The Phoenix Suns are all sorts of beat up early in the season, missing three of their best players as well as backup PG Ty Jerome. However the rookie is finally on his way back, right in the nick of time.
Imagine last season the Phoenix Suns opening the first 16 games of the regular season without two starters and two key reserves at both point guard and center.
Ironically they didn’t have a point guard and they had no center depth, but regardless, basically their 3-13 start might have actually been 0-16.
This season is a much different story, as the team is 8-8 through those first 16 games, and yet they have been without Deandre Ayton for 15, without Ricky Rubio for five, and minus Aron Baynes for the last four games.
In the mean time, rookie Ty Jerome has yet to appear in a single game this season, the player that most people had penciled in as Rubio’s primary backup, and potential starter in those instances in which the veteran is unable to play.
But finally, the Phoenix Suns are reporting that Jerome is slowly making his way back to the team, and has been assigned to the Northern Arizona Suns for what presumably will be a few-game stint to get his game legs back before being called back up to the big club.
To be fair to both Elie Okobo and Javon Carter, who have both played extensively in Jerome and Rubio’s absences, they have actually been playing quite well to open this season.
I, for one, did not believe that Okobo was even going to make the roster this year (or at least would be an NAZ player for the majority of the season), and yet he has actually played very well off the bench, especially when comparing him to last season.
(Personally, I need to stop doing that. We should all just pretend that from a statistical perspective last year did not happen.)
The key stat that I most care about for the guards this season, even above assists, is their outside shooting percentage, that which had been the bane of the offense for the past few seasons.
So far, both second-year guards have been shooting light’s out, an extremely common and welcome occurrence.
Okobo was drafted out of France for his explosive offensive abilities, with tremendous potential as a scoring guard in the NBA as he develops.
While his per game averages are nothing to really pay much attention to as he is only averaging about 10.5 minutes per game off the bench (honestly, exactly where he should be at for a second-year, third-or-fourth string guard), he is shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc, following a miserable 29.5% his rookie year.
Granted, it is only on 7-17 shooting to it’s not as if he is chucking them up, but that percentage is still something to be very pleased with, as he is playing more than just garbage minutes. If nothing else, they show his potential as a shooter, as well as the success of Monty Williams‘ flow-based offense.
Javon Carter has actually started twice this season in Rubio’s absence, averaging 15.1 minutes per game, on the high end of where I would personally want a third-string PG to be at, although considering the circumstances, not too bad.
Carter too has impressed from 3, shooting a cool 40.0% from long range this season, making 12-30 thus far.
That said, while Okobo can be counted on to distribute (he is averaging 8.1 assists per 36-minutes, nearly doubling the 4.8 he averaged in his rookie season), Carter only averages 4.4 per-36, a significant drawback for a player in an offense that looks to the point guards to set up his teammates.
Jerome’s eventual return will be huge for the team considering the veteran depth that he will provide, even as a rookie.
A three-year college player who made a National Championship run just this past season, he is very well aware of the pressure that comes in a playoff-like setting, hopefully experience he will have to rely on later this season as the Suns make a playoff run.
Beyond his college postseason experience, both a shooter (he averaged 39.2% at Virginia from beyond the arc) and a distributor (only 5.5 in college, but still tops in the ACC), his presence will be very well utilized on the roster, and will make his return soon, one that will hopefully coincide with the starter Rubio.
Considering that injuries happen all year to every team and the Phoenix Suns are no exception, Ty Jerome’s eventual return could be the start of a slow trickle of four players currently sitting out for various reasons, one that will make this team much deeper and more competitive.
Fans should be excited about the prospect of Jerome’s eventual first NBA appearance, not only for the rookie himself, but for the betterment of the roster as a whole.