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Will The Youth Heat Up In Phoenix?

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager


Notable Players Acquired: F Josh Jackson (draft), Davon Reed (draft), Alec Peters (draft)

Notable Players Lost: G Leandro Barbosa (waived)

Recapping 2016-17

The Suns finished with a 24-58 record in 2016-17, last in the Western Conference.

The positives:

  • Devin Booker is going to be a star. In his second season, the shooting guard averaged 22.1 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from the 3-point line, up two percent from his rookie season. Can he be the main guy on a championship-caliber team? I’m not sure. But he’s 20 years old. He has plenty of time to prove us wrong.
  • T.J. Warren looks like he will be, at the very least, a very solid contributor off the bench.

The negatives:

  • You would have liked to see Dragan Bender and Marquise Chriss, two players taken in the top-eight in last year’s draft, to play a little better. Bender played in just 43 games and looked lost at times. Chriss is talented, but raw. He appeared in all 82 games and averaged 9.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

The Suns have plenty of talent, but how good is that talent? That’s what the Suns will figure out in the next few seasons. They have plenty of lottery picks, but someone other than Booker (Bender, Chriss or Josh Jackson) will need to step up for this team to make the strides it hopes to. 

The Big Question

Can Bender, Chriss or Jackson prove to be a future star in this league? Tim Faklis and I discussed this in our recent podcast. Out of the three, Chriss might have the best chance. He’s raw, but he got plenty of experience as a rookie, appearing in all 82 games. And for a 20-year-old, he shot 32.1 percent from deep. That’s not great, but for a 6-10, 233-pound power forward, it's promising and that number should creep to 34 or 35 in 2017-18.

Bender, last year’s No. 4 overall pick, struggled as a rookie, which was somewhat expected making the adjustment from playing overseas to the NBA. Wolves fans are familiar with it with Nemanja Bjelica and Nikola Pekovic. Bender averaged 3.4 points per game during his rookie season and shot just 27.7 percent from deep in his rookie campaign. These are things that will need improvement.

And then there’s Jackson. Jackson fell to Phoenix with the No. 4 pick. There’s a good chance Jackson is the draft’s best defensive prospect. He averaged 17.4 points per game in Summer League, but shot just 18.8 percent from the 3-point line.

Will one of those three step up? Phoenix’s future might depend on it. 

Ratke's Projection

Phoenix is a better team than it was in 2016-17, but with how good the West has gotten, it might not show in the win-loss column. Booker should improve and I’m guessing he’ll make a run for an All-Star spot (even though the wings in the West have gotten incredibly better this offseason, which didn’t seem possible).