Suns make future play with Syracuse point guard Ennis
The Suns didn't add Tyler Ennis to replace Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe but to increase their depth at point guard.
Tyler Ennis poses with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after he was selected 18th overall by the Suns on Thursday.
Jason DeCrow / AP
By Tyler Lockman
PHOENIX -- The Suns already had three point guards on their roster so it came as a bit of a surprise when they used the 18th overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft on Syracuse's Tyler Ennis.
The pick immediately created buzz about the Suns' point guard situation, which entering draft night included Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Ish Smith. Could Ennis be an insurance policy if the Suns lose Bledsoe in free agency? Or perhaps a piece if Dragic departs after the upcoming season?
According to the Suns brass, neither is the case.
The Suns see Ennis, 19, as a future piece that should see minutes next season. But his selection doesn't change their immediately plans at point guard, rather adds to the existing wealth.
"We start two guys who would primarily be defined as point guards," Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough said of Dragic and Bledsoe. "We really value having multiple ball handlers on the floor. We think our ability to run pick and rolls on either side of the floor and also to push the ball in transition either via the pass or the dribble, we feel like that's a strength for us.
"We wanted to keep adding to it."
Dragic, the NBA's Most Improved Player last season, has a year remaining on his contract before facing an early-termination option. Assuming he continues to play at least at the same level, he'll likely opt out them but seems interested in staying in Phoenix long term.
Bledsoe is a restricted free agent this summer and will test the market. The Suns have made it clear they intend to match any offer he receives. That likely means a maximum contract, so the Suns would be committing to Bledsoe long term, perhaps a risky move considering Bledsoe's injury history.
That presumably makes Ennis, a Freshman All-American last season, the Suns' third point guard when Bledsoe and Dragic come off the floor. That could mean the end of Ish Smith in Phoenix, though McDonough said the Suns hope to bring him back on his team option, and the Suns routinely emphasize a 'position-less' philosophy.
Ennis, 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, gives the Suns another game manager that can run the second unit. In particular, the Suns like the mature, collected style Ennis showed playing as a freshman in a big-time college basketball conference.
"His composure at his age stands out," McDonough said. "If you look at his numbers in close and late games they were terrific, like unbelivably good."
Ennis, who averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 assists per game for the Orange last season, said via conference call Thursday he wasn't surprised to be picked by the Suns despite their existing stock of point guards.
The Suns say Ennis and fellow first-round pick T.J. Warren, taken No. 14, could play sooner rather than later, and Ennis is eager to earn a place in the rotation while learning from two of the NBA's top young point guards.
"You're going to have to earn your minutes regardless," Ennis said. "So for me to come in as a rookie and be able to learn from guys like Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and all the other veterans is going to be good for me."
While Ennis certainly has some developing left to do, it seems a safe bet he'll see time on the floor next season. Otherwise, the Suns mioght have just traded the pick. In fact, the Suns didn't expect Ennis to be available when the 18th pick rolled around, so it stands to reason they have immediate plans for him.
Of course, the Suns' present point guard situation could change. Something could make them decide not to match a contract offer to Bledsoe, or they could decide after next season they can't invest so much money in two point guards even with Dragic and Bledsoe playing so well together.
If the situation does change, then Ennis could become a more primary piece. But that's not the plan. Ennis is as much a part of the future as Dragic and Bledsoe, positioning the Suns as a potential league leader in premiere point guards.
"Especially given the fact that we play two, obvisouly not all the time but a lot of the time, we wanted to make sure that was a position of strength for us," McDonough said. "We were very happy to get him."