On Friday night, Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim appeared on his buddy, Andy Katz’s, interview show Katz Corner, discussing an array of topics on the basketball landscape. During the interview, Boeheim broached the topic of the NCAA’s deadline for players to declare for the NBA Draft.
“There’s no reason for an early deadline,” Boeheim said. “If I lose a Jerami Grant in May, I’m not going to go get another Jerami Grant. I’m waiting for next year.”
Boeheim opined that, with a later deadline, those on the fence about declaring for the draft may be able to gather more information and assessments from NBA teams and make a more educated decision on whether to stay or go.
Between that, watching the NBA offseason unfold and watching the NBA Summer Leagues chocked full of rookies gathering their first bit of professional experience, one name has risen to the surface for me:
And his first year in professional basketball may not be all he envisioned it to be just a while ago.
Nearly two months ago, it was a realistic idea that Ennis would be picked in the back-end of the lottery or in the middle of the first round. The idea of, say, backing up a Derrick Rose in Chicago seemed like a good fit for a first-year point guard. Then, as the draft approached in late June, mock drafts had him slipping to the No. 20 range in Toronto, still a good fit as he’d be going home to Canada. He ended up being drafted with the 18th pick by the Phoenix Suns.
Now, from a financial standpoint, the difference between Ennis’ rumored draft stock and where he was actually selected will be roughly half a million dollars in his first year. Not the best news to hear, but something that can be taken in stride.
But, from a basketball perspective, Phoenix’s up-and-coming roster, up-tempo style and the chance to learn behind incumbent point guard Goran Dragic would be a worthwhile combination to ease Ennis into the NBA game.
Phoenix’s front office (run by general manager Ryan McDonough, brother of SU alum Sean McDonough) is known as an innovative one. Known for valuing assets and bringing new-school philosophies to the table, the Suns faced an interesting offseason this summer.
Suns guard Eric Bledsoe became a restricted free agent this offseason, with Phoenix able to match any offers other teams extended to Bledsoe. Phoenix vowed to do just that in hopes of limiting his suitors.
So, Dragic is on board. So, too, is Ennis. And Bledsoe is still, possibly, waiting in the wings.
But wait…there’s more!
Remember that part about Phoenix wanting to compile assets and looking for values? Well, they found one this summer, completing a sign-and-trade for Sacramento point guard Isaiah Thomas.
The diminutive point guard scored 20 points a game last season for the Kings, packing an efficient scoring punch into his small frame and adding another dimension to the Phoenix backcourt. Getting him for a mere $7 million a year for four years was a steal.
And still, the Suns are working hard to bring Bledsoe back into the fold.
What does that mean for Ennis?
Well, he already sits behind Dragic and Thomas on the depth chart. With Ennis being more of a true point guard and both Dragic and Thomas both being combo guards, it’s feasible Ennis could see some minutes in a rotation. But, if Bledsoe is back in the orange and purple next season???
Ennis may be wearing a Bakersfield Jam uniform…that would be the NBA D-League affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. But, for now, he’s been wearing a Phoenix Suns jersey in the Vegas Summer League, averaging just 4.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting just 22% in five games.
If he knew three months ago what he knows now, would Ennis have still signed up for his NBA fate or would he have preferred another winter in central New York to hone his game? Tough to say.
But, the combination of a slipping draft stock, going to a team stocked with guard options and an unimpressive stat line in his first taste of professional ball may all add up to a long stroll for Ennis as he strives to crack the Suns rotation.
A cautionary tale that even the most talented college players can have a tough road to hoe.