You thought the Phoenix Suns Player Previews were done? You thought wrong because the Suns and James Jones are never done! Following a two-for-four trade by Phoenix, we have some news players to introduce to you to. Grab your favorite beverage and hop right in!
Wing, 6’5” 220 pounds, 23-years old
The Suns recently acquired Nassir Little in the Deandre Ayton deal and rumor has it that Suns’ brass is big on Little. Yes, I am going to have fun with his name throughout the season if Phoenix chooses to keep him rostered. A player that entered the NBA as the 25th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2019 NBA Draft, he is someone who is a highly touted prospect who has yet to consistently put it all together. His streaking offensive game can snag your attention, but he can disappear just as easily as he’s arrived.
Marlow Ferguson, Jr. of SB Nation’s Blazer Edge had this to say of little his his 2022-23 review:
For every topic that left Blazers observers in a divide, opinions were almost unified when it came to Nassir Little’s development: the effort is already there, and if a consistent shot follows, Portland will have unearthed yet another gem to add to an already-blossoming offense.
If there’s a bottom line to Little’s analysis in 2022-23, it’s that he showed what his work ethic will allow him to do, and as a newly-turned 23-year-old, he’s got plenty more room to ascend if health permits.
A true energy-changer, Little has talked about his willingness to “make the right plays,” even if his box score numbers don’t do it justice. Given the shoot-first talent on the Blazers as currently constructed, that’s precisely what Portland needs at this point in time. But as question marks surrounding the health keep coming about, it’s worth wondering if Nassir Little’s body will ever allow him to truly come up big, as he’s shown he’s capable of in spurts.
The Suns may have stumbled onto something special. Or they we have just acquired another promising talent that either can’t develop due to the roster above him or has the ability to grow due to health issues. Time will tell.
If you want a quality overview of Little, I recommend taking some time out of your day and watching the video below posted by Blazers Uprise.
Little is on the first year of a four-year, $28 million contract, getting paid $6.25 million this season. His contract is something that Phoenix Suns could potentially stack with other assets to trade, although the Phoenix will have to wait until after December 15 to make that happen.
Youth and upside.
Nassir is a young athletic wing who has an affinity for attacking the cylinder. Last season Little took 33% of his shots inside of 10 feet, hitting 56% of those shots. He was a five-star high school prospect when he chose to attend the University of North Carolina and has flashed elite scoring ability. If you’re looking for a firecracker off the bench, he fills that role.
He shot 56% of his shots from three-point range in 2022-23, hitting 36.7% of those attempts, which was a career high. He is an opportunistic player who will certainly sharped the first team’s abilities with his hustle and desire during practice.
Health and off-ball defense.
Like many members of the Suns, health is an issue for Little. He has averaged 48 games played in his four-year career, and on a Portland team in which minutes were being handed out like flyer on the Vegas strip, he couldn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Hips, calves, and shoulders, oh my!
If you are an advanced metrics guy, look the other way when you absorb the defensive numbers. Little lives up to his name as it pertains to his defensive impact. Yep. Using that one in a tweet.
Little lives up to his name as it pertains to his defensive impact. pic.twitter.com/rETr3Za7Yg— John Voita (@DarthVoita) September 30, 2023
He plays defense frantically, which is a clear sign that he hasn’t had the reps to truly understand where he should be on the court at all times. If the Suns do choose to utilize him as a second team option, Frank Vogel would most likely pair him with Josh Okogie and/or Grayson Allen to avoid having his defensive deficiencies exposed.
One Key Factor
Entering year five, it’s not exactly the factor you want to hear, but it is reality. Little has skill and talent. The Suns see something in him. If given the opportunity, he can grow into that player and perhaps develop into a valuable member of the team moving forward.
Dai Miller of Blazer’s Edge stated, “ I would argue that Nassir absolutely has the potential to become a star in this league. I think his ceiling is high and I think we got a brief glimpse into what could be at the beginning of the season. He might be the player I’m most excited to watch on the team next season, assuming he stays.”
He didn’t stay. He’s in Phoenix now.
I like the addition of Little but we’ll have to see how he fits into what Vogel’s vision is. Is this someone who can develop on both ends of the floor and be a productive member of the team? Is he going to be caught in a log jam behind other wings on the roster? Or is his trade-friendly contract going to be appealing to a team on the decline this season?
I’m banking on the latter. My hope is we get to see Little and the offensive hype that surrounds him. But my gut says Phoenix will trade him at some point.