Diante Garrett flashes NBA-caliber talent in rookie season

Posted by on May 14th, 9:55 am

Opportunity knocked on Diante Garrett’s door, and now it’s only a matter of whether it was a pseudo-investment by the Phoenix Suns in terms of their own future, that is. Garrett joined Luke Zeller as the two final pieces to the 2012-13 roster as Phoenix went with an inexpensive, developmentally-based mindset, but how the new front office reloads or doesn’t reload that developmental staff could help or hurt Garrett’s chances in sticking with the team.

If the Suns or any other NBA squad listened to interim coach Lindsey Hunter or the those with Bakersfield Jam, there’s little doubt the 12th-man did himself some good to build himself into an NBA-caliber player in his rookie season.

Like P.J. Tucker, Garrett was never a serious thought to be anything but a Summer League roster fill-in. By summertime, he might’ve carved out a spot in the NBA by his performances this season, and the averages of 2.1 points and 1.6 assists per game with the Suns are far from important to understanding Garrett’s potential.

Stuck behind Goran Dragic and fellow rookie Kendall Marshall, Garrett acted as a hybrid guard who projects as a potential NBA backup once he develops his body strength. The Suns envisioned his length as helping him to become an elite defender at point guard and capable enough to slide to the 2-guard slot. The numbers back that thought in his 19 NBA contests played and 149 minutes of time on the court.

Though it was mostly in garbage minutes, Garrett averaged 2.4 steals per 36 minutes, or 13th in the league considering players regardless of minutes, according to HoopData.com.

It’s raw around the edges, but there are things to like.

At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds there are physical boundaries keeping Garrett from earning himself a career in the league. His lack of strength saw him get pushed around by larger guards. In terms of offense, his ability to take hits around the rim and finish through contact appealed to be a struggle despite his craftiness in getting into the teeth of defenses and getting floaters over NBA big men.

Overall, the former Iowa State Cyclone showed that he had a very natural feel for the game. Garrett’s handle is above average, but his ability to use that along with his body and footwork are unique. Like Marshall, Garrett has no trouble keeping his dribble alive, but his restricted gait and light strikes of his feet on the ground enhances a shiftiness about him. His poking and prodding of defenses especially off pick-and-rolls are something to build upon, and his creativeness in earning open shots and getting them off in traffic are underrated to boot.

Turnovers turned out to be the negative result of his abilities. Garrett plays as if he’s on the playground, but against NBA-level defenses or even those in the D-League he was penalized for trying to do too much. Garrett averaged 2.9 turnovers per game in 32.6 minutes per game during eight regular season D-League contests. With the Suns he turned it over 3.9 times per 36 minutes.

On the positive side of things, Garrett was a playmaker for his teammates when he didn’t lose the ball. He was especially dangerous in the open court. Again that’s where his creativeness and ability to use herky-jerky ballhandling came in handy. Garrett averaged 7.3 assists per game in his eight Bakersfield assignments during the regular season and seven during two postseason losses. And with the Suns, his 7.5 assists per 36 minutes was above Marshall’s 7.3 per 36 and only behind Dragic’s 7.9.

His assist to turnover ratio of 1.94 leaves little to be desired.

Garrett’s jump-shooting is also a work in progress. As poor as it was in the NBA game (32.7 percent overall and 20 percent from three-point range), he found his perimeter accuracy to be a much less concerning part of his game in the D-League. Garrett shot 49.1 percent overall, 61.9 percent from three-point range and 81 percent from the foul stripe with the Jam. He averaged 17.3 points per game with Bakersfield in the regular season.

Sticking in the NBA comes down to Phoenix’s outlook and their roster situation once it becomes a little more obvious in direction this offseason. At this point, it’s hard to see the Suns moving either Dragic or Marshall, and even though they could be willing to join the trend of NBA teams that play with a duel-point-guard look, Garrett may not have a future in Phoenix.

The Suns will look to add a go-to perimeter scorer in either or both of the draft or free agency, making the point guard spot a logjam should Garrett return. But you never know. The Jam, as they showed by bringing him on for two disappointing postseason games, would likely be happy to bring Garrett back. And that’s if better opportunities don’t arise elsewhere.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Diante Garrett

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scott // May 14, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Most fans probably didn’t know he was on the team.

    Garrett didn’t get enough play time to get rid of the jitters and find a role, so we don’t really know what he can do. Neither Gentry nor Hunter ever thought about him strategically, so far as I can see.

    I believe he could have helped Dragic push the offense and play as a scorer ala Barbosa, but he was never used in this regard.

    Garrett is basically the same size and weight as Dragic, but he’s not as serious as Dragic, and that may be his ultimate undoing as far as the NBA goes.

    In regard to this draft, I compare MCW with Garrett in that MCW is 15 lbs lighter than Garrett while measuring an inch taller. If Garrett is struggling for strength against NBA guards, we might assume the same for MCW.

  • 2 Scott // May 14, 2013 at 10:42 am

    BTW, one of my favorite prospects is featured by DX today with updated scouting and a video by Schmitz: Gorgui Dieng.

    From the scouting reports I’ve seen so far, if any team is looking for athletic, defensive centers who have good knees, Dieng is #1 in this draft.

    I’m not concerned about his age (23). It’s not like he’s Mason Plumlee (also 23) and hit his peak a year or two ago. It looks to me like he has a fairly high IQ and his progress each year shows he is still developing his game.

    Dieng will be ready to come off the bench at the start of the season, and he’ll get better as time goes on. He’ll also be entering maturity as a center right in step with the development of the team, assuming the team is rebuilding over 2-3 years through the draft.

    If we had no idea what the consensus draft order was, I would be picking Dieng with the Suns’ highest pick – instead of Oladipo – simply because it is hard to find athletic, defensive bigs.

    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Gorgui-Dieng-6219/

  • 3 Bob // May 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

    The 12th man on the 4th worst team has a bright future? Riiiiiiiight

  • 4 john // May 14, 2013 at 11:01 am

    While I would tend to agree with that sentiment, Bob, there are exceptions to the rule that bad teams must be full of bad players. In the case of Garrett, I think I agree with you, though. His tweets make me cringe, and I don’t think his game is much better.

  • 5 Scott // May 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I agree … while he has some marginal NBA talents, if you look at his tweets Garrett comes off as a shallow, low IQ narcissist. It seems like most of his pictures are of himself looking at the camera. He hardly ever tweets anything that shows an interest in playing basketball or developing his skills.

    But let’s keep in mind that Garrett was picked by Blanks, who I think tended to pick players in his own image.

  • 6 bill.thomas // May 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    @Scott: I agree on a general level concerning Deng. Easily the best defensive big in the draft and can hit close in shots and some Scola-type jumpers. Agreed, there is a shortage of defensive, physical bigs. this guy has solid BB-IQ, gets assists in the post, etc. Don’t know how to compare the apples and oranges of wing players vs. post players, but there are a lot of good wing players in the draft if we were to decide Oladipo is not a must-have.

    I would definitely take Deng over McLemore, and against Porter I think its more a position choice.

  • 7 Scott // May 14, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    @bill. -

    From what I see, McLemore is a shooter and not a lot more. For teams who just need to add a young shooter, that’s great. But the Suns have more fundamental needs.

    Porter … I’m not sure he’ll ever be more than a glue / utility guy, kind of like Prince. If the Suns had a mature team and were looking to add a savvy young player who could step onto the court with the vets – like Prince did – then sure, Porter would be an excellent choice.

    But next season the Suns are looking at likely losing every center except Frye, who may or may not have a heart condition. Even if Frye’s okay and the Suns keep him, he’s nearing the end of his own contract. So even if he’s okay, he could end up being traded to a team that needs future cap space.

    While there are a number of FA centers on the market this summer, the Suns aren’t going to want to pay for a center in his prime, and a veteran center isn’t going to want to be on a rebuilding team. This means that among equal picks in this draft – that is, while still drafting for talent – the Suns should pick a center.

    Of the defensive centers in this draft, I believe Dieng has more upside than Withey. How he compares to Len, I’m not sure (there’s been no update on Len yet at DX).

    Now if the Suns do take Oladipo, at least he has excellent lateral quickness, which is required for perimeter defense, a sore point for the Suns this last season. However, if they do so, it’s likely they’ll be hard pressed to come up with one or two young centers who can be solid parts of the rebuild.

  • 8 Ty-Sun // May 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    The Suns have 3 centers – Gortat, Frye and Haddadi – under contract for the next season. Gortat’s contract only runs through next season and will likely be traded. Haddadi’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season so it’s up to the Suns whether to keep him of let him go. Frye is under contract for the next two seasons. And even though O’Neal was signed to a one year contract, the Suns’ warlocks worked their magic on him and he had his most productive and injury free season in the last 4-5 years. If O’Neal doesn’t come back, I think he will retire instead of moving to another team. If he does decide to play another year with the Suns AND Frye is okay to play this year then I don’t think that drafting a center THIS year is something the Suns must do.

    I agree with Scott that McLemore is mostly a scorer but that is also something that the Suns really need. I suppose that the decision to go after scoring or defense is something that the new GM will have to make after the lottery is done and the final draft order is determined.

  • 9 DBreezy // May 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    @John,

    There was already a big gap between Manning and Pierce, the one from Wilt to Manning blows that one away though!

    @Scott,

    I don’t think it’s necessarily hard to envision a scenario where the Suns are still a deep lottery team going into the 2015 draft with McD not being a bust as GM. Even if they pick up a solid piece in this draft who ultimately plays above his projected ceiling, that’s probably going to take a few seasons to manifest itself. Most of the prospects are young, relatively raw and in some cases coming off injury. They will be in an environment with other young players against a background of roster change as McD shuffles the deck-very similar to the Celtics before KG and Allen.

    It wouldn’t be surprising if the Suns don’t strike it big in 2013 or 2014 free agency against that backdrop, and as McD has said expect them to be conservative otherwise. Throw in a situation where Parker, Wiggins or others don’t enter the 2014 draft or worse just don’t pan out to be the prospects we hope they are and the Suns could still be a deep lottery squad.

    SAC has talent and is potentially a new ownership team away from improving. It’s only a matter of time before the Wolves actually have a healthy season and do better and the Hornets young players begin to grow together. Portland has pieces and DAL and LAL aren’t likely to sink to the Suns’ present level before improving. The Suns are in a hole on their rebuilds relative to those teams and don’t presently have great assets to change that. So if the chips don’t fall perfectly early on, it may take them some time. Even Sarver seems to realize that now.

  • 10 Scott // May 14, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    @Ty-Sun -

    If O’Neal was to come back, that could be a help in training any young centers the Suns acquire through draft or trade.

    But it’s hard to count on anything in the center dept. right now.

    Let me add that if the Suns can’t find a good home for Scola, he may end up playing some center again for the Suns … at least until a midseason trade is worked out.

    And if Scola does stay, and Frye’s okay, the combo of Scola and Frye ought to be pretty good, at least on offense.

    But … that just helps to bring wins; it doesn’t really do anything for the rebuild.

    If the Suns are truly rebuilding, it’s important they only take on vets who won’t be getting in the way of younger players needing development. Otherwise there will be plenty of griping, like what we heard late last season. So I do expect Scola to be traded by McD for a younger player, a future pick, or some combination. And probably Gortat and Dudley.

    As for Frye, assuming he’s cleared to play, I don’t believe he can be traded at this point as teams would be leery of his heart. After this coming year his final year is player option, which I believe he will take, and if there’s any further question about his heart, I could see him retiring, so no trade options at that point except for the ol’ expiring contract / retiring player bit.

  • 11 Scott // May 14, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    As for McLemore, from what I’ve read (scouting report from last Christmas) he can’t really create any offense for himself, he’s just a catch and shoot player with high accuracy.

    So he’s similar to Shabazz, Oladipo, and the rest of the guys who can’t handle, create, and drive to the hoop. (PJ Tucker and Wes Johnson, for additional examples.) Also, like Shabazz, his accuracy drops if he takes a dribble.

  • 12 DBreezy // May 15, 2013 at 12:49 am

    While the skill questions with B-Mac may center around his current inability to create offense for himself, the biggest concern really seems to be what kind of mindset does the guy have. If scouts felt that he was as aggressive mentally as Oladipo, Shabazz, or even Goodwin I bet there would be a lot less concern about whether he could develop the rest of his game.

    These guys are all young, so it’s tough to say that they can’t develop the rest of their games. It is easier to give the benefit of the doubt to BMac, Goodwin, and Shabazz because of their youth though whereas Oladipo will have to prove in workouts that his season offensively wasn’t a fluke.

  • 13 hawki // May 15, 2013 at 1:11 am

    “…but his restricted gait and light strikes of his feet on the ground…”

    I’m not sure what that means but I will give Mr. Zimmerman points for creativity.

  • 14 john // May 15, 2013 at 9:23 am

    @DBreezy

    Indeed there are long gaps between Kansas greats, but Pierce has already been in the Association for 15 years. I’d say they’re about due for another star.

    I don’t know enough about Parker or Wiggins (or any of the other guys who would likely be at the top of next year’s draft class) to say for certain they’ll be franchise cornerstones for a decade, but I really hope the Suns have one more terrible years so they can get a shot at landing one of those types of guys in the draft. I’ll watch the Suns rain or shine, but it’s a lot more fun when the sun is shining (no pun intended, sort of).

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