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Court Cultivators: A look at the Suns’ young talent and their development after Week One

Bridges and Johnson welcome us back with minor improvement. Ayton? Not so much.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing our attention to the young Phoenix Suns, how did week one of the NBA season treat them? It is early, and the overreaction is not something to center our chakra on. The little improvements visibly noticeable is what we will target in this series throughout the season.

Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, and Cameron Johnson will be the main focus here as they are the primary pieces of the Suns’ young core. After a short off-season, there is still much to be expected from all three men in benefiting the Suns offense.

After careful viewing and many hours of film, the studies have been released in the vivid chart below.

Pretty simple stuff.

Ayton did have some sparks of new light. His game at times looks familiar to last year, but not enough to earn the magical green arrow.

Bridges and Johnson both showed enough in week one to have a green arrow above their head displaying improvement.

Mikal Bridges

Ball control

Suns training camp was raining with praise of Bridges and his improvements relative to ball handling. It was something to look forward to heading into the season.

A player like Bridges who has plenty of length is scary if he can control the ball in any situation. Through the preseason and the first three games of the regular season, Bridges taking the offense into his own hands is visible. But the example shown is a little different.

In the first game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night, Chris Paul gave Bridges the ball on the block and let him work. With the mismatch near the rim, players can mess this up over and over. At a point, Bridges nearly lost the ball with the seat pulled out from under him, but gained control of the ball, pivots and lays the ball in.

The finish at the rim

Something we always wanted to see more of last year was the pump fake for three and the drive to the lane. This example, from game one against the Denver Nuggets, Mikal does just that, although he does not end with him getting the points.

That is not the part of this exercise. It is the vision to head towards the big man under the rim and forcing him to make a play out of position.

Hanging out in the air against the reining MVP Nikola Jokic while trying to bully the ball over the top of him is something new. Before, we might have seen a dish out to a wide open shooter or a forced pass to Ayton under the rim.

Deandre Ayton


In game two against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night, Ayton had a play under the rim that that ended in a dunk, and it was not a alley-oop. The pass made by Devin Booker was an attempt at the oop, but Ayton had other plans.

The catch and the gather under the rim, while losing defender Anthony Davis, set Ayton up for a clean dunk. In the past, we might have saw Ayton pass the ball out, or throw the ball at the rim while falling off balance.

Aware to keep his balance, stay in bounds, and get the ball up and over the rim without help defense coming from the weak side is a veteran move.

Cameron Johnson

Making himself available at all times

Cutting the rim is one thing but sticking out for the ball-handler to find without making a difficult pass is where Cam is right now when preparing for his shot.

Cam is always a step away from nailing down a three or in this instance against the Lakers, throwing it down.

The timing is perfect by Cam getting to the rim. He puts himself in position to succeed within the offense.

He is ready before the distributer is even aware.

Running the fast break

Better ball control this year on the fast break, Johnson was able to set up Landry Shamet with a good look from the corner.

Maybe getting away with a charge? We will let that slide.

Last season, we would have maybe seen a fumble of the ball or a forced shot leading to the opposition fast-break.

Next week we will follow-up with any repeat success in the players performances. Did they continue to progress and keep adding to their game? If not, they might end up with a red down arrow for the week. And that is not a good thing.

Please leave comments below pointing out anything that I might have missed. Also, I am still very insecure with the name of this weekly publication. Any feedback would be appreciated!

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