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Getting to Know You: Yuta Watanabe has the ability to be electric

Tom Lorenzo of Nets Daily gives us some insight into the new sharpshooter.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

We are continuing our series in which we get to know the newest members of the Phoenix Suns as seen through the eyes of people who have covered them. It’s always nice to get some insight from the fanatic, someone who watches these players day in and day out and who understands the intricacies of their game.

Any casual who watches some YouTube clips can tell you that the newly acquired Yuta Watanabe is a sharp shooting left-handed wing player who is lethal from being on the arc. But what YouTube typically doesn’t show you is the times that he misses. The times in which he has an opportunity to put the ball on the floor and attack the cylinder, but prefers to pass out. It doesn’t show the failures, only the successes.

Watanabe was a highly valued fringe acquisition for Phoenix, but outside of our recent interest in him, what do we know? I caught up with Tom Lorenzo, Editor of the SB Nation site Nets Daily, and asked him some questions about Yuta, and what it is like consuming his basketball every day.

John Voita: What is the one thing we need to know about Yuta?

Tom Lorenzo: I can’t promise this is what you’re looking for, but, Yuta Watanabe is genuinely one of the most likable and easy-to-root-for players in the league. Just look at his farewell tweet to Brooklyn Nets fans after just one season with the team; and scroll through the “goodbye” messages from Nets fans - it’s also easy to imagine that this move wouldn’t have happened without Kevin Durant’s blessing (or intel), so I will say that while you aren’t getting a future All-Star you are certainly getting someone who you will find it immensely easy to root for.

JV: Does he have the ability to attack off the dribble or is he purely a spot up shooter?

TL: He’s very athletic for his size, which gives someone like him - who is almost 6-10 and a very efficiency 3-point shooter - the ability to become a threat off the dribble. Either you get caught switching and he gets to use his body against a smaller guard or he gets closed out by a big man only to let him use his speed and athleticism to take his defender off the dribble.

JV: What’s your favorite story about him in his time in Brooklyn?

TL: I think the fact that about a month into the season he was leading the league in 3-point shooting at 57% (!!!) from beyond the arc; he was coming off a game against Portland in mid-November where he shot 5-of-7 from three and then followed it up with a 4-of-6 performance against the Grizzlies a few nights later.

He did then go on to miss some time following that game against Memphis and ultimately saw his percentage drop down to (a respectable) 44% by season’s end, but man those few games were absolutely electric especially in a time in which the whole Kyrie Irving saga was playing itself out and Nets fans were really looking for something to cheer for.

JV: How durable of a player is he?

TL: He’s certainly had injuries throughout his young career, and did miss some time last year as I mentioned in the midst of his hot streak, but you love to see that he is coming off a season in which he played a career best 58 games and averaged a career-high 16 minutes per. It may seem like those aren’t staggering numbers for someone who could be considered “durable” but you also have to remember that he hasn’t always needed to be NBA game ready as a role player, so some optimism that maybe this offseason he’s working more on those things that will keep him on the court for more prolonged periods - maybe?

JV: Do you believe he could be a starter with Phoenix?

TL: Sure, I do think he could be. Again, I wouldn’t go as far to say that he’ll be an All-Star one day, but I do think he could put starters minutes up for a team like the Suns who probably need him to do the two things he’s best at doing - space the floor and defend.

JV: Is he a “glad he’s gone” or “wish he stayed” kind of guy?

TL: Wish he stayed, for sure. Though if there is a “glad he’s gone” element it’s probably in that he should be playing for a title-contending team (like the Suns) and not for a rebuild team (like the Nets). He serves a better purpose for a team looking to win now.

JV: Any final thoughts?

TL: Enjoy him, he’s really great and, as I said, easy to root for. Also, fun fact, his wife is a famous actress in Japan. She actually has more followers on social media than he does - you know, if you’re looking for a “fun fact” kinda thing to drop in conversation.

Yuta the Shoota. He will surely be a valued addition to the team and will bring bench depth and flexibility for Frank Vogel next season. Could he start at times? Quite possibly. But he definitely gives us a lot to be excited about.

Thank you to Tom Lorenzo for providing this insight. And now, let’s look at some of those YouTube clips that show his successes.

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