It's been a few seasons since the Phoenix Suns have risen in the NBA standings as they have won a combined 47 games over the past two seasons. It is not all gloom and doom in the desert, as the Suns have drafted well and the future is bright.
At the center of the Suns' plans are a pair of former Kentucky Wildcats in Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. In their one season together at Kentucky, the pair teamed up for a 38-1 season. Now they have the hopes of the franchise on the back and Phoenix management plans to rebuild around them. Earl Watson has said the core of his future teams will have a definite Kentucky influence.
"We have a lot of the core, but we know the centerpiece is obviously Devin Booker," Suns head coach Earl Watson said with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "Eric Bledsoe has been here for a while, which will eventually lead us to the draft when we discuss that later. Tyler Ulis emerged as a core product.
When it comes to building blocks for your franchise, these guys are pretty good.
It's hard to believe that 12 teams passed on Devin Booker two years ago in the draft. Booker scored 70 points in a game this year, and he still can not legally drink. But lest you think Booker is just about that 70 point game, you are dead wrong.
Booker averaged 22.1 points a game and hit 36.3% of his three-pointers, He also averaged 3.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds.
It took an injury for Eric Bledsoe for Tyler Ulis to see consistent minutes but when he got on the floor full time, he produced. Ulis proved his worth as a point guard in the NBA with a 2.94 A/TO ratio, and he showed that he could score as well.
He averaged 7.3 points, but that number was deflated a bit due to his inconsistent minutes earlier in the season. He averaged 22.6 points over his last five games of the season and had games of 34 and 27.
While Booker and Ulis seem set on their futures in Phoenix, the status of Eric Bledsoe seems uncertain as of now. For the second straight season, Bledsoe was shut down early in the season because of knee problems, and he was not happy to be shut down this year. To his credit, he only missed one game before his season was ended.
Bledsoe averaged a career-high 21.1 points and 6.3 assists, so he is definitely a valuable asset. He also grew a great deal as a leader this year and showed he had a great chemistry with Devin Booker. It is the business of the NBA that the Suns may feel the need to move him, however. It remains to be seen what the market may be for a 27-year-old guard with an injury history that is scheduled to make $14.5M.
If the Suns keep Bledsoe, they will have to find a way to carve out the minutes for Ulis as well but this trio can play together, It does appear that Brandon Knight's tenure in Phoenix is over though.
Knight just completed a season in Phoenix in which he played just 54 games and averaged just 11 points a game, which was down from his career best 19.6 last year. He also averaged a career-low 21.1 minutes a game, down from 36 lat year. You don't have to be an expert analyst to see that the emergence of Ulis and the presence of Booker and even Bledsoe are pushing Knight out the door.
The speculation is that the Suns benched Knight when they were unable to move him at the trade deadline. There are rumors that the Suns were looking for a second round draft pick to move Knight then. Regardless, Knight has three years and $43.8M left on his deal, so it will be problematic to find a taker.
It's going to be an interesting offseason in Phoenix to see what happens to the former Kentucky Wildcats, I'd like to see them find a way to keep Bledsoe and it will be fun to watch those three on the same team and Bledsoe can be a great mentor for Ulis. As for Knight, it looks like a clean start is what he needs and just hope it is a place where he can be successful.