• Matt Leaman

The Future Is Bright in Phoenix

Yes, it's been a long seven-year playoff drought for the Phoenix Suns, and the fans are getting hungry for at least a competitive team. After many seasons of the front office continually deciding to play older veteran players, it seems they are ready for the young core to get the majority of the minutes. One thing is certain, the front office’s strategy for rebuilding is becoming clear cut.

The Suns have many assets, including the rights to the Miami Heat first round selections in both 2018, and 2021. This could be attractive to other teams, and give the Suns a chance to acquire a star player, if needed. They can continue developing their players, then pull the trigger on a trade when the time is right,most likely when they feel they are ready to contend in the Western Conference.

It's been an eventful offseason for the Suns. There haven't been many big name moves, but the Suns continue to shape their roster for the future. With the Golden State Warriors appearing destined for multiple championships over the next few seasons, it's smart for Phoenix to take its time with young players now. The Suns’ direction became clear on draft night. Stockpiling young talent, with the idea of growing them together, is exactly the route this team needs to go.

This process continued as they selected forward Josh Jackson from Kansas with the 4th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. This was a great selection for multiple reasons. Jackson, standing 6-8 and weighing 210 pounds, averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists during his only season at Kansas.

Somewhat raw offensively, he will join the rest of the Suns roster as they develop and grow together. Kansas Head Coach, Bill Self has said, "He (Jackson) has not only surpassed our expectations as a player but also as a leader and a teammate". Pretty strong words for such a young talent, and something the Suns will love as they gel all of their young players together. Jackson will join the youthful core of Devin Booker, Alan Williams, TJ Warren, and Marquese Chriss. Suns fans should hope Jackson stays in the valley of the sun, and isn't part of a potential deal for Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

Devin Booker, at only 20 years old, will be entering his third season in the NBA. Last year in his breakout season,Booker averaged 22.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. He shot 42.3% from the field, and 36.3% from deep. He also had an incredible performance against the Boston Celtics in which he scored 70 points.

Booker is someone the Suns will no doubt begin to build around, as he's shown he has the natural ability to score the ball. Look for him to continue putting in work to improve his defense. This leads to another important decision for the Phoenix Suns front office. What will happen with Eric Bledsoe?

Healthy towards the end of the year last season, the Suns elected to bench Bledsoe to get a closer look at others. This could very well be a sign he's on his way out of Phoenix. Bledsoe’s name has been involved in trade talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Close friends with LeBron James, Bledsoe to the Cavs makes a lot of sense, as he looks to move to a contending team. The Suns, although needing a pass first point-guard more than a scorer, could bring in Kyrie Irving in exchange for Bledsoe.

Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 25.2 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. He's also showed the ability to make clutch shots and has playoff experience, unlike the rest of the Suns roster. Pairing Irving with Booker would be a dynamic offensive duo. If the Suns can somehow get Irving without giving up Josh Jackson, they should be all in. They could possibly lure the Cavs into a deal by including Bledsoe, their future 1st round picks, and another young talented player on their roster. If Jackson needs to be included, Phoenix should pass, and look at other PG options such as Orlando’s Elfrid Payton or Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay.

As for the rest of the Suns roster, I'm looking forward to seeing Alan Williams, TJ Warren, and Marquese Chriss continuing their development. Williams, who recently signed a 3 year,17 million-dollar deal, will get to stay in his home town.

Last season, Williams averaged 7.4 points, and 6.4 rebounds, in just 15 minutes per game. It should be time to give him more minutes over Alex Len, who's been somewhat of a disappointment in his young career.

TJ Warren, back to being healthy, looks to keep improving upon his first three seasons in the NBA. He put up 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season in 66 games. Chriss, 20, is coming off a season in which he scored 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and just shy of 1 block, in 21.3 minutes per game and played all 82 games, showcasing his true toughness.

The Phoenix Suns are closer than you think to becoming relevant again. With so much young talent and assets available, one or two moves could make this team competitive again. Will Kyrie ultimately end up coming to Phoenix? Will Bledsoe be dealt? These two decisions that could accelerate the rebuilding process. The next few months will be critical for the front office. One thing is for sure, the Suns will bring energy every night, should be exciting to watch.

#NBA #NBAOffseason2017 #Suns