By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky standout Tyler Ulis is now a NBA free agent after Phoenix failed to pick up the $1.5 million option on him for next year. He has played the last two years for the Suns after being picked in the second round of the 2016 draft — a move that former UK teammate Devin Booker helped persuade the Suns to make.
Ulis was the 2016 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year as well as the Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a UK fan favorite — and one of the league’s most difficult players to guard.
Ulis was never a consistent scorer with Phoenix. He averaged 7.6 points, 4.1 assists and 21 minutes per game with the Suns and his playing time dramatically decreased late last season after he had at one time been a starter.
The Suns drafted French point guard Elie Okobo at No. 31 overall earlier this month, pushing Ulis further back in the rotation. His departure leaves Phoenix with former UK star Brandon Knight and Okobo at point guard.
Not keeping Ulis frees up money to potentially give No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. However, don’t forget that Ulis is still only 22 years old and has played just two years in the NBA — and been very effective at times.
Here’s hoping another team sees him as a bargain addition for a reliable backup point guard.