By: Sam Block
The last time the Phoenix Suns made the NBA postseason was the 2009-2010 season. For people who do not know much about the NBA, that is absolutely pathetic. It feels like bad news has been pouring down on the Phoenix Suns organization for years on end. Let me tell you something Suns fans, the rainbow is coming. Sitting at 8-14, 4th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference, and already on their second coach of the 2017-2018 NBA season, saying the rainbow is coming may seem blasphemous. However, despite the fact that countless NBA analysts and journalists are doubting the future of the Phoenix Suns, I am here to tell you that it has a bright and prosperous outlook.
After starting this season off at 0-3, the Suns decided to make a quick and somewhat surprising decision, by electing to fire head coach Earl Watson. Jay Triano was named interim coach, and since that decision, the Suns are 7-11. I do not think firing Watson so early was a wise move, but I also do not think it will have much bearing on the Suns’ future. If anything, the organization was sending a message to its players that it is no longer willing to deal with consistent losing. Now by no means do I feel that the Suns are going to quickly start winning consistently at this stage in their rebuild, but I do think the organization is on the rise.
Something that continues to surprise me is the fact that so many NBA experts continue to doubt the future of the Phoenix Suns. Praise has consistently been given to the future of the Los Angeles Lakers when they are sitting at 8-12, only slightly better than the current record of the Suns. While players like Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Jordan Clarkson certainly seem enticing… the Suns have a few enticing pieces as well. If guys like Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Alex Len, Josh Jackson, Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender don’t excite you…I think you may want to check your pulse.
For starters let’s talk about Devin Booker. The guy is averaging 22.5 points per game, 4.2 assists per game, and 4.2 rebounds per game at the age of 21. He is a future all-star. Book it. Now let’s move on to TJ Warren, a 24-year-old out of NC State, averaging 18.6 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game in just his 4th year in the league. Warren is severely underrated and can score at will. As long as he stays healthy, I think he has all-star upside as well. Alex Len has been labeled a bust already in his career by some. Not so fast. The 7’1”, 250 lbs. center out of Ukraine is no joke at only 24 years of age. Len is averaging a near double-double with 9.0 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game in just 22.9 minutes per game. That is absolutely remarkable and when he is given more minutes, LOOK OUT!
Josh Jackson has shown flashes early on and undoubtedly has all the talent in the world. Standing at 6’8” and 200 lbs., Jackson has a ridiculously high ceiling. He has struggled at times in his rookie season but will become a perennial all-star once he reaches his prime. Tyler Ulis is 5’10” in high-tops and 160 lbs. soaking wet, but that’s what makes him so enticing. His ability to spark an offense was clearly evident at Kentucky and Isaiah Thomas proved we should never doubt a guy just because he may be a little bit smaller than other NBA players. Don’t bet against Tyler Ulis. He is 21-years-old and has proven he can compete with anybody. Don’t forget about the two 20-year-old power forwards the Suns have as well. Marquese Chriss is averaging 1.2 blocks per game in the NBA. How many 20-year-olds are doing that right now? Dragan Bender has struggled out of the gate but is 7’1” and was the 4th overall pick last season. Do not write him off just yet.
The average age of the seven Phoenix Suns players I just discussed is between 21 and 22 years old. Now for some reason, everyone is worried about the Suns. Stop worrying about the future of a team with this type of young core. Look at the Philadelphia 76ers right now. The Sixers were terrible for years and now look like they are on the cusp of becoming a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference. Phoenix needs to start “Trusting the Process” because that is what Philly did and there are many teams that would love to be in the position of the 76ers for the next decade. As long as the Suns zone in on a disciplined head coach, continue to find minutes to develop their young players, and keep strong veteran leaders like Tyson Chandler in the locker room, they will be able to maximize and exceed their enormous potential.
In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors are going to continue to win. The Houston Rockets are going to continue to win. The San Antonio Spurs are going to continue to win as long as Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard are around. The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to get better and better. Then in the Eastern Conference you have that guy named LeBron James and you have the Boston Celtics who completed the quickest rebuild in recent NBA history, who are both going to continue to win. It is in Phoenix’s best interest to just relax, not fire head coaches on the whim, and continue to build a team that will one day be able to compete for championships. First round exits at the hands of the Warriors and Spurs is not the goal here people, championship banners are. The Phoenix Suns currently have a grand total of zero NBA Championship banners. If they choose to be the second version of “Trust the Process”, that zero will change within the next 10 years. Keep your heads up Phoenix, the rainbow is coming.