Last night, The Phoenix Suns won their second consecutive game, after losing 13 games straight before that.
The Suns have been indefinitely resting their veteran players, Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler, and Brandon Knight so that the young guys can play, while the organization has shifted its philosophy from “win now”, to “win later”.
This has allowed Tyler Ulis invaluable minutes as a starting point guard, in which he has already developed into a more than solid option. Not only that, but Alan Williams has taken his opportunity by replacing Chandler, to show just how productive he can be at the center position.
In addition, Marquese Chriss has seen an increase of minutes, and Derrick Jones Jr has become a regular staple of the Suns rotation, where he has also showed promise on both ends of the floor, beyond just his amazing dunks (which are amazing, indeed).
But maybe most impressive of all is what has happened with the slightly older new players. Since the All-Star Break, Devin Booker has become a bonafide star. No longer is he the promising young rookie, he is the new face of the franchise, and one of the rising stars in the NBA, getting a lot of media attention.
But he isn’t alone. T.J. Warren, while not scoring the same amount of points as Booker, and not getting anywhere near the attention, has made substantial improvements in his game...especially on the defensive end. Warren has always been unique for his ability to score inside the arc, but now he’s starting to do a little more scoring outside of the arc, starting to play better defense, and starting to grab a lot more rebounds.
Coach Watson was asked about T.J., and the young players in general, and how well they have all developed over the past season.
Even without Booker and Warren for most of the second half, the Suns were unable to lose the game, and actually grew the lead as the game progressed. The young players are starting to come into their own, and that is exciting news for next season and beyond.
Marquese Chriss also talked about their development, as well as his knee (which is fine):
As I mentioned above, Tyler Ulis has been one of the brightest spots for the rookie players. Not only is he averaging over 15.4 points as a starter, he’s averaging 8.6 assists as well. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with leadership, hustle, and skill...a lot of skill. Here’s Tyler talking about how he plans to keep improving:
Lastly, Dragan Bender is back playing with the team, and while he’s still trying to find his rhythm, you can already see the flashes as he continues to develop and get stronger.
The young-and-gun Suns are getting better every day, and using these games as learning opportunities, and on-the-job training. They are getting invaluable experience playing in live games, which is a very different animal than practices and scrimmages.
Although the season as a whole was a disappointment, these young players are developing much faster this season because of Phoenix switching priorities so early. And credit to Coach Watson for managing to appease the brass with less vets and more losses, while still coaching up the young guys and getting the very best out of them.
The Suns have one more game to play this season. But regardless of how they end...this is only the beginning.