Every G-League affiliate’s goal is to put out a competitive product on the court every night, and more importantly serve as a developmental pipeline for the NBA team they are paired with. I believe now more than ever the NAZ Suns are on the right track to became exactly that for the Phoenix Suns, as they are in sync with one another from top to bottom.
I spoke with General Manager Jeff Feld and Head Coach Bret Burchard about what their communication is like with James Jones and Monty Williams and what their team-building and scouting philosophies entail. We also dive into standout performer and number one overall pick Anthony Lawrence II in his first season with the NAZ Suns and how he could become an important piece moving forward.
Both Feld and Burchard stated that they are in touch with James Jones and Monty Williams on a daily basis and they split time between Prescott and Phoenix. They report directly to James, along with Jeff Bower and the entire player-developmental staff, giving them an tremendous amount of support and understanding of what the goals are organizationally.
It’s no secret that communication (or lack thereof) has been an issue for the Phoenix Suns in the past, so it’s refreshing to see how connected this group is.
GM Jeff Feld says he looks for players that fit into the mold than Monty likes to play with and plug into his system. “It’s a two-part equation of finding both developmental guys like Jalen (Lecque), Jared (Harper) and also players that can help our developmental prospects as complimentary pieces. Finding the balance between development while remaining competitive and trying win games is important.”
Feld (first year as GM) drafted Anthony Lawrence II with the first overall pick, which is proving to be an excellent addition to the team. Lawrence II is slashing a incredibly efficient 55/55/83 shooting splits. He’s averaging 14.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG & 2.5 APG through six games this season.
“Anthony was very intriguing for us because of his playmaking ability and shooting. He grew up playing point guard and his Dad is a high school coach so he has that basketball pedigree. He also had a growth spurt so we really like that size and play-making upside, he’s a really smart player. (He) handled the ball at end of game situations for Miami, and showed impressive decision-making and of course the shooting component that we thought could translate at the next level.”
Feld went on to add that, “We envisioned him as someone that could be a one- or two-year developmental project and a long-term fit and convert his contract into a 2-way or potentially even roster spot in the NBA. Lots of upside with him.”
Suns fans should keep a close eye on him (Lawrence) throughout the year and follow his progression as a potential play-making shooting threat from the wing that could one day play in Phoenix.
Building a well-balanced team that emulates what the Suns are trying to accomplish in their own way is a very nice approach. Coach Bret Burchard said, “We stay connected with the Suns front office and try to teach them the same philosophies that Monty preaches. Play hard. Compete. Defend. Share the ball. If we can do those things then we’ve got a chance.”
Quotes like that have to be music to the Phoenix Suns ears as they can feel confident in sending down younger players or injured players in to get reps in and not miss a beat. My takeaway after being around the team and talking with the brain trust is that whoever is assigned to the NAZ Suns is in good hands, and that’s exactly what you need from a developmental perspective.
Ty Jerome update: He should remain with the team for a couple more games (they play today and tomorrow) and is still on a minutes-restriction as he works his way back from his ankle injury.
“His assignment is purely rehabilitative, trying to get his conditioning and rhythm back. He can play 3-on-3 or practice all he wants, but nothing gets you back into game shape like playing in a real game. Getting him back to game speed is the point of us assigning him, we’ll see how he reacts and go from there,” said GM Jeff Feld.
I asked coach Burchard about the challenge of adding Jerome to the roster on the fly and he said it’s not too challenging because they have similar systems and run Phoenix’s offense. They also use the same terminology and defensive schemes, making it an easy transition for Ty or anyone else they plug in there.
“He’s been a complete professional, he did a great job of coming in and participating, contributing, competing and being a good teammate,” said Burchard of Ty Jerome.
The NAZ Suns play tonight and the game tips off tonight at 6 PM against the Sioux Falls Skyforce.