The Phoenix Suns once again have one of the youngest teams in the league. But now, their core is set, and their future is the brightest in the NBA.
The NBA is filled with young talent and now more than ever there is no better time to start building your team from scratch.
The concept of superteams are – and will forever – be the norm, constructing championship windows three to four years at a time with two or three veteran superstars surrounded by veteran minimums and two-way contracts.
However there will always be room for an emerging young team. A team constructed of young fringe stars and veteran leaders that promote the health and vitality of a franchise, all while developing confidence in a slow and methodical manner.
This requires a mix of good moves from management, smart drafting, a patient fanbase, team rapport and good ‘ol fashioned luck.
The Suns check the boxes in all of those areas and have now put themselves in a position to keep a young team intact for the foreseeable future. Depending on the trajectory of talent and more W’s in the win column they will consistently have the opportunity to add complimentary talent or a major star.
The leader of this movement in Phoenix will be Arizona’s newest mult-millionaire,Devin Booker.
This could be the year that he become an All-Star or at least continue to play like one. His ability to flourish in first-year Head Coach Igor Kokosov’s new system will be important, but more so than ever it will require the responsibility of incorporating his new teammates – most notably number one overall draft pick Deandre Ayton.
If successful, it will allow the Suns to continue to build around both of them without having to mortgage much to do so.
There has been talk all summer of trading current players like T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender. But what if Kokoskov’s new system utilizes some of the untapped talent that was excavated during his stint in Utah?
The inside outside combination of Booker and Ayton will allow all three to highlight their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. It also gives the organization one more year to evaluate or build Chriss and Bender’s trade value.
Alex Len was given the length (five years) in Phoenix and the team gave him every opportunity to contribute. The point being that you don’t want to give up on a pair of newly minted 20-year-olds who, with the addition of a dominant post presence like Ayton, may finally come out of their shells.
The current NBA landscape has a few teams with bright futures and young stars. Teams in the East such as Philadelphia and Boston have both destination and prestige going for them while also developing young cores that will be in the perfect position to capitalize on the LeBron-less Eastern Conference that awaits next year.
They will vie for championships for the next few years until the rest of the East catches up to them – that is unless injury or those stars decide to depart for different pastures. There have already been rumblings of Kyrie potentially wanting out of Boston or that there was already discord in Philly among its two budding superstars.
The way superstars are demanding trades or signing one-and-done deals will weigh heavily on those organizations in the near future.
Young teams in the West are currently playing catchup with the Warriors, along with the rest of the NBA. Their original young core (Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) were able to win a championship before they added the second best player in the world – Kevin Durant – a method of building a team that Phoenix is attempting to replicate.
There are multiple good teams in the West, but the ones with young cores include the Suns, Utah Jazz, and Los Angeles Lakers, to name the top few.
The Lakers have talented young pieces and have just added the world’s best player to their franchise, LeBron James. The caveat is they just added a lot of veteran role players, and through trade and necessity, to build around LA-Bron they may end up trading that young talent to acquire more veteran stars to maximize his chances of getting a ring.
However, this ultimately will have L.A. rebuilding again in four years once LeBron’s contract is up.
The Jazz have been able to do what the Spurs have done in the past, draft great and coach up their talent. The culture that they have built has the same sense of San Antonio, but like the Spurs, Utah’s continued success will be dependent upon retaining their stars, especially their Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell, and future draft picks, as it will be difficult to draw free agents due to the locale.
This leaves me back to the point that the Phoenix Suns as the team have the brightest young core – starting with Devin and Deandre.
They are both supremely talented and share the court with other young talent such as Josh Jackson who I believe will surprise fans this year along under Coach Igor who wants to teach, but demands accountability.
The main reason why this team seems to be on the rise is because the stars Phoenix has want to be here. Devin has said numerous times before the announcement of his contract extension that he had a desire to be here and win championships.
He is well versed in Suns history and knows how the arena used to turn up when Charles Barkley was still around. Like Barkley, Devin has taken on the face of the franchise mantra and wants to raise the franchise back to the Barkley-era heights.
He caused some to hold their breathe when the media let it be known he questioned management’s decision to release his best friend, and as anyone in Phoenix can tell you once the media sees our stars questioning management it’s open season. Instances like those are prime opportunities for pundits to guess the future destinations of disgruntled stars and help start the process of mentally poaching them to form Superteams elsewhere.
However, it came out that he just wanted a heads up, which shows maturation as a leader of a team and franchise. He did not pout but he made his point, a point that management needs to continue to nurture and develop to build those bonds with their stars.
Then there is Deandre, the former University of Arizona Wildcat who has literally grown up before our eyes in Arizona, which should give Suns fans great solace and pride that the number one pick wanted to be drafted by the franchise that is at the heart of the Valley.
Becoming a great player will come naturally, but he and Devin’s ability to promote Phoenix will be key to management’s future moves. Blake Griffin already suggested Phoenix as a low-key great city so who knows what that means in the heart’s of free agents if the Suns shock the basketball world and make the playoffs this year.
Ultimately the game requires multiple stars to win, but there are only a handful of teams with that level of talent, and depending on relationships and locale that can change at any second.
Here’s to hoping our superstar Suns will allow the once pillar-of-the-league franchise to shine bright once again, and that their careers eventually set in the West.