Unlike most teams in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns don’t have a lot of pressure to succeed this year. After multiple losing seasons, fans would probably be fine with the team winning 30-35 games and being competitive throughout the season. Though the most important aspect of this season is the Suns growing and getting better. The expectation is that after this season, one of these young player will breakout out this year and join Devin Booker as the other key franchise piece.
The question is who’ll it be?
The most obvious answer is Deandre Ayton. As the No. 1 overall pick last year, Ayton had a solid rookie season, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. It was a respectable campaign, but it wasn’t enough to break the glass ceiling. He wasn’t the focal point of the offense and with a team that struggled at the point guard position, there wasn’t a solid facilitator to feed him the ball. The Suns have done a lot this offseason to surround the University of Arizona product with shooters and point guard Ricky Rubio to facilitate the offense. Phoenix also hired seasoned head coach Monty Williams, who should be able to the most out of Ayton after working with the likes of Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid.
The next answer could be forward Mikal Bridges. A top ten pick the Suns traded for last draft, Bridges had an OK rookie season. He has the size and ability to be a top 3-and-D player and he showed flashes of it last year. Even with the forward position filled to the brim, Bridges led the team in steals per game. Being an offensive star might not be an attainable goal this season but he can be on the defensive side. He already showed off hints of his talent during the team USA scrimmage and being surrounded by an improved roster, players and coaches alike, will help him grow so much.
The other player Suns fans should expect a leap from is Booker. While Booker has already shown himself to be a star, this should be the year he launches himself into superstardom, breaking through that glass ceiling. Phoenix looks to have competent management, Booker has a great head coach and talent surrounding him. Ayton and Booker talked about be the next Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and this could be the year they start to take those steps. We’ve seen growth from Booker every season, so it makes sense that this upcoming season would be no different.
While there’s plenty of young players on this team that could breakout this season, these three are the most obvious candidates. It shouldn’t be a surprise anyways since Suns general manager James Jones is building the entire rebuild around them.
Ayton is the most likely to have a massive leap, Booker cracking through the pinnacle of elite scorers, and Bridges taking that next all-around step. I believe all three will make strides not only in 2019-20, but over the course of the next few years as the Suns attempt to climb out of the abyss.