and Du
    We all know Dragic is capable of playing the 2 for stretches if needed so I just hope Gentry will try all possible 1-2 combinations and see what’s best for the team

  • Zack B.

    I’m biased on this, being that Bassy is a New York product. If he could develop a solid mid-range game and floater, I never understood why he couldn’t be a Top PG. With those filthy handles and court vision, he should be. Hopefully he could be like a more defensive Nate Robinson for us.

  • Ty-Sun

    Yes, most of the talk has been about Marshall but Telfair is the #2 PG going into training camp. Marshall has the potential to be an elite passer but Telfair has proven to be a well rounded PG who can defend which is still a question mark for Marshall. It’s very unlikely that Telfair is going to spend a lot of time at the end of the bench especially early in the season. Unless Marshall comes along very quickly, most of his minutes will be garbage time play early in the season (unless Dragic or Telfair are injured). I’m glad we still have Telfair. Hopefully his ex-Minnesota teammates Beasley and Johnson will also play as hard in Phoenix as he did last year.

  • Tim from British Columbia

    I think Bassy played very well in the stretch last season and although doesn’t have the talent of a Nash or Dragic he is a very capable back up point guard who passes well and has some basketball savy. I like his team work and attitude and Kendal Marshall is raw talent and will need work.

  • Scott

    I still see Telfair as an undersized SG. Last season, toward the end, he showed he could play excellent defense, even on star PGs like Chris Paul. But – so far as I can tell – Telfair is not, and never has been, much of a play maker. He does not make those around him better.

    Marshall, on the other hand, is a natural floor general. He makes plays for everyone else, and has done so to the detriment of his own game. If he wasn’t so good at making plays for others, there’s no way he could have got by with such an undeveloped offensive game.

    Marshall will need time to adjust to the NBA, to the Suns’ system, and to develop his offense, so Telfair is there to help hold down the spot this season. But I expect Marshall to relatively quickly show he’s capable of running the 2nd unit.

    I can also see where there could be times where Telfair and Marshall might play together. Telfair would be able to cover the PG spot on defense and Marshall could distribute the ball on offense.

  • Scott

    Incidentally, this article does suggest that at least according to the WP48, a PG with better defense might be able to get wins for the Suns even if he can’t quite produce the play making or the individual offense of Nash.

    This bodes well for Dragic.