Phoenix Suns announce plans for new G League team

Feb 14, 2024, 9:13 AM | Updated: 3:28 pm

Northern Arizona Suns...

Northern Arizona Suns (X Photo/@nazsuns)

(X Photo/@nazsuns)

The Phoenix Suns on Wednesday announced they have acquired the right to operate their own G League team that will debut next season.

The Suns are the only NBA organization currently without a G League affiliate.

A name for the team will be decided via a public contest, as the NBA’s team was named before it debuted in 1968. The new G League team will be located in the Phoenix metro area.

Submissions for potential names will be taken through Feb. 28, and fans can visit to lend their ideas.

The final naming and logo will be decided upon by the spring.

“Bringing a G League team to Phoenix was one of my first priorities as owner,” Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Mat Ishbia said in a statement.

“Adding a G League team creates another area for us to compete to be the best and will be a vital tool to help develop players and coaches. Just like the Suns and Mercury, our G League team will serve as a community asset and make a positive impact on and off the court.”

The addition of a Suns G League team would expand the league to 32 teams. That gives all 30 NBA clubs a G League squad, in addition to the G League Ignite that is rostered with high-profile draft prospects and the Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico, who do not have affiliates in the NBA.

“We are honored to welcome Mat Ishbia and the Phoenix Suns to the NBA G League, and are thrilled to achieve our long-stated goal that each of the 30 NBA teams has an NBA G League affiliate,” said NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim in a release.

“The NBA G League has never been more valuable to NBA teams than it is today, and the Suns’ investment only reinforces that reality. I can’t wait to join fans in the Valley next season to enjoy the unique brand of NBA G League basketball.”

What is the Phoenix Suns’ history of G League teams?

Phoenix under former owner Robert Sarver in 2020 sold its prior G League team, the Northern Arizona Suns, to the Detroit Pistons. That franchise is now called the Motor City Cruise.

The Suns initially entered a hybrid agreement to work with the Bakersfield Jam D-league franchise in 2014 before the NBA team bought the Jam two years later under Sarver.

The team soon moved to Prescott Valley in 2016 and was rebranded as the Northern Arizona Suns. Current NBA contributors Derrick Jones Jr. and De’Anthony Melton were among the Suns players who spent time on the Northern Arizona Suns before finding more secure roles in the league.

Ishbia had teased a Suns G League announcement in July on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo.

“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.

Nearly 60% of players on NBA rosters at the start of the 2023-24 season had some experience in the G League, while eight NBA head coaches have spent time in the minor league.

The Suns have a trio of two-way players who would have potentially earned more playing time with a G League affiliate: guard Saben Lee, center Udoka Azubuike and guard Theo Maledon.

Having an affiliate close by will allow the Suns to send its two-way players on assignment under the same roof where they can play in systems that translate to the NBA squad. The franchise could also evaluate more players for opportunities to play in the NBA.

None of Phoenix’s two-way players have played in G League games this season even though the Suns can send them to another G League affiliate for reps.

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