For the first time in what feels like many decades, Phoenix Suns fans can look to the offseason with a strong sense of optimism.
The 2019-2020 season has been a very tumultuous one for the Phoenix Suns. It started with an offseason of activity through trades, free-agent signings, and of course the draft. There was a strong opening night win, followed by the loss of Deandre Ayton to a lengthy suspension.
Shortly after that setback, the Suns compiled assertive wins over championship contenders in both the Clippers and the 76ers; wins that would have been hard to come by the previous season. Unfortunately, injuries hit Phoenix hard and continue to do so, with the Suns heading into Orlando to conclude the regular season without one of their key contributors in Kelly Oubre Jr.
The key difference between this stable of young talent and those of years past is the actual sign of development from this group.
In a situation as the Suns are in, the possibility of making the playoffs seems slim. However, even if Phoenix doesn’t reach that illustrious goal, there are real reasons for hope looking into the offseason.
One piece of good news is that the Suns will be able to select a contributor to the team by means of the draft. According to Tankathon, the Phoenix Suns hold the 10th spot in the draft, with a 13% chance of sliding into the top four and a 3% of taking the first selection. (Hey, you never know what could happen!) With an incoming class that isn’t necessarily star-laden but is relatively deep, the Suns should be able to select someone that can fill a need for them and grow alongside their youthful core.
Speaking of youthful core, here is the list of Suns age 24 and younger: Kelly Oubre, (24) Jevon Carter, (24) Devin Booker, (23) Mikal Bridges, (23) Elie Okobo, (22) Ty Jerome, (22) and Deandre Ayton (21). That is a lot of youth from key members of this year’s team! Phoenix has had more than a few “youth movement” iterations over the last 10 years, but these aren’t the days of Archie Goodwin and Alex Len. Booker, Oubre, and even Ayton have all established themselves in the league, and Bridges is right on their heels.
Carter has been a bulldog off the bench and an emotional spark plug, while Cheick Diallo and Elie Okobo have had their moments. Ty Jerome has a rough rookie season but will most certainly look to bounce back next year.
I haven’t even mentioned Tariq Owens (24) and Jalen Lecque, (19) two intriguing prospects who didn’t receive a ton of playing time this season, but that’s almost beside the point. The core of this Phoenix Suns team is young, and full of talent and potential, with some of it already being realized. There is still hope for Ayton and Booker to form a devastating guard/center combo. Bridges’ potential is through the roof as someone who can be an elite defensive devastator on one end and a high-quality shot-maker on the other with additional offensive versatility.
As with all young players, there is room for improvement, and there is more than likely more bumpiness ahead. However, for the first time in more than a few years, Phoenix Suns fans can not only get behind a talented stable of youth, but they can also be more confident that this group is here for the long haul.