The Phoenix Suns should start Elie Okobo

Phoenix Suns Elie Okobo (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Elie Okobo (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns are in need of a point guard in the worst way. Until they find a long-term solution, they’ve got to give Elie Okobo a chance.

According to Owner Robert Sarver, the Phoenix Suns were supposed to be done with the rebuild. However, after six games it is obvious that they are far from, so while they should still play to win the game (and as many as they possibly can), they should also give their young players a chance to see what they’ve got to offer – and maybe find that they have a diamond in the rough.

Elie Okobo is not like most second round draft picks. He comes to the Suns with professional experience in France, and was a very accomplished player at that.

In his low minutes thus far to start the regular season, he has not looked too bad. In fact, he has looked better than starter and veteran Isaiah Canaan.

Canaan is a special story. He came onto the scene as the 6th or 7th point guard of the year last season and played well above expectations. After his unfortunate leg injury, many fans called for him to return to the club at least as a training camp invite. The franchise obliged and then surprisingly not only gave him a spot on the roster but also the starting job.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Unfortunately though he has not helped Phoenix win and has given up his position late in games to Devin Booker and Josh Jackson who have struggled mightily to ball-handle and distribute.

This is nothing against Canaan, of course. He is a fine player and deserves to be in the NBA.

He is not a starting   point guard at all though. He would be fine in spurts off the bench when he could focus more on scoring which is more his specialty (he is an Eric Bledsoe-type who uses his scoring ability to distribute), but his inability to actually distribute with effectiveness hurts the offense.

Okobo too is a scorer, however he is a better overall distributor and quite the solid shooter. When Okobo is hot, he might just be one of those players who is unstoppable offensively, lifting some of the defense away from Booker.

Per-36 minutes, Okobo is thus far averaging 6.0 assists versus Canaan’s 4.5. This is an interesting stat in particular because Canaan has been getting the majority of his minutes with the starters and has therefore had the luxury of playing more with Booker and Deandre Ayton.

So far this season Okobo too has proven to be a superior scorer with a 50% field goal percentage and a 41.7% 3-point percentage. While it would be unfair to expect him to carry that over throughout the season (if he did he would have to be considered in the Rookie of the Year conversation), one has to assume that he is a better shooter than Canaan just based on his previous professional statistics.

Canaan, on the other hand, is averaging 40.5% from the field, which for him is a bit high. He has only averaged over 40% from the field once in his career, the same 40.5%, in his second season in the league over only 25 games. His career high 3-point shooting percentage is 37.0% (that same year), although he has only shot 34.3% from beyond the arc since.

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Starting Elie Okobo right now only makes sense. While there is no guarantee that the second round pick is going to make it, his skill-set should allow him the opportunity, and the fact that the Suns just aren’t winning with Canaan in the starting lineup means that something has to change.

Bringing Canaan off of the bench can be a boon for that unit as well: the Suns are in desperate need of depth. Adding a player of Canaan’s veteran status to that unit might help them continue to grow, further helping the team compete, and hopefully win.

If the Okobo to the starting until experiment doesn’t work, that’s fine because Interim General Manager James Jones should be looking into every trade opportunity anyway to hopefully find the actual holdover solution for the rest of this season and might have that player in his sights already, and potentially on the roster by the end of the calendar year.

Chances are though that Okobo won’t be worse than Canaan, but that the team will continue to be just as bad.

They have no reason to not give the lineup change a shot when Devin Booker gets back from his injury, and will hopefully find success in it right away.