The Phoenix Suns are on their first four game winning streak in over three years, and they have young energizers, not veterans, to thank.
The Phoenix Suns have won four straight games over the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics. The Suns won just four games in their first 28, and now they’ve won each of their last four games. One of the most notable parts of the recent hot stretch is that it’s happened without the help of the veterans people said the Suns needed.
The Suns brought in a handful of veterans to start the season. Tyson Chandler was eventually cut. Isaiah Canaan was eventually cut. Ryan Anderson eventually had his minutes cut to nothing. Trevor Ariza was traded away as soon as he was eligible to be moved. In fact, the only player with more than five years of NBA experience still getting regular minutes is Jamal Crawford, the guy most people didn’t think should be signed in the first place.
The veterans were supposed to bring the smarts, the effort, and the work ethic. That simply wasn’t the case. After weeks of experimentation by a new head coach in an attempt to figure out the best rotation, Igor Kokoskov realized it’s the young players that give the Phoenix Suns the best chance to win. And it definitely looks like he’s right.
Richaun Holmes has brought the type of effort on both ends that foils Chandler’s indifference. De’Anthony Melton has proven to be a far more capable defender and passer than Canaan. Mikal Bridges has been a clear upgrade over Anderson’s ineffective defense and 3.7 points per game. And Kelly Oubre Jr.’s hard-nosed demeanor already looks like a better fit than Ariza’s defeatist attitude.
It’s not hard to see why Crawford has been able stick around and the others haven’t. Rather than quitting on the team, Crawford has gone out of his way to set an example for the young players. Earlier this year, after a 20 point win over the San Antonio Spurs, he stayed after the game to get extra shots up.
At 38 years old, no one could possibly blame Crawford if he went home and got some sleep after a nice win. Instead, he stayed late and set a great example for his teammates of what it takes to get better. There weren’t any other players in that picture, but hopefully some of the young Suns will join him the next time he stays late, or better yet, they’ll take the initiative to do so themselves.
Last night, Crawford tweeted his support of Suns’ rookie point guard Elie Okobo, who was playing in a G League game.
It’s clear Crawford has taken on a mentorship role that the Suns’ other vets had no interest in assuming, and because of that he’s proven himself to be a great signing.
This Phoenix Suns team has disproven the notion that young players need smart, veteran role players around them to be at their best. Instead, they need guys who play hard and are invested in the success of the team. Those players can be of any age, and the ones who have inspired the Suns’ recent stretch of extraordinary effort have been young reserves like Holmes and Oubre.
People said it would be the veterans that kept the team playing hard when times got tough, and it would be the veterans that could lead the Suns to a respectable record. As it turns out, many of the veterans were holding the team back, and the energetic young players have been at the heart of the team’s newfound success.