Yuta Watanabe should stay with the Phoenix Suns beyond the deadline

With the NBA's trade deadline looming Yuta Watanabe of the Phoenix Suns could be on the move, but the franchise should hold onto him for now.
Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers
Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns are have returned home to The Valley after a seven game road swing - their longest remaining trip of the season - and a 4-3 record to show for it. Not a bad return, and one that keeps them within touching distance of a top four spot in the Western Conference.

Sunday's matchup with the Washington Wizards was the ideal way to bring the curtain down on a two week stretch away from home, with the Suns using this opportunity against a weaker opponent to give Bol Bol some minutes after returning from injury. He did no disappoint either, with a team high eight points off the bench in the 140-112 win.

Less notable in the victory - but no less important - was Yuta Watanabe getting some run and producing in the win, and it might just have saved his season with the Suns.

After being added last offseason to much fanfare given his ability to knock down 3-pointers for the Brooklyn Nets at a scorching rate of 44.4 percent the previous season, it just has not happened for Watanabe so far in The Valley. Instead he has had to watch as Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon have solidified themselves as the top role players on this roster.

At this point Nassir Little, Jordan Goodwin, Chimezie Metu and even Bol have overtaken him in the race for minutes before the rotation shortens ahead of the run to the postseason. So much so that in the month of January, Watanabe managed just 5.5 minutes of action per game, scoring a paltry 1.2 points in that time.

This is a far cry from the 18 or so minutes of action Watanabe saw in the first two months of the season - but in shooting an awful 32 percent from deep throughout the campaign so far - it is clear head coach Frank Vogel has lost a lot of trust in the player. Which would make Watanabe an ideal player to trade before the deadline, if not for a small cameo in that win over the Wizards.

Watanabe is making $2.5 million this season and next, and the Suns could get into the business of trading him for a player on a similar minimum deal to see if they can help this group any more. Alternatively, another team trying to add some shooting (like the Orlando Magic for example), might even part with a pair of second round picks in order to secure Watanabe for 18 months.

If that doesn't seem like much, consider that Watanabe's value has never been lower, and neither has the Suns' draft capital. Their last second round pick - Toumani Camara taking in last year's draft - has already carved out a role for himself with the Portland Trail Blazers. In fact he's exactly the kind of defensive-minded young player this group could do with having in their rotation.

But just when it felt like Watanabe would be best served moving on and freeing up some minutes and a spot on the Suns' bench for another player, he showed glimpses of being able to help this team in the win over the Wizards. Seven points might not seem like much, but it was tied for the second most by a Suns' bench player, and only one behind Bol's eight point night.

Nestled into that performance was a moment after the Suns have emptied their bench where Watanabe showed quick hands on the defensive end to steal the ball, before running the court and paying up the ball for two points. This might not seem like much, but it is exactly what he will have to do if he wants to stick with this franchise beyond the deadline.

Kevin Durant has a message for the young players in the NBA today. dark. Next. Kevin Durant has a message for the young players in the NBA today

Which he should, because if his shot is not falling - and really it hasn't all season - then if Watanabe can at least show something defensively and not fall in love with constantly shooting from deep, then he absolutely can help this roster as the postseason nears. He won't be replacing Allen or Gordon in the rotation, but he also wouldn't need to.

The Suns right now feel like they're one player short of a serious rotation, with Nassir Little doing all he can for the spot and even Miles Bridges being linked with a trade to Phoenix. But in fact it could be that Watanabe is the player the Suns need him to be after all, and his cameo against the Wizards has certainly bought him some time to prove that this can be the case.