Phoenix Suns: Ranking Each Member of the Young Core by Ceiling

Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Michael Wyke/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Michael Wyke/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Last season, the Phoenix Suns saw their recent draft investments pay off seemingly all at once. Several young players reached new levels with their development, working to fuel their team’s Western Conference conquest.

Taken with the first overall pick during the 2018 NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton finally put his doubters to rest, providing clutch play both offensively and defensively during the postseason. He also finished the regular season once again with double-double averages, but this time at a hyper-efficient rate, hitting from the field at a 62.6 percent rate—the third highest amongst all centers.

Mikal Bridges also put together a much improved season last year. He experienced career-high scoring, rebound, and assist numbers, while hitting from the field and range at career-high rates as well. You simply cannot ask for much more than that from another third-year player.

Adding to the ’18 draft class’s prosperity, Landry Shamet also played well with the Brooklyn Nets. He just joined the Suns via a trade several weeks ago, but contributed heavily to Brooklyn’s near-championship efforts last season, tying his career-high scoring mark with 9.3 points per game.

During the postseason, Cameron Johnson turned from a fan-favorite contributor, to a player on the cusp of starting for an NBA Finals team. He shot an incredible 44.6 percent from range and 50.0 percent from the field during the playoffs, also improving his scoring, assist, and defensive rebounding numbers from his rookie year during the regular season.

Lastly, Jalen Smith comes into the fold. After up for only 27 games, Smith remains a wildcard going forward. However, he certainly illustrated his ability to still play effectively during the Summer League, making the All-Summer League First Team while averaging 16.3 points and a league-high 12.5 rebounds per game.

With all these players, the terms “career-high” and “improved” describe almost all of their 2020-21 campaigns. But the fact of the matter is—they all remain incredibly young prospects, with their best years likely still to come.

Looking at how high they might soar throughout their NBA journeys, each player’s ceiling ranks as such.