EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

22 for 22: How G League affiliate could help Suns in NBA Draft

Jun 9, 2024, 8:11 AM

Valley Suns G League team logo...

The G League team, the Valley Suns, will play at Mullett Arena. (Screenshot)

(Screenshot)

There is a way for the Phoenix Suns to add more young talent this offseason by trading down in the 2024 NBA Draft and we went over three names that make some sense a bit deeper down in the draft. If we delve further, toward the draft’s end, another game emerges, one the Suns have all but sat out for years.

For their sake, you’d hope Phoenix gets in on it now with a G League affiliate back in the fold.

Once the second round begins, a game of chicken starts along with it. When the guaranteed contracts of the first round come off the table, certain prospects prefer to just choose where they want to go as undrafted players. Two-way contracts have more or less enabled this, and what happens just moments once the last pick is made is a flurry of two-way signings for some of the top undrafted free agents.

Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort was a prime example of this back in 2019, a process The Athletic’s Doug Haller outlined. Dort didn’t want to go straight to the G League or get stashed overseas like some teams in the 30s had in mind. The two-way contract presented guaranteed money and also a better chance at time in the NBA Year 1. Dort’s agent laid it out.

“We’ve had players in the past that were so desperate to hear their names called that they end up accepting things that might alleviate the immediate pain, but it kind of puts your career in a real tough position.”

We know how this turned out. Dort immediately shined for the Oklahoma City Thunder, earning a (terrible for him) converted extension in 2020 worth under $6 million to guarantee more years before he thankfully for his sake got the bag in 2022 for five years and $87.5 million.

Dort is not alone. Here are rotation players to go undrafted from 2019-21: Los Angeles Clippers wing Amir Coffey, Memphis Grizzlies wing John Konchar, Charlotte Hornets wing Caleb Martin, Cleveland Cavaliers wing Max Strus and forward Dean Wade, New Orleans Pelicans wing Naji Marshall and guard Jose Alvarado, Boston Celtics wing Sam Hauser and Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves.

All of those guys except for Martin (signed to an Exhibit 10 contract) were instant two-way signings within 48 hours of the draft, most of them just a few hours after it ended.

Phoenix just doesn’t do this, instead settling on lesser talent on two-way deals later on in the offseason. Why? No clue. A decent theory is the lack of a G League affiliate from 2020 until last month is perhaps turning those agents and prospects away from the Suns.

Either way, the Suns have to change their line of thinking with this admittedly small portion of the offseason. They have to get more aggressive once the first round ends and start pitching their situation. This is where everything touted at the organization’s unveiling comes into play. An elite practice situation for a G League franchise, strong arena location and so on. It’s a win-win for them, since it would also bolster the Valley Suns into a more recognizable product straight from the jump.

Of the handful of Suns draft workouts confirmed thus far, only Cal’s Jaylon Tyson and USC’s Bronny James are the two names that are surely going to be selected. The rest will likely go undrafted. For those reading that are somewhat familiar with this past college basketball season, there’s lots of talent outside the top-50. For ESPN’s board that factors in front office intel as well, just a few are Marquette big Oso Ighodaro, UConn guards Cam Spencer and Tristen Newton, Clemson big P.J. Hall and Oregon big N’Faly Dante.

Two other names are Baylor wing Jalen Bridges and Houston point guard Jamal Shead, a pair we highlighted as trade-down targets. Just last year, Indiana big Trayce Jackson-Davis fit this mold and was selected 57th, five spots before Dayton wing Toumani Camara went to the Suns and was dealt to Portland. Both were impactful rotation players as rookies.

The success rate is obviously low for what we’re talking about here. But any chance, even the slightest, that provides the Suns a rotation player out of virtually nothing should be capitalized on. Maybe the Valley Suns help them achieve that.

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