(Image – Locker Room Access – Hawkedits)
On Monday, the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to a trade that, along with sending Chris Paul to Phoenix, ships Ty Jerome off to OKC after one year as a Sun. Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, and Jalen Lecque are also on their way to Oklahoma City from Phoenix. Now, on the surface, this is an interesting move for Jerome as, only a year into his NBA career, he’ll already be starting fresh with a new organization.
From a broader perspective, this is a significant move for Phoenix as they bolster their roster with a veteran presence and finally provide Devon Booker a worthy point guard who is going to make life much easier for him. But, back to Ty.
Jerome needed to get out of Phoenix
Sure, leaving an organization after one year in the league isn’t ideal, but Phoenix was never the best fit for Jerome anyway. That’s a team that has been building towards being a contender for a while, and it was always clear that they’d need star power in the backcourt alongside Booker. Jerome wasn’t going to fit that role. Additionally, it’s clear that Jerome needs more time to develop and play his way into the league than someone like Malcolm Brogdon who was a ready-made contributor right out of college. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that Phoenix needed significant contributions in the backcourt and Jerome isn’t that guy yet.
The result of such a player playing in such an organization so early in his career is inconsistent playing time and a dearth of opportunities. Of course, Jerome also dealt with a number of injuries in his first year as that hampered his chances to establish himself. But, in the games where he saw real playing time, he impressed on the offensive side of the ball.
He even spent time playing for the Suns’ G League affiliate where his per-36 minute numbers stood at 29.6 points, 8.3 assists, and 5.9 rebounds on 54.2% shooting from the field and 35.7%. As such, it’s clear he’s an NBA player and doesn’t need to spend time in developmental leagues. But he still needs time and opportunities to grow, mature, and get comfortable in the NBA.
The Thunder are the right type of organization
As an organization in the early stages of a rebuild, the OKC Thunder are in the perfect stage for Ty to get that necessary experience. Additionally, the Thunder are a fairly promising team as they have a few key components for a franchise attempting a rebuild. Twenty-two year old combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19 PPG, 6 RPG, 3.3 APG last season) is the team’s building block for the years to come. Mark Daigneault, who is replacing his mentor Billy Donovan as the head coach, is the former head coach of the Oklahoma City Blue (OKC’s G League affiliate) so he has experience developing young players. On top of that, GM Sam Presti has been incredibly successful with high draft picks (he picked Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in three consecutive drafts) so a few years with poor records should at least yield a few more high-ceiling young stars.
This season, Jerome will, once again, likely play second fiddle to Ricky Rubio at the point guard position. But Rubio is by no means a long term piece for OKC, so Ty has a real shot to establish himself as a potential long term contributor at the point guard position. It’s not out of the question that, after a year or two of experience, he could see starting opportunities alongside Gilgeous-Alexander. But, for now, it’s important that Ty take advantage of the increased playing time he’ll get this season.
All in all, this was a good move for Ty. He leaves an organization where he had a questionable future and enters a franchise looking to develop young guys into long term contributors. There’s obviously no guarantee that it’ll work out in OKC, but this is a much better situation for Ty this early in his career.