Mat Ishbia teases Suns G League announcement coming soon

Jul 17, 2023, 3:19 PM

The logo of the Northern Arizona Suns at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott, AZ. (Photo by Alec ...

The logo of the Northern Arizona Suns at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott, AZ. (Photo by Alec Henden/Cronkite News)

(Photo by Alec Henden/Cronkite News)

It doesn’t sound like the Phoenix Suns are going to go much longer without a G League team.

Owner Mat Ishbia teased on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Monday that an announcement on a potential new affiliate for the Suns is coming very soon.

“That won’t be something you will be talking about in a week or two,” Ishbia said on the Suns being the only NBA franchise without a G League team.

Phoenix purchased what was previously the Bakersfield Jam in 2016 to becomes its exclusive G League affiliate and then moved the team to Prescott Valley, where they became the Northern Arizona Suns. Under previous owner Robert Sarver, the Suns sold the team to the Detroit Pistons in 2020.

“We believe in developing young players. … In the very near future, hopefully we’ll be able to announce a different strategy on that,” Ishbia said.

The most direct benefit of having a G League organization is for a NBA team to send its own two-way players, as well as other young players not in the rotation, back and forth so those guys can get as much playing time as possible. Those two-way players only have a certain amount of games they can be active in NBA games before that amount expires and they have to be signed on a standard contract to play again for the franchise that season.

Ish Wainright was converted to a standard contract last season while guard Saben Lee couldn’t be active in the playoffs but was still able to practice with the team and be around on a day-to-day basis.

Phoenix was still able to send its two-way players to another G League affiliate. The issue there, though, is the Suns would obviously want their own players learning the same system and sticking to their principles that are applied at both levels. Since the sale of the NAZ Suns, Phoenix rarely sent two-way players on assignment.

In addition, an organization operating its own G League team allows it to evaluate more players under their roof that could potentially make the NBA roster.

This season, teams are allowed to have three two-way contracts on the books, meaning a roster can now hold up to 18 players. Lee was re-signed by the Suns and the two other spots remain open.


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