How Tyler Ennis fits with the Phoenix Suns, aka Point Guard University

I got to meet Seth Pollack on my last day at Las Vegas Summer League; resident Phoenix Suns’ fan and league manager for SBNation NBA. We ran over the usual topics: Andrew Wiggins’ potential, Kevin Love’s defense, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s point guard ridiculousity, the befuddling Sacramento Kings, and the usual assortment of cut-up fat. When we finally got to his Phoenix Suns, we ran through Goran Dragic’s improvements, Eric Bledsoe’s injuries, the steal of Isaiah Thomas, even the midrange game of Alex Len and Archie Goodwin’s upside. The only person of relevance missing? The point guard they had just drafted in the first round, Tyler Ennis.

Ennis is the type of guard who people immediately proclaim as a “prototypical ball-handler, able to score when necessary, serviceable jumper, pass-first, and excellent anticipatory skills on both sides of the ball.” That’s perhaps the most passive-aggressive way to detail a scouting report without actually saying what they mean; that there’s not much potential there for a superstar. There’s no Stephen Curry hell-raising skill. If Ennis does develop an NBA three-point shot, he’s more Luke Ridnour than anything Curry or any point guard above him on the depth chart has ever been.

Ennis was drafted on June 26, 2014. Goran Dragic is not going anywhere as long as he expands on his breakout 2013 season – likely to happen. Eric Bledsoe is set to sign a $60 million dollar contract or so for the foreseeable future – likely for this team. Isaiah Thomas was acquired in a sign-and-trade on July 12. The timeline suggests that Ennis was drafted as insurance for Bledsoe’s willingness to leave as Phoenix keeps lowballing him. Combine that with the fact that the Suns had no idea – as much as I know – that the Kings would let Thomas go for pennies on the dollar. So in that line of thinking, the Suns wanted to assure themselves of an NBA-ready point guard that could push and distribute the ball in their system. Ennis fit that profile at the bare minimum. There’s some logic in what the Suns did, it just happened to fuzzy things up because of the timeline.

Back to Ennis’ playing situation. It’s likely that the Suns will shuttle him to their D-League affiliate throughout the season (get that first-round money, Tyler. Don’t pull a Josh Huestis!). There’s a slight chance that he can make an impact in the future as part of a team that runs combo point guards in several different situations. The three-guard formation that some are salivating over is only likely to come in spurts – with IT2, Bledsoe, and Dragic screaming down the wings in transition – and that opens up the logjam, if only a little. For what Dragic, Bledsoe and Thomas are, and all three are excellent scorers or defenders in their own right, none of them have the prolific court vision of Ennis. There’s some semblance of fit here for Tyler Ennis and it’s a good point guard university- esque situation to be in. It’s just unfortunate for us, and him, that we won’t get to see the potential reaping of rewards for several years.

Andy Liu