The Phoenix Suns will not have to count on their rookies this year

Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome Phoenix Suns (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome Phoenix Suns (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

Even with two rookies on the roster, the Phoenix Suns will be far less dependent on their first year players then any years in recent history.

Last season Phoenix Suns rookies not drafted in the first round started a combined 50 games for the team. This stat alone should illustrate why last season went the way it did. Throw in another 56 starts for Mikal Bridges, and 70 from Deandre Ayton and you are left with a grand total of 176 starts for rookies.

To put that in perspective, with 82 games and five starting slots there are 410 opportunities to start throughout the year.

Starting a rookie 176 times equates to just under 43% (42.9%) of the starting spots from last season being taken by a rookie. That alone is a formula to lose 60+ games and potentially break the development of some players by “throwing them into the fire” to an extreme extent.

This season with four rookies currently on a two-way or full contract (Ty Jerome, Cameron Johnson, Jalen Lecque, and Jared Harper) I would be surprised if that group manages to start any more than 30 games this season outside of multiple major injuries occurring.

This is based on a conscious effort from General Manager James Jones to fill his roster with legitimate and proven NBA talent allowing the rookies to take their time in developing which in turn could lead to better development from the aforementioned four players.

Comparing the presumed top rookie from this class, Cameron Johnson, to the rest of the Suns roster, it is hard to put him anywhere higher than the 8th best player depending on how you feel about Aron Baynes.

Putting that up against the start of last season where Ayton and Bridges both quickly were two of the six most important players on the team gives reason for optimism this upcoming season.

Immediately putting Cam and Ty in roles that will better allow them to grow and surround them with real NBA players should improve their rate of progression. Each will be able to earn playing time if they deserve it but are not being counted on to perform every night.

In particular, Jalen Lecque should also be able to stay in the G-League for the entirety of the Suns’ regular season with no real pressure to move up quickly.

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Basically for the first time in years the Phoenix Suns will be able to develop and treat their rookies like a lot of successful organizations do. They can slowly develop someone like Lecque, as well as Johnson, Jerome, and Harper, into a players through a more stable environment around him.

This too will maximize the strengths of all of the team’s rookies by not needing to rely heavily on them when they are nowhere near ready to do so.