The Phoenix Suns continue to get younger and it poses a question as to whether they should continue that trend, and the answer is most definitely. With the Golden State Warriors running the NBA for another three years at a minimum, teams have to be in a win-now situation or stockpile draft picks to be competitive in the future. Ryan McDonough has done a good job the past few years acquiring young talent and soon it will pay off.
One example of young talent is Josh Jackson, a forward from the Kansas Jayhawks (drafted at pick four) who can virtually guard every position on the court. His versatility will be welcomed on the Suns as they posted 26th and 28th in defensive efficiency rating the past two seasons. He brings a fire that the Suns have desperately needed, a guy that will pose an identity for this team. Jackson is also a great rebounding forward. At Kansas, he grabbed 7.4 rebounds a game and used his athleticism to his disposal, also averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game with his lengthy 6’8″ frame.
In the NBA, teams winning championships recently have had a lethal wing players that can play make shots and play defense. You could argue it’s more important than having an elite point guard. With this addition, Jackson will be a perfect addition next to Devin Booker and a difference maker immediately. He could start pretty early in his NBA career. Regardless if TJ Warren starts the season as the Suns starting small forward, don’t be surprised hearing Josh Jackson as a Rookie of the Year candidate down the stretch as he will get plenty of opportunity in the desert.
Looked at now as one of the best young players in the NBA, 20-year-old Devin Booker is an all-star in the making. Eric Bledsoe is the best current player on the Suns, but Booker could be the best player on this Suns team in a year or two.
Devin Booker has shown his ability to score all over the court. Coming out of college, many saw Booker as a spot-up shooter, but he is more than that. His post-game has improved as he gained some strength. He can create his own shot, drive to the basket, hit three pointers and fade away from 16-20 feet while knocingk down shots.
One of his areas that needs to grow is his shooting efficiency. Coming into his second season, Suns fans had high hopes that he would shoot better from the field, but he finished with the same clip of 42.3%. His three-point percentage went up from 34.3% to 36.4%, so that was an improvement itself. Being so young, Booker has plenty of time to grow and find himself as a player, but so far, he is on the right path to becoming an even more dynamic player. A lot of players take a big step forward into the league in year three, so it’s not out of this world to see Booker score 25 a game if his percentages goes up just a tad. Getting to the free throw line more can also help this.
Booker showed his ability to be clutch this past season. Throughout the year, Booker made a lot of big time shots, including two game winners at the buzzer. The fact he is doing this in only his second year in the league is crazy. He can takeover games, as he did in the game against the Mavericks.
Defense is a huge priority for Booker, and it can’t be stated enough. A lot of times he is very lazy and forgets that his guy is behind him. His man will take a quick cut and make an easy basket afterwards. Not having the right position or helping out on defense will allow an uncontested dunk. It’s the little things that he can improve on and the communication on defense just has to be better for the Suns if they want to be successful in the future.
Chriss had a solid season with the Suns in his first season, averaging 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 21.3 minutes per game. He led all rookies in games started with 75 and also recorded 103 dunks. He can shoot the long ball, not at an efficient rate, only 32%, but has the upside of becoming a solid long range shooter as a stretch forward. With that being said, he made the all-rookie second team. It only took him about eight games in before he took the role of the power forward position and ran with it all season long.
Marquese Chriss is a highly athletic forward that showed flashes all year long, with a majority of his best games coming in the second half of the season. Along with that athleticism, that gave him an opportunity to block a lot of shots, but not having good position also caused him to get in foul trouble quite often. He pretty much played defense like a 19-year-old, but expect to see growth in this department in years to come.
For the Suns, Bender is really the wildcard for this team if the Suns are able to push to the next level quicker than expected. He is also only 19, but within a few years, with his skill set, he could become a really good player. Unfortunately, during last season, Bender only played 43 games because of ankle surgery. Coach Earl Watson stated Bender will play more of a point-forward role. This is a good move because he needs more confidence heading forward.
Bender has the length to play defense and it make it easier on offense being 7’1″. Throughout the season, he showed that he is a solid passer for a big man and can run the fast break.
Bender needs more playing time to get a gage on his play on the court. He only played 13.3 minutes a game and had to rehab from that injury before he came back before the end of the regular season. Bulking up and confidence are two areas that will improve his game.
The young Phoenix Suns have a lot of young talent on this roster. With time, down the road, this team will be contending in the playoffs. The team also has other young pieces in TJ Warren (23 years old) and Tyler Ulis (21 years old) that help initiate the offense. Warren would be an amazing sixth man to Josh Jackson if Jackson takes the starting role early in the season, but it is his position to lose right now. With another high draft pick or two, the Suns could become really special.