Now 6+ years since the Phoenix Suns were last relevant among the NBA landscape, they appear to have finally fully committed to a rebuild with youth. Young prospects abound, with at least one at every position, and three promising players selected in this past summer's draft.
GM Ryan McDonough enjoys a reputation as a brilliant talent scout, and NBA analysts are generally impressed by what the Suns are doing to establish a young foundation. Yet, three years in, none of his prospects have delivered much so far.
Devin Booker is the prized pupil, but Alex Len has disappointed overall as a former #5 overall pick, and T.J. Warren's broken foot derailed his ascent. How good will these prospects really be?
A look at any prior draft tells us that many bright, young prospects end up as nothing so special as they were supposed to be. And it's not just about busts such as Jimmer Fredette, Earl Clark, Marvin Williams, Jan Vesely (I could go on and on here).
Beyond straight busts, sometimes hot prospects end up as merely competent, average NBA players. That's fine, unless your team and its fanbase expect such players to swing franchise fortunes.
In the past few years, the Suns have dumped capable veterans who aren't elite (Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Isaiah Thomas, Markieff Morris) in favor of youngsters they hope will grow into top end players. But what if the youngsters the Suns added are simply newer versions of the players they deemed not good enough to deliver a contender?
Think of the example of Robin Lopez and Len. The Suns traded Lopez for scraps, used a high lottery pick on Len, and it's looking entirely possible that Len won't be any better a player than Lopez is. That's not progress, and your team won't improve this way.
During Summer League, an analyst compared Devin Booker to Allan Houston. Though he might be best known for his bloated contract (a signature Knicks move), Houston was a fine player: an excellent shooter and 2-time All-Star.
Still, if Booker ends up as nothing more than a Houston-caliber player, many of us will be disappointed. Such a player won't transform the franchise and lift it from its current doldrums, which is what's needed right now.
Among the Suns current prospects: Len, Archie Goodwin, Booker, Tyler Ulis, Warren, Chriss and Bender, they won't all pan out. They're unopened Christmas gifts under the tree now, with pretty wrapping and a bow. When opened, at least one or two will end up being an ugly sweater from grandma.
Such is a rebuild. It will be a bumpy ride, which is why the Suns have carpet bombed their roster with prospects. Let's hope the hit/miss ratio is good enough to bring the team back to respectability.