Elie Okobo’s first start could be big for the Phoenix Suns

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

As you are well aware, the Phoenix Suns have a shortage at point guard, but out of necessity Elie Okobo is a starter – for now.

The Phoenix Suns are desperate.

They are desperate to become competitive. They are desperate to win a game. They are desperate to see their youthful players develop into regular role players at the very least. They are desperate to find a point guard.

But right now, for the first time in a long time, the Suns have something to look forward to at point

guard, and that reason is second round draft pick Elie Okobo as the team’s starter.

They say in sports that injuries shouldn’t mean that a player loses his position as a starter or regular role player.

Just ask Wally Pip though if that rule is hard and fast.

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But after two surprisingly good appearances by Elie Okobo and an unfortunate ankle injury to Isaiah Canaan, Okobo is the starting point guard, for now.

The thing is though, that while Canaan is at the top of the depth chart, his lack of success thus far and Okobo’s recent solid outings have given many fans – and certainly the coaching staff – reason to watch Okobo’s starts with a closer eye to see if he is worth “Wally Pipping” his veteran counterpart.

If Okobo does outperform Canaan and upon Canaan’s return supplant him at the top of the depth chart, it could mean a tremendous change in direction for the franchise:

Currently, while the roster is severely short-handed at both point guard and power forward, the prevailing stated focus of improvement has been squarely on the point guard position.

If this season Okobo can develop into a decent starter, Interim General Manager James Jones (and potentially whoever succeeds him), might be able to turn that focus of improvement from point guard to power forward.

This is important for one very important reason: the Suns do not have many assets to use in trades, and probably not enough to acquire a true star at any position. Should management be able to save those assets that might have been used on a point guard and focus them on a power forward, the team’s depth will be much better for it.

Okobo is also on a rookie contract – a second rounder’s contract at that. If the franchise can feel confident enough in Okobo heading into the future as their regular starter, the financial resources too that might have been spent on a point guard in free agency can again be utilized in another area.

If Elie Okobo can prove to be decent-enough (if not actually good), the positive changes (not to mention the hopeful additional wins that he might bring along with him) could be well-numbered and mean all the difference in whether or not they spend another year or two rebuilding, or if they are a team ready to compete and hold onto a playoff spot as soon as next year.

Now let me be clear: the odds of Okobo being a regular starter from here on out and showing the franchise his worth as a starter is slim.

While I was long a supporter of Phoenix drafting Okobo, I have also kept to heart the understanding that he was a second round pick for a reason, passed over 30 times before his name was finally called.

If teams believed him to be a potential starter, he either never would have been available to Phoenix at number 31, or they would have had to trade up to acquire him.

I want nothing more for Okobo to become a second round sensation, wrestling away the starter’s role and holding onto it with a grip of certainty that he too should be counted among those expected to be the future of the franchise.

Now, would you like some crazy Suns history?

You have to go all the way back to 1980 to find a point guard drafted by the Phoenix Suns who became the team’s regular starter for several years: Kyle Macy.

In fact, he is the only  point guard the Suns have ever drafted who became the team’s starter without leaving the franchise first in the process.

Yes, the Suns drafted Steve Nash, and he eventually did become the team’s regular starter, but not until after six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks.

They also drafted Goran Dragic, but he too did not become the entrenched starting point guard until after a year and a half in Houston.

Tyler Ulis did start 48 games in seasons with the Suns from 2016-18, however he was hardly the entrenched or established point guard. His role was out of necessity and is now potentially on the verge of being out of the league.

While it is a long-shot, if Elie Okobo proves to be capable to become the Suns’ starting point guard not just for this season but beyond, well into the post-rebuilding stage, helping guide the team to regular playoff appearances (and he is not traded or released at any point before that), he will be the first drafted point guard in 38 years to become their regular starter.

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No pressure, Elie, but there are a lot of positives that can be accomplished and history too that can be made if you take hold of the starting point guard position and succeed.

Then again, he could just be a regular ‘ol backup.