Where has Saban Lee gone for the Phoenix Suns?

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JANUARY 24: (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JANUARY 24: (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

After battling to win a spot and contract with the team, Phoenix Suns point guard Saban Lee has disappeared, and you have to ask why.

At one point this season, the Suns were down to their third-string point guard being the number one ball-handling option. For a while, that was Duane Washington Jr., but Phoenix signed Saban Lee, and then a couple of 10-day contracts later, Lee took Washington’s job. Lee had rightfully earned the spot on the team with Chris Paul back, and Washington was waived. With Cam Payne back from a long-term injury, Lee is the third man on the depth chart and has stopped playing. Not by happenstance, the Suns have one win and five losses since Lee last played, making one ask, where has the point guard been?

Why the Suns kept Lee in the first place

There were three basketball reasons that Phoenix kept Lee over Washington. First, Lee was a more efficient shooter than Washington. While neither is exactly a scorer, being a poor volume shooter is not a positive for a point guard, and Lee knows when to take his chances.

Second, unlike most of the team, Lee was effective at beating his man off the dribble and getting into the lane, which led to free throws. Don’t get me wrong, Lee was not getting to the line like Austin Reaves, but he was getting to the line.

Third, while being a plus defender, Lee was very good at protecting the basketball, with very few turnovers.

Lee may not provide the scoring punch or outside shooting that Payne can bring, but is scoring the problem with Phoenix right now?

Many fans would argue that defense and turnovers – two areas where Payne needs to improve – are the biggest issues for the Suns right now.

Saban improves the Suns’ defense and will help with the fouls

If we can stop dribble penetration at the point of attack, the free throws will go down. Over 23 games from January to March, when Lee was getting consistent minutes, the Suns averaged 20 fouls per game as a team. In the games since Lee has played, the Suns have averaged 26.5 fouls per game.

Now we can blame the officials, who are not blameless, but we can also blame the inability of the defense to stop dribble penetration. Lee fixes that.

I’m not saying Lee will have the same impact as Durant’s return or that what is wrong with Phoenix is all on Payne because it is not. However, the sudden disappearance of Lee from the rotation, after earning a spot and providing things others do not, is part of what is wrong with the team and needs to be addressed.

Next. Reflecting on the Suns' recent performance. dark