In future power rankings, ESPN sees Suns’ timeline as long process

Sep 22, 2017, 6:15 AM | Updated: 8:46 am
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker gestures after he scored a basket, as fans cheer him at TD Garden i...
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker gestures after he scored a basket, as fans cheer him at TD Garden in the fourth quarter of the Suns' NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, March 24, 2017, in Boston. Booker scored 70 points, but the Celtics wonp 130-120. Booker is just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The encouraging, bright future for the Phoenix Suns may not come as soon as fans would prefer.

ESPN insiders Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks formulated NBA power rankings for the next three years. The Suns are ranked 26th in the league.

The Suns have been vocal about their commitment to their young core players, starting with guard Devin Booker and forwards Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson, all of whom are under the age of 21.

With the decision to rely heavily on the young players to ascend the franchise to new heights may be overwhelming to the prospects, the lack of flexibility to make moves next offseason could stall the journey back to the playoffs, Pelton believes.

Of course, there are still questions about those prospects. Booker’s advanced stats haven’t matched his prodigious scoring average, Bender barely played as a rookie, Chriss has struggled to manage his emotions and Jackson’s iffy jumper could limit his offensive value.

For a young team, the Suns also have surprisingly little cap space next summer, though that changes in the summer of 2019 when veterans Eric Bledsoe (a trade candidate), Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley are all free agents. If Phoenix’s young talent shows progress, the Suns could again become an attractive destination.

To analyze the future, the insiders evaluate the teams’ players, management, money situation (cap space), market and draft.

The Suns ranked second-to-last in the league in management and 25th in players talent. The franchise did rank highly in the draft (second), money (sixth) and market (tenth) categories.

Suns center Alex Len is another unknown for the future as he just signed the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, and forward T.J. Warren’s contract also will end in 2019. The franchise will have to figure out if they want to commit to these young players for the long haul.

The Suns found themselves only ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and the Chicago Bulls in the rankings.

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In future power rankings, ESPN sees Suns’ timeline as long process