The Isaiah Canaan starting PG experiment needs to end

Phoenix Suns Isaiah Canaan (Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Isaiah Canaan (Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns are doing something that a lot of teams usually do with a center: they start a player out of seeming positional tradition, then bench him when the game really matters. That’s what Isaiah Canaan has been doing and it needs to end.

The Phoenix Suns have started every game this season (three games) with a quasi traditional lineup: Isaiah Canaan, Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Deandre Ayton.

But after the first rotation begins bringing in T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, aside from the start of the third quarter, we don’t really see that lineup again.

Against the Golden State Warriors that was just the case, and even in crunch time against both Dallas (in a Suns eventual blowout win) and Denver (in a Suns eventual blowout loss), Canaan was not on the court in the final minutes in favor of Devin Booker as the point guard.

Why? Because when the game matters most who should have his hands on the ball on the offensive end on every possession?

Devin Booker.

When Devin Booker turns over the ball in crunch time fans say “damn! he’s out of position.” But if Canaan turned the ball over we all shout “why didn’t they give it to Booker?!”

Isaiah Canaan is not a starting point guard in the NBA. If he were, he would be finishing games in the final minutes instead of on the bench. He didn’t even make the court in the fourth quarter in the loss to Golden State while Booker, Ayton, Ariza, Bridges, Warren, and Jackson each got at least 4 minutes as they learned to play with one another.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Who was the point guard?


Canaan also has had the worst +/- of the five starters in two of the three games, including against Dallas where he was the only starter with a single-digit + in that column.

Why start a player if he is not good enough to finish?

While the Suns are only three games in, Owner Robert Sarver has already set the tone that this is the season that the franchise turns things around and sitting on their laurels Torey Lovullo-style just can’t cut it.

Even this early in the season changes need to be made (if an earth-shaking change can be made nine days before the start of the season, a change to the starting lineup too can be made after only three games) and first-year head coach Igor Kokoskov needs to shake things up a bit.

Oh and Earl Watson was fired after only three games.

In basketball, nothing is sacred anymore.

If you know me and you know this blog you know that I have been a huge advocate of Devin Booker playing point guard for over a year now.

Right now, he is, just about every time Canaan is on the bench, and that includes at the ends of every game thus far.

Book now needs to start though and open up the position that Canaan filled for a taller, more athletic player who is more apt to be called upon in late-game situations when the score is close and the team needs to give Booker every helping hand he can.

Right now there is no hotter player on the team other than Booker than T.J. Warren. Could he be starter at a non-traditional two?

Josh Jackson wasn’t too hot against Golden State but had averaged 10 points off the bench in the first two games while also ball-handling a bit as well. His outside shot is still suspect but a risk maybe worth taking.

Certainly Troy Daniels started for Phoenix last season and is a career 40% 3-point shooter. He and Booker have a rapport and Book knows that a pass to Troy might mean not only a dime but 3 points on the board.

They are still bringing Jamal Crawford along slowly, but what if he started and played the Canaan minutes giving way to others before crunch time?

Next. PG Devin Booker is going good for the Phoenix Suns. dark

Needless to say, the Suns have a bunch of options and if there is a better way to start games with more offensive fire power and guaranteeing that Booker is getting the ball in his hands on every possession, this is it.

Canaan has to stop starting, and be the best backup point guard he can be – truthfully, the best situation he can be in regardless of the roster.