One of the biggest decisions the Phoenix Suns will find themselves making this offseason will be what to do with Brandon Knight. Should he stay or should he go? A restricted free agent (unless he surprisingly signs his $5 million qualifying offer for next season) now, Phoenix has to decide whether the 23-year-old is still part of their future plans.
What makes the decision muddier is his injury-plagued tenure with Phoenix, where he was only able to suit up for 11 games in the purple and orange and white. Making matters trickier is that when Knight did hit the court as a Sun, he played quite poorly (35.7% shooting, 31.3% from 3). Plus the team is trying to make him a shooting guard, when he has played point guard his whole NBA career (and does Knight even want to play off the ball, or does he want to be a point guard full time?). And is the team really wanting to go the whole “two point guards on the court at the same time” route once again, with basically just a poor man’s Goran Dragic sharing the backcourt with Eric Bledsoe?
So lots of moving pieces here. One factor that shouldn’t come into play (but often does) is concerns over the insane cost the Suns paid to get Knight to play for them this past season (Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee, Lakers coveted top 5 pick). This is a sunk cost, and should NOT influence the team’s decision on whether to retain Knight’s services beyond his 11 games played for them this past year. But, more often than not, teams don’t adhere to this advice and try to “fix” bad past decisions by making more bad decisions.
Not that retaining Knight is necessarily a bad decision. It probably will come down to the price they can get him at. Earlier this season, while still a Buck, he was reportedly looking for a four year, $48 million deal. Earning around $12 million per season would make him a top 40 player next season in regards to salary (obviously not including any bigger free agent deals signed later this summer), and make him the second highest paid Sun, behind his backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe. And he’d be the seventh highest paid shooting guard. Based on those rankings, and his brief audition as a Sun, $12 mil a year would seem like a bit of an overpay for Knight. But, a couple of factors change that thinking: the salary cap is ready to explode upwards after next season, and a team would be paying Knight based on future performance, not past. And, based on his age, you’d expect/hope that his best years are still ahead of him.
When you check out Brandon Knight’s career stats compared to the average “combo guard”, he comes off as a quite average player. Do you pay $12 a year (or more) on an average player? Or would the team be better off chasing a “real” shooting guard this offseason, as there should be more than enough on the market (Jimmy Butler – restricted (YES PLEASE, but not happening), Dwyane Wade – player option, Monta Ellis – player option, Khris Middleton – restricted, Wesley Matthews – YES PLEASE!!, Danny Green – sure).
So the Suns best bet probably is to play their cards close to their vest, see what the market for Knight is like, and if a team is willing to overpay him, let him go and use the cap space to sign another player. Just don’t overpay Knight because you don’t want to look like you badly whiffed on the trade for him last season.
However it shakes out, it’ll be an interesting summer in the valley.