Generally speaking, teams who find themselves out of the playoff race will make sure their younger players receive plenty of playing time.
The idea, of course, is that a team can afford to let its young players make mistakes on the floor in an effort to help them grow and be ready for the next season.
But the Phoenix Suns are in a bit of a precarious position.
Their 34-32 record has them in 10th place in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind eighth-place New Orleans. On the bubble, there is no reason to throw in the towel just yet. For a team like them, it can be a balancing act deciding which of its many young players should play, if any at all.
In Wednesday night’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin combined for 32 minutes, with Warren — a rookie — scoring 17 points to go along with five rebounds.
“We’re in a situation now where the young guys have to play,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “Archie’s our backup point guard right now. Last night we started Marcus (Morris) and P.J. Tucker, so T.J.’s got to come off the bench.
“But there’s nothing in the way either of those guys, and particularly the way T.J. has played, that regardless of the circumstances I think they would be out there.”
Babby added that the decision will ultimately be up to head coach Jeff Hornacek on who plays.
“But T.J. has played extremely well, and we are still fighting to win every game,” he said. “But I think he gives us a good chance at winning.”
The 14th pick in the 2014 draft out of North Carolina State, Warren has played no fewer than 12 minutes in seven of the team’s last nine games. He has displayed a knack for moving well without the ball, allowing him to be an efficient and effective scorer.
According to Babby, the only area he has struggled some is on defense, but that is to be expected with a rookie.
“Ever since summer league, really, when we saw him here in the draft workouts and obviously Ryan (McDonough) studied him so closely and made, I think, a terrific pick,” Babby said. “He has something that you really can’t teach, and you see it in every game. He has this knack for being in the right place at the right time.
“And that’s not luck; that’s a skill and he gets these put-backs or he’ll steal a ball in the backcourt or he’ll get an offensive rebound. And most of his points are coming in those circumstances and that’s so efficient, and that’s the way he has played since the day he got here and that’s kind of the way he played when we looked at him last summer.”