DOUG AND WOLF

Suns coach Watson: Core is growing, but centerpiece is Devin Booker

Apr 25, 2017, 3:00 PM
Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson looks on against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of an NB...
Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson looks on against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 127-120. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
LISTEN: Earl Watson, Suns head coach

After finishing with a 24-58 record last season, it’s no surprise the Phoenix Suns’ future is surrounded by some big questions.

Who will Phoenix select in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft? What are the organization’s plans in free agency?

And most importantly, which players will be part of the Suns core moving forward?

“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. T.J. Warren emerged as a great core product. Marquese (Chriss), Dragan (Bender), big Al (Williams) to me could potentially be in that core, if not already is in that core depending on free agency.”

Booker avoided the NBA sophomore slump in a big way, averaging 22.1 points per game this past season. Ulis had some decent games at the end of the year, averaging 13.2 points after the All Star break, and Warren averaged 14.4 points per game for the year.

Despite being shut down after March 12, Bledsoe had a terrific year, averaging 21.1 points and 6.3 assists per game. However, some think he could soon be traded.

Bledsoe isn’t the only player whose future in Phoenix could get a bit cloudy.

“We have to make a decision on Alex Len. We have a lot of potential possibilities,” Watson said. “And that was the biggest part of the end of the season, was to create so much value around so many players.”

Len averaged 8.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his fourth year in the league and averaged 20.3 minutes per game which was ninth on the team.

While Len’s future is somewhat uncertain, Watson knows Phoenix has some needs. The Suns ranked 19th in the NBA in field goal percentage, shooting 45.0 percent from the field. Phoenix was even worse from beyond the arc, as they shot 33.2 percent from three-point range last season, which was fourth-worst in the league.

“We obviously need shooting, we need to be able to spread the court. Devin Booker has shown he can play off the ball he can play with the ball, he’s more dominant with the ball,” Watson said. “So we need people who will shoot around him, and shooting around Bledsoe as well.”

Watson also noted the need for defensive improvement, but saw some encouraging signs from his players.

“We need also defensive length and athletic ability, which we’ve seen Derrick Jones bring us. We’ve seen Marquese Chriss play the five and protect the rim,” Watson said. “So we need to continue to have that high energy defensively.”

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