In July, the Phoenix Suns signed Mike James, a 27-year-old rookie point guard.
Spending five seasons playing professionally in Europe, James caught the eyes of NBA scouts while suiting up for Panathinaikos of the Greek Basketball League, where he averaged 13.1 points and 3.0 assists per contest in 2016-2017.
Before that, he suited up in Croatia, Israel, Italy and Spain.
He played his college ball at Lamar, a small Division I school in the Southland Conference.
Therefore, Phoenix really trusted their scouting department when it came to signing the virtually-unknown guard to a two-way deal.
At first, it seemed as though James had a clear future with the Suns, as he got off to a hot start. But over time, he settled into a backup role behind second-year point guard Tyler Ulis, averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game before the Suns awarded him with a one-year deal to keep him with the team through the remainder of the season on December 7.
It seemed as though he was inspired by the vote of confidence. On December 9, he posted a career-high 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting. In the following game on December 12, he had 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
But, then things took a turn for the worst for him. After logging 19 minutes of run on December 13, he didn’t see the court on the 16th, played nine minutes on the 18th, 11 on the 20th and didn’t see the court again on the 22nd. Free agent guard Isaiah Canaan was signed and immediately took James' spot in the rotation.
In the early-morning hours on Saturday, the team officially announced that they waived James, despite signing him just two weeks before.
"We'd like to thank Mike for his contributions," Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told the Arizona Republic. "He made NBA history as the first two-way player to make a team's 15-man roster, while also establishing himself as a bonafide NBA player.”
With Devin Booker returning from injury soon, the team simply decided to keep Canaan over James.
"Isaiah Canaan has played very well for us since joining the team and we needed to create a roster spot with Devin Booker and Davon Reed getting closer to returning," McDonough said.
Interim coach Jay Triano told Scott Borrow of AZCentral.com that the main reason why the team decided to go with Canaan is for his defensive ability.
“For me, it’s the defense,” Triano said. “He’s great busting up screens and getting over screens and setting the tone for us defensively. We don’t have to worry about coverage when he’s on the ball. We’re not scrambling, bigs are able to stay at home and be in better rebounding position. There’s a lot of real positive things.”
Overall, it appears as though Canaan has done everything right since he joined the club. Not only is he averaging 10.4 points and 3.0 assists over 25.0 minutes, but he’s also established himself as a leader among a bunch of young players.
“They told me they appreciate everything I’ve been doing since the first day I got here,” Canaan said. “They told me to keep leading, keep setting an example on and off the court. Continue to be an extension of the coach, continue to groom these young guys and help them develop into better professionals.”
It remains to be seen whether or not a team claims James off waivers. If he doesn’t believe that he has a future in the NBA, it seems as though he will at least be able to resume his career in Europe, where he'd likely garner interest from high-profile clubs.