We've had many discussions here on what it takes to build a champion. Consistent through them all is that championship teams require stars. A transcendent player like LeBron James can only be acquired through suckiness and luck. In the Cavs' case, they had both, so bravo to them for sucking and lucking enough to get him in the first place and then lucking into getting him back because Cleveland is close to LeBron's hometown of Akron.
For the rest of the basketball world, teams need to draft smartly and hope their non-blue chip players grow into stars the way Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Klay Thompson have.
Who among the current Suns young players stands the best chance to make this leap? Let's take a look at the candidates, in alphabetical order.
Now two years into his Suns career, Bledsoe has proven himself to be an effective starting PG, but has yet to demonstrate star qualities.
Pros: Bledsoe plays a strong all-around game. He scores, assists, snags rebounds, and even blocks shots at a high rate for a PG in the course of playing defense. There's plenty to like about him across the board as a well-rounded player who shows great athleticisim even after his knee injury.
Cons: As a PG, Bledsoe's shooting %s and assist/turnover ratio are poor. His all-around, two way game is great, but he doesn't excel at any one thing. His offensive efficiency is below average for a PG.
Chance to become a star: 10%. It's a lot to ask for a 25-year old player going into his sixth season to take a huge leap in surpassing so many other great PGs in becoming one of the best at his position. His progress seemed to stall this past season, though you might attribute that to the team's general dysfunction last year.
The Suns top draft pick at #13 in the 2015 draft, Booker will be the NBA's youngest player this coming season (turns 19 on October 30th). Coming out of the Suns' favorite proving ground of the University of Kentucky, Booker showed NBA level shooting skills as a kid, with great, still unrealized upside in other areas of his game.
Pros: Booker's shooting skills are tremendous. He hit 41% of his 3s in his one season at Kentucky, making 58 of them while also converting 53% of his 2s in 38 games as an 18 year old. It's all well and good to talk about Hornacek improving the ability of bad shooters to an acceptable level, but what can Horny do in coaching a young shooting prodigy? The thought sends a warm tingle up my inner thigh. Maybe Booker can become a Steph Curry-like shooter when he grows up.
Cons: With a player so young, the Suns really don't know what they have yet. Booker's athleticism is fine, but not elite, so that might limit his potential. Besides shooting, the rest of his game stands plenty of room for improvement, and we have no way of knowing if he'll be able to shore up his weaknesses. He might end up as no more than a one-dimensional spot up shooter.
Chance to become a star: 40%. This might seem high, and you can accuse me of looking through purple-colored glasses, but I see a special flare in Booker. He looks uncommonly mature for his age, and his jump shot is pure beauty. It's becoming a shooter's league, and Booker is already a great one at age 18.
Now two years into his NBA career, Goodwin leaves many questions left unanswered. He possesses high end NBA athleticism, size and length, but still needs to improve his jump shot and overall feel for the game. Going into his third season, he has yet to earn a rotation spot.
Pros: Goodwin is athletic and works hard, a combination which tends to succeed. He's already demonstrated great skill in driving to the basket to score or draw fouls, and bulked up his strength to better allow him to do so. He remade his broken jump shot, and looked confident with his new stroke this past Summer League.
Cons: The biggest concern for me regarding Goodwin is that he doesn't seem to have great instincts or basketball IQ. His game is all over the map on both ends. This is to be expected from a youngster, but Booker looked more polished than Goodwin this Summer League, and Booker's two years younger.
Chance to become a star: 5%. Goodwin is heading into a key season, as the Suns will need to decide whether to continue the project by exercising his contract option or not next summer. He's still a pup as he'll turn 21 this month, but how many years can a team invest in a project before expecting some return on their investment? Forget becoming a star. Let's see Goodwin become a rotation player first.
Knight was nearly a star in his half-season with Milwaukee before the trade to Phoenix, but never found his rhythm with the Suns. Only 23 years old, Knight was thrown to the wolves early in his career on terrible Pistons teams. He's shown steady improvement in his NBA career so far, though he struggled in his short stint with the Suns after the February trade.
Pros: You won't find many 23 year olds with Knight's NBA experience. He's played nearly 9,000 minutes through his first four seasons, and taken plenty of hard knocks along the way. Yet he's still an extremely talented youngster with upside. He played like a star with the Bucks before the trade last season, scoring 17.8 PPG along with 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game on .556 TS%.
Cons: Knight struggled in his 11 games for Phoenix before suffering a season-ending injury. Is he a PG or a SG? In four NBA seasons, his aggregate win shares/48 minutes is .052.
Chance to become a star: 30%. Knight is almost there already based on his performance for the Bucks last season. According to Suns GM Ryan McDonough, he's a player the Suns had focused on for a while, and there are plenty of reasons to expect his steady improvement in performance to continue.
The highest Suns draft pick at #5 since 1987, the Suns really need Len to become a great player. He showed improvement, but the Suns still signed Tyson Chandler to take his starting spot and shore up the roster.
Pros: Len's a talented, long, athletic, 22-year old 7 footer who improved the Suns defense with his presence last year as he earned a starting spot. He shows skills on both ends of the floor, and improved greatly in every area of the game from his rookie to sophomore seasons.
Cons: "Potential" is the word with Len because his record of achievement is thin. He achieved zero honors in his two year college career at Maryland, and has yet to accomplish anything in two NBA seasons other than beating out Miles Plumlee for a starting role on the Suns. Len is still a youngster at 22, but it's difficult to find a current star who had achieved as little as he has at this age.
Chance to become a star: 10%. Len fits the profile of a late bloomer, and showed flashes of being a difference maker for the Suns last season. With the Chandler signing, he'll have more time to develop as a backup. If he's not able to oust Chandler as the starter in two years, we can see Len as a disappointment for a top 5 draft pick.
If scoring is how you judge a star, then Warren will be your star. He makes shots from here, there and everywhere. He'll be given the opportunity to showcase those skills in his upcoming, second NBA season now that he's got a defined role as the backup to P.J. Tucker.
Pros: After he was drafted, McDonough said Warren has unique abilities to put the ball in the basket, and he's shown them so far in his pro basketball career. Warren dominated each of his two Summer League stints and his D-League performance last year. When he played with the big boys last season, Warren shot 53% from the field for the Suns, only scratching the surface of his talent so far as a 21 year old.
Cons: It remains to be seen whether Warren can rebound, shoot 3s and play defense at a high end NBA level for a SF. He might suffer from the dreaded "lack of lateral quickness" on D, and his spot up shooting is a work in progress.
Chance to become a star: 30%. My love for Warren is well established here. He doesn't fit the mold of a modern NBA wing player because his 3 and D skills are questionable, but his unique game is what makes him special. He'll do best when on the floor with 3-point sharpshooters, where he can play from 15 feet in and make all kinds of crazy shots at a high percentage.