After drafting a center and a wing at the top of the draft, the Phoenix Suns don’t have enough minutes to go around. But who is the odd man out?
Instead of using the 16th pick on a guard, Phoenix traded up to grab Mikal Bridges, a wing from Villanova. As a result, the Suns are still shorthanded at guard, and they have three former first round picks set to come off the bench.
T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss are all under 25, and have all been picked in the first round of recent drafts. With a projected starting lineup of Elie Okobo, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, and Deandre Ayton, all three will likely be coming off the bench next season.
There probably aren’t enough minutes available for all of them to continue their development next season, which means a trade could be in play to get some kind of value in return. But which of the three is the odd man out?
The obvious choice seems to be Warren since his position is repetitive with Jackson and Bridges. Bender and Chriss, on the other hand, have a style of play pretty distinguishable from any of the starters. Unfortunately, their skillsets are repetitive with each other, which hurts the idea of keeping both and helps Warren’s case to stay.
Warren’s also the worst fit of the three for the modern NBA. He isn’t a good three point shooter, and he isn’t that great on defense either. Bender and Chriss both have projectable three point shots, and they have decent defense games that can still improve. That makes them much better fits than Warren in the analytics driven NBA.
However, when you get down to it, Warren is currently by far the best player of the three. Last season, he put up 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Compare that to Bender’s 6.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists and Chriss’s 7.7 points, 5.5 resounds, and 1.2 assists, and it’s abundantly clear who has the superior production.
But that production likely gives Warren the highest trade trade value of the three, which could be what seals his fate. Bender and Chriss’s stocks are low right now, and the Suns shouldn’t sell low. After all, there’s still hope at least one of them develops. Warren fits in worse with the starters, and he will likely get the most value in return.
If the Phoenix Suns start shopping Warren and a team throws a first round pick their way, the Suns shouldn’t and probably wouldn’t turn it down. So even though Warren might get more minutes than Bender and Chriss to start the season, he’s still likely to be the odd man out by the time the trade deadline comes.