The Phoenix Suns saw their seven game win streak come to an end in Canada on Wednesday night, as they came up short against the Toronto Raptors. The organization getting some good news before tip-off, with Kevin Durant returning to the fold after two games out of the lineup with foot soreness.
The good vibes were extinguished on this one before the game even ended though, with Devin Booker rolling an ankle during the game. To the credit of the player he tried to gut it out, and he did end up playing 32 minutes. But it is clear he was hampered, being held to just eight points and in general not looking like the fringe MVP candidate he has been since coming back from injury.
It is unclear if Booker is about to miss any more time because of injury - but if he is going to be sidelined - then the Suns will have a point guard problem.
Booker has taken to life as the Suns' lead ball-handler and creator seamlessly. So much so, that some have begun to wonder if the player is already in the conversation as the best point guard in the NBA today. That may seem a little premature, but there is no doubt that Booker is having the best season of what has been a career that has steadily progressed since entering the league.
The only issue is that of availability for Booker, and really it is what is holding him back from a potential MVP case as well. He has played in nine games so far this season, but frustratingly whenever he looks like going on an insane run, a niggling setback has forced him to miss some time.
Which is where T.J. McConnell of the Indiana Pacers enters the conversation.
McConnell was a player the Suns were linked with during the offseason, and with good reason. At that point it was unclear who the floor general for this roster was with Chris Paul gone in favor of Bradley Beal. Booker was talked about as somebody who could perform those duties from time-to-time, but nobody could have seen his transition into "do it all" point guard at that moment in time.
But if Booker keeps missing small chunks of games here and there, then the Suns are going to need to get a competent backup onto this roster, and quickly. Jordan Goodwin does what he can when he's called upon, and defensively he may even be a little underrated. Beyond that though, and it is slim pickings for head coach Frank Vogel, who doesn't even have Beal to call on for several more weeks at least.
The Suns are in a tough spot financially - but they could trade Grayson Allen straight up for McConnell - if the front office felt that was the right thing to do. The problem there is that Allen has started all 16 games he appeared in, and has shot a career high 47.5 percent from deep on five attempts per game. His 32.5 minutes per night is also the best mark of his career.
Allen has value around the league because of his shooting touch and team-friendly contract (he is making less than $9 million this season). He also does not need to be hidden defensively, and works extremely well with star players, as seen previously with the Milwaukee Bucks, and now with Booker and Durant. It may be that his worth is even more than that of McConnell, a fine point guard but a limited player who is also three years Allen's senior.
But the Suns don't have many ways to get an actual veteran point guard who could play some minutes in the postseason, as well as tide them over during the regular season when Booker is out. McConnell represents a realistic option, while the output of Allen could, in theory, be replaced by both Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe.
Gordon has been excellent so far this season, one of the best bargain pickups of the entire summer. Watanabe has settled how the Suns would have liked, but we are less than a quarter of a way through the season, and he is still capable of knocking down several shots from deep in quick succession. Defensively he may not be on Allen's level, but he is a taller and bigger body, albeit one who is less athletic.
Really then this boils down to how durable the front office believes Booker can be in what they hope is a championship run. Coach Vogel has gotten great mileage so far out of Allen, but he would also work really well with McConnell. A steady player who tries hard defensively and doesn't freewheel on the job when he is out on the court.
A tough decision to make, and one the Suns will have to think long and hard about. Allen has been one of their best players in the early goings of the season, and the Pacers are a group on the up who could easily slide him into their second unit, or sixth man role. On the other hand, McConnell is reliable, affordable and most importantly to the Suns, available at a price they can afford.