You always hear about teams wanting to get younger and “going with a youth movement,” but the Phoenix Suns took it to a whole new level last season. They literally played the youngest starting lineup ever! Like in forever ever, forever ever. Tyler Ulis (21), Devin Booker (20), Derrick Jones Jr. (20), Marquese Chriss (19), and Alex Len (23). I can guarantee one thing this upcoming season for the Suns. They will not be fielding the youngest starting lineup in NBA history.
2016 record: 24-58
- Josh Jackson via draft
- Anthony Bennett via free agency
- Troy Daniels via trade
- Ronnie Price via free agency
- Leandro Barbosa via free agency
The Suns have won 24 and 23 games respectively the past two seasons. Most likely, another 20-win season is in the works. But not all is doom and gloom. This is going to be an exciting team to watch from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. The roster is littered with young talent and they play at a super-fast pace. Last season, only the Brooklyn Nets were ahead of them in terms of pace. Pace equals opportunites which equals fantasy manna raining down from the heavens.
PG – Eric Bledsoe is the defacto veteran leader of this team. Only Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley are older, but they are role players at this stage of their careers. With that said, Bledsoe is still only 27 years old and can still ball with the best of them. Before Kyrie was traded to Boston, there were rumors that he would get traded to Phoenix, with Bledsoe being a major piece in that package. Bledsoe can shoot, create off the dribble, and could drop a 40 burger on any given night. He’ll grab around four boards a game, dish out six dimes, and get a steal and a half per game. He does turn the ball over at a high rate and won’t contribute much in blocks, but hey….everything else is there. The primary worry with Bledsoe is two-fold. He’s played 66, 31, 81, and 43 games the past four years. In addition, the Suns are going to be bad once again, so will the team shut him down at the end of the year and let the young kids get their run again? Probably. If you own Bledsoe, the best scenario would be if he gets traded at the deadline. Tyler Ulis is the backup and played very well when given the chance last season. He’s only 5′ 10″ 150 pounds, but he’s super fast and quick with a bulldog mentality. He doesn’t shoot the three-ball well (26%), but he could be a signficant contributer in assists and steals if given the minutes. As mentioned above with Bledsoe, there’s a good chance that Ulis gets more run at the end of the season.
SG – Devin Booker is viewed as untouchable by the Suns organization. There were a bevy of trade rumors in the offseason regarding Booker, but nope…they weren’t having any of it. Are they overrating him? It’s possible, but Booker is 6′ 6″ and only 20 years old. His shot is silky smooth and he has a bevy of ways to get it off. He was 12th in the league in field goal attempts at 18.3 per game, so we know the opportunities will be there and….he’s already proven to have a 70-point ceiling. The issue with Booker is that he doesn’t contribute much in any of the other categories. He probably won’t ever be a big blocks guy, but he did increase the steals from 0.6 to 0.9 last season. In addition, can’t totally write him off in the rebounds and assist categories. As I mentioned before, the situation is a perfect one for fantasy goodies. Just need some maturity from Booker, which is definitely within the range of outcomes. On the flip side, once a shooter always a shooter. Brandon Knight was the backup, but he had ACL surgery on his left knee and is out for the season. Davon Reed, the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 draft, had meniscus surgery on his left knee and will be out four to six months. That leaves Troy Daniels as the primary backup to Booker. He’s been in the league for four years, yet he’s already played for four different teams. He got passed around in 2014, as he played for the Rockets, Timberwolves, and Hornets. Crazy. Anyways, he’s never received 20 mpg. He’s basically a three-point specialist (career 40%). Maybe we all need to up Booker in the rankings because he could average 40 mpg.
SF – T.J. Warren is the starter and just agreed to a four-year, $50 million extension. Warren is 6′ 8″ 230 pounds and only 23 years old. He’s missed a ton of games in his brief three-year career, but there is so much potential here. He’s deadly in the mid-range and transition. He doesn’t ball watch and will cut when defenders overplay him. His weakness is probably his three-point shot, but he was able to shoot 40% in 2015. Defensively, his IQ and awareness are lacking, but he’s young and still learning. Really the only thing he won’t provide is assists. With his versatility, Warren could see plenty of time at the 4 with Chriss at the 5, when Earl Watson wants to go small ball. First-round pick, Josh Jackson, will back up Warren. He’s also 6′ 8″ and a freak athlete. He’s a potential future 1/1/1 guy, but probably won’t see too many minutes early on. Towards the end of the season, though, he may get unleashed. Derrick Jones is third on the depth chart. With Jackson in the mix, it’s tough to see how Jones gets any significant minutes.
PF – Marquese Chriss is slotted to start at power forward. I really don’t know what to think of Chriss. I could see him being a Top 50 player, but I could also see him being a bust. The potential is tantalizing as he shoots 32% from three-land as a 6′ 10″ player. He has the potential to be a 1.5/1.5/1.5 player. He’s super athletic, thrives in transition, can shoot, etc, etc…On the flip side, he doesn’t rebound well for a player of his stature, lacks fundamentals, commits silly fouls, and has some immaturity issues. He also looked like dog poo and out of shape during the Summer League. He will probably be the stud we all think he will be, but those thoughts do creep into my head from time to time. Dragan Bender looks to be the backup to Chriss. Bender has already been labeled a bust by many, but he’s still only 19 years old and was injured for half of last season. He doesn’t shoot the three-ball and still needs work on offense, but he showed improvement in the Summer League and Eurobasket. Plus, his calling card has been more on the defensive side of the ball anyways. The Suns are the latest team to “Give Anthony Bennett a Chance.” One year in Cleveland. One year in Minnesota. One year in Toronto. One year in Brooklyn. Cut by a team in Turkey. The NBA needs to stop it. Yes, he was the #1 pick back in 2013, but Bennett sucks. Enough. Jared Dudley is fourth on the depth chart, but he had toe surgery in the offseason and is expected to miss the start of the season. More of a veteran presence to help the young kids develop, Dudley is not fantasy relevant.
C – Tyson Chandler is slated to start. Why? $13 million reasons why, as he’s due $13 million this season and $13.5 next season. I’m pretty sure they’ve been trying to trade him, but obviously no one is taking. At least for now. I have to imagine they will find a way to get him off the roster at some point. If he does get minutes, he’ll provide an elite field goal percentage and pull down a ton of boards. Outside of that, not much. Alex Len is the backup. Per 36, Len put up 14.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks last season. He signed a one-year, $4.2 contract, so there’s plenty of motivation to ball out to get that long-term deal. I was expecting big things from Big Sauce Alan Williams, but he had surgery on his right knee and will likely miss the upcoming season. That gives more opportunity for Len to ball out, but will also mean plenty of minutes for Chriss at the 5.
The Suns aren’t looking to trade Tyson. His relationship with Earl Watson and the NBA Championship experience is enough to make Chandler a respected locker room presence on a team that needs young guys maturing.
Ok. I can buy that. You seem to be more intimately familiar with the squad than myself. Pretty expensive mentor, though.
@Son: I’m a Sun fan who knows a lot about the friendship between Watson and Chandler. When Tyson was a freshman in high school and Earl was a freshman at UCLA, Earl used to pick Tyson up from school and mentor him.
@EvilSpawn: That’s good stuff. I still think he gets traded if someone will take him. He was pretty much gone back in July