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Phoenix Suns 2017-18 Season Preview

Will this be the year the impressive youth in Phoenix breaks out? We take a look at the 2017-18 Suns in this preview.

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It’s been a quiet off-season for the Phoenix Suns. Outside of the draft, the team has done little to add to the roster. Around them, the Western Conference has seen an influx of star talent and player movement: Paul George; Paul Millsap; Chris Paul; the list goes on. How will the Suns fair come training camp and the regular season? Here’s a look.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

To hear people talk, Devin Booker could be the reincarnation of Kobe Bryant. His 70-point game last season put him on people’s maps as the league’s next great scorer, and it’s hard to argue with that logic, even this early in his career. He is really good at scoring the basketball, but so far he hasn’t been good enough to lift his team out of the West’s lower half and return the Suns to the playoffs. That day might be coming, though, especially with athletic kids like Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss giving fans further optimism for what lies ahead. Phoenix isn’t ready for primetime just yet, but the pieces are starting to look like they’re in place. With great veteran leadership in place, the Suns are rising in the West.

3rd Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

Another year, another top-five draft pick joins the Phoenix Suns.

This season, Josh Jackson joins the Suns as the next part of their youth movement that already features the likes of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, and Alex Len. Phoenix is adopting their own long-term moniker a la the Philadelphia 76ers, and laying out “The Timeline” for fans in hopes to set the tone for the bigger picture.

At the center of it all is Booker. After his breakout year last season, and with some help along the wing coming in by the way of Jackson this season, Booker could really be headed for that next jump in terms of performance. With Brandon Knight lost for the season with a torn ACL and Eric Bledsoe constantly involved in trade rumors, the Suns look to be headed towards another season with a sub-.500 winning percentage. But, with budding young talent already in-house for Phoenix, their timeline may not be as drawn out as some other rebuilds around the league.

5th place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

From a team-building angle, the 2017-18 season should be a straightforward exercise for the Phoenix Suns. They don’t have to “tank,” per se – with the amount of youth in prominent places on their roster plus the relative lack of Western Conference teams actively looking to be bad, a lot of losing will come organically. The Suns can get tons of experience for young guys like Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and Marquese Chriss, all of whom should be able to play huge roles without fear of any negative scoreboard effects. The Suns should jockey with the Lakers for the bottom seed out West and in the Pacific, which will put them in position for yet another elite building block in a top-heavy 2018 draft.

5th place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The 2017-18 season will be another developmental season for the Phoenix Suns, who have not made the playoff since 2010. Phoenix drafted Josh Jackson from Kansas with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. Jackson is another talented prospect for Phoenix’s impressive young core, which includes Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis and T.J. Warren. The Suns still have a few veterans who no longer fit on this developing roster, such as Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley. Don’t be surprised if Phoenix aggressively looks to trade some of these veterans in exchange for draft assets or young talent.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

Tanking stinks. From a basketball perspective it’s dreadfully bad, but when you look at the treasure trove of young players the Suns are amassing, it’s simply a matter of time before they start to turn the corner and become really good. There is too much talent there for it not to happen. The problem for Suns fans is that this year won’t be that year – but like Philadelphia has preached, trusting the process can yield a lot more than quick fix trades or overpriced free agent signings. The Suns have a promising core. It’s time for them to learn and grow together because next season could be when they break out of the basement.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Steve Kyler

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Devin Booker

Devin Booker’s 70-point game against the Boston Celtics last season was just a flash of the almost limitless offensive potential he possesses. Booker paced the Suns last season by scoring 22.1 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from three with a true shooting percentage of 53.1 percent. Booker led the team in usage percentage and minutes played as well, coming in at 28.6 percent and 2,730 minutes, respectively. Going into his third season, expect those trends to continue and expect Booker to further improve upon his numbers.

Top Defensive Player: Alan Williams

Alan Williams rarely saw the floor for the Suns early on in the season, averaging just 7.2 minutes per game in the first half. When given consistent playing time after the All-Star break, however, Williams was a beast. In 24 second half games, Williams registered 20 steals, 18 blocks and pulled in 155 defensive rebounds in just over 22 minutes per game. Per 100 possessions, Williams’ numbers jump off the page at 13.4 defensive rebounds in addition to 1.8 steals and 2.2 blocks. Williams block percentage of 3.7 percent would have ranked 16th best in the league had he played in enough games to qualify as well. The defensive talent is there and, with enough playing time, Williams should be a defensive force for the Suns next season.

Top Playmaker: Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe showed the NBA what he can do with a full slate of games at his disposal. Last season, amidst plenty of trade rumors, Bledsoe averaged a career high in points and assist with 21.1 and 6.3 per game, respectively. Bledsoe’s assist percentage of 31.1 percent led the Suns, as did his 418 total assists and four offensive win shares. While trade rumors continue to swirl around Bledsoe, he is still a part of the team and will be a main fixture in the offense next to Booker in the starting lineup.

Top Clutch Player: Eric Bledsoe

Most would expect Booker to take this spot, but in clutch time it was Bledsoe who was the go-to player on the floor for the Suns last year. Across 31 games with five minutes left in the fourth quarter or overtime and a point differential of five or less, Bledsoe shot 42 of 92, good for a 45.7 field goal percentage while also shooting eight of 22 (36.4 percent) from three. Booker was not too shabby himself, shooting 39 of 94 in clutch time across 34 games, good for a 41.5 percent field goal percentage. Booker, however, shot just seven of 27 (25.9 percent) from three. While both are excellent clutch time shooters in their own right, Bledsoe gets the nod for his superior shooting percentages.

The Unheralded Player: Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler started in 47 of the first 57 games for the Suns last season, but did not make an on-court appearance for the rest of the season. The reason to consider Chandler unheralded is not for his on-court production, however, but because of the guidance and advice he can provide for the Suns’ up-and-coming roster. A 16-year NBA veteran, Chandler was an integral part of the Dallas Mavericks title run in the 2011 season. That experience is almost invaluable to the Suns, who have very little playoff exposure outside of Chandler and fellow veteran Jared Dudley

Best New Addition: Josh Jackson

The Suns haven’t made many additions this offseason but, even if they had, Josh Jackson probably would still be the best of them. His shooting may be a work in progress, but the effort and intensity he brings on the defensive end will be a boon for the Suns starting lineup. With a defensive rating of 109.3, Phoenix was one of the worst defensive units in the NBA last season; Jackson’s energy and attitude should provide a much-needed boost.

– Shane Rhodes

WHO WE LIKE

1. Devin Booker

Booker carried plenty of momentum into the end of the regular season. In 22 games following the All-Star break, he averaged 24.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists; had he averaged those across the season, Booker would have been one of just eight to average those numbers, bumping shoulders with the likes of LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and others. With another offseason of training under his belt, expect a dominant season from Booker.

2. Eric Bledsoe

If Bledsoe can remain healthy for the entire season — a big if — the Suns have a big chance of improving on their 24 and 58 record from a season ago. Bledsoe was flat-out dominant at times last season and, barring a trade, should be able to easily replicate his numbers from last season.

3. Josh Jackson

Jackson won’t solely contribute on the defensive end. While his jumper has its problems, he is a great basket cutter and Jackson’s explosiveness and athleticism will play a huge role in his offensive success as he makes the transition from college to the NBA. In his lone season at Kentucky, Jackson averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. While it’s hard to expect those numbers from any rookie, Jackson should have no trouble making an impact early and often for the Suns on both ends of the floor.

4. Alan Williams

After his mini-breakout in the second half of the season, Williams will likely be allotted plenty of minutes in the upcoming season. While he doesn’t stretch the floor much — Williams attempted just one three-pointer last season — Williams is a great rebounder and paint-presence. Per 100 possession, Williams averaged 23.4 points, an absurd 19.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.2 blocks. While Williams won’t be the offensive fulcrum for the Suns, if he’s surrounded by floor stretchers patrolling the paint should be an easy task for him.

SALARY CAP 101

The Suns are currently $6.3 million under the NBA’s $99.1 million salary cap. That includes Alex Len’s $12.1 million cap hold as a restricted free agent. Phoenix cannot rescind their $4.2 million qualifying offer to Len without his approval. The team otherwise has 15 players under contract with Elijah Millsap and Derrick Jones non-guaranteed. If Len agrees to move on and the Suns cut Millsap and Jones, they’d drop to $21.2 million below the cap. The team also has its $4.3 million Room Exception available.

Eric Bledsoe has just one year remaining on his contract after this season. The Suns may want to look to move him before he fits free agency in July of 2019. As currently constructed, Phoenix projects to have $21.4 million in spending power next year. The franchise also needs to decide, before the start of the coming season, on the team options of Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Devin Booker.

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

Youth is certainly a strong point for the Suns, who currently roster seven players under the age of 25 (eight including Alex Len, who is currently a restricted free agent). The average age of their roster, 24.8 years, remains one of the lowest in the league despite hosting several older veterans such as Chandler and Jared Dudley. While other teams may lag at the end of the season, the Suns’ youth should keep them energized down the final stretch. Another strength for the Suns is their plethora of big men. Williams, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender are all under the age of 25 and flashed major upside when on the floor last season. While Williams is a more traditional big man, Chriss and Bender are capable of stretching the floor beyond the three-point line, which should be a major boost for the Suns in the coming season.

– Shane Rhodes

WEAKNESSES

Earl Watson may be respected by his peers and his players, but coaching is one of the Suns’ more glaring problems. Under his watch, the Suns have a 33-82 record; not promising for a team hoping to ride its young talent to the promised land. It’s not completely Watson’s fault the Suns have stumbled, but should they falter again in 2017 expect him to be on the hot-seat. Youth –something that could be considered a strength — could also be a weakness for Phoenix. Closing out games could be a problem for the team, as could their lack of experience down the stretch.

– Shane Rhodes

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can the Phoenix Suns finally make the leap in 2017?

This question has seemingly been asked of the Suns for the past several years. But with improvements made almost across the Western Conference, don’t expect the Suns to be making any playoff push come May. The team remains relatively unchanged from last season and with the likes of Paul George, Paul Millsap and others joining the West, expect the Suns’ regular season record in 2017 to look similar to their record in 2016.

– Shane Rhodes

The Brooklyn Nets Preview dropped yesterday, and the LA Lakers Preview will drop later today. Keep swinging by Basketball Insiders for new team previews every day all the way to the start of NBA Training Camps.

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NBA Daily: Three Teams Treading Water In The West

While the Clippers have surged into the playoff picture, the Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are barely staying afloat out West.

Buddy Grizzard

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While the L.A. Clippers have surged into the Western Conference playoff picture on the crest of a six-game win streak, the Trail Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are stumbling toward the All-Star break with records around .500 over their last 10 games.

All four teams are within a game of each other and hovering around the playoff cut line. For teams that are treading water, the second half of the season will be a struggle for consistency in a brutal playoff race that promises to leave a good team on the outside looking in.

Although Richard Jefferson is winding down a storied career and barely playing for the Nuggets, he often takes the role of elder statesman in media scrums. After the Nuggets became the latest victim of the red-hot Clippers Wednesday, Jefferson said they should not be underestimated.

“They’ve been a playoff team for many, many years,” said Jefferson. “They’ve dealt with some injuries but, for the most part, I think they’re going to be in the hunt for the playoffs just like we are.”

Jefferson was also asked about the Nuggets’ late-game execution and pointed to the team’s overall youth with major addition Paul Millsap missing extended time due to injury.

“We’re getting to a spot of being a little bit more consistent in those moments,” said Jefferson. “But ultimately, I think guys are still learning. Most of the guys that are in these positions are in these positions for the first time. I think we’ll continue getting better as the season goes on.”

Meanwhile, the Pelicans experienced its own setback Wednesday in a loss to an Atlanta Hawks team that’s tied for the second-worst record in the league. For now, the Pelicans hold the seventh seed. It will be up to the continuing evolution of the Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins pairing to keep New Orleans trending in the right direction.

“For us, we’re two guys who can shoot the ball, handle it, pass,” said Davis after the loss in Atlanta. “We’ve got a lot of guys around us who are capable of making plays. I think we compliment each other. There’s still some stuff we still want to get better at as a unit.”

Davis went into further detail about what makes the rare pairing of two elite big men work.

“Cuz is always spacing the floor,” said Davis. “One guy’s inside, the other one’s outside. We set screens for each other, throw lobs for each other. So it’s tough for bigs to try to play that. When we set a pin-down for myself or DeMarcus, most four or fives are not used to that.”

Davis came into the game with 30 or more points in three straight games and seven of the previous 10—he’s been on a massive roll. However, that streak came to an end as Davis hit only two of eight shots for eight points. Hawks rookie John Collins scored 18 while dealing with the issues Davis described.

“You’ve got A.D. on the one hand and then you’ve got Boogie on the other hand,” said Collins. “[They’re] some of the best bigs in the league, very skilled guys, obviously a handful to deal with.”

Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore led Atlanta with 20 points and hit the final shot in the waning moments to secure the victory. Bazemore is a player the Pelicans could conceivably pursue at the trade deadline to address wing issues.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are dealing with questions of whether a team built around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can become competitive with the West’s upper echelon. Marc Stein of the New York Times went so far as to predict that Portland’s backcourt could be broken up this year.

“No one’s suggesting it’ll happen before the Feb. 8 trade deadline,” Stein wrote. “But Portland’s latest so-so season threatens to be the impetus that finally pushes the longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen in a new direction.”

This is the time of year when NBA teams take stock and have to decide if they are properly constructed or need to look at changes. With the Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Nuggets barely keeping pace in the playoff race, few other teams will be more heavily scrutinized — internally as well as externally — as the trade deadline approaches.

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NBA Daily: Things To Watch Heading Into Trade Season

Two of our experts identify four teams and four players to keep an eye on during trade season.

Basketball Insiders

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With memories of DeMarcus Cousins being told that he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during his postgame availability at last season’s All-Star game, the NBA moved the trade deadline up.

This season, the deadline falls on February 8, and all there has been a lot of discussion leading into next month’s deadline.

We asked Moke Hamilton and Lang Greene to weigh in on some items to keep an eye on over the next three weeks.

Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors

This year’s trade deadline will probably lack big names getting moved, but teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets are within sniffing distance of a playoff berth for the first time in years. It will be interesting to see if their respective front offices swing for the fences to achieve the goal.

There are three ways to improve a roster or prepare for the future in the NBA. The methods are free agency, trade and the annual draft. Trade deadline deals are risky. There are a lot of deals each season which involve players on the verge of hitting the free agent market. Teams acquiring these take the risk that they’re only “renting” those guys until the season concludes.

At the end of the day, though, the two biggest names we may see moved are Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors.

Mirotic has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, but the fourth-year forward is by far having his best season as a professional despite his minutes remaining flat. On a per 36 minute basis, Mirotic is averaging 25.1 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis made headlines before the season for their fight, which led plenty of missed time for the forward. Mirotic’s name has been mentioned on the block ever since this incident, but it’s clear the Bulls have integrated him back into their rotation fully. Still, the team is believed to simply be waiting for the right time and trade partner and that Mirotic’s days in Chicago are numbered.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls plan to be patient in fielding calls for Mirotic, while the player has deflected all talks to his representatives.

“I didn’t talk to [the Bulls’ front office recently],” he said. “Probably my agents are talking, so I don’t know so far what’s going on, but I know my name is going to be out there. I’m doing my job, and I’m sure they’re doing their job, and we’re both going to do what’s best for the team.”

Mirotic has a no-trade clause built into his contract and would have to waive it prior to completing any deal, unless the Bulls were to guarantee the team option on the final year of his contract for 2018-19. Don’t count on that, though.

With respect to Favors, he battled injuries the past two seasons but has remained relatively healthy to begin this campaign. The forward is shooting a career high from the field, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Jazz have dangled him in trade talks since the beginning of the season.

Favors was one of the central parts of the Deron Williams trade years ago, but could be expendable because of the emergence of center Rudy Gobert in the Jazz’s frontcourt. The forward is on the books for $12.5 million this season and was most recently linked to the aforementioned Mirotic in trade talks between Utah and Chicago.

– Lang Greene

DeAndre Jordan and Paul George

Heading into deadline season, there’s not much out there to suggest that we’ll see any superstar-caliber players moved. With the likes of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving among the players that switched teams over the summer, it seems that most NBA teams that have difference-makers on their rosters are in construction mode—they’re trying to compete with the Cavs or the Warriors.

The two superstar players who merit some discussion, though, are DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.

With respect to Jordan, the Clippers find themselves in a very peculiar situation. With Chris Paul having defected to the Houston Rockets, it’s easy to conclude that the Clippers are no longer a true contender. Still, they’ve played so well over the past few weeks (including scoring a victory over Paul and his Rockets) that it seems a difficult proposition to proactively pull the plug.

Still, though, as written in this past Sunday’s column, it’s time for the Clippers to trade Jordan, mainly because a team that is heading toward a rebuild can’t afford to lose a player of his caliber for nothing, and that’s quite possible unless the Clippers fork over a max contract to Jordan this summer. The proposition wouldn’t be wise, particularly because it could cost the Clippers a first round pick in one of the upcoming drafts.

He’s definitely a player that should be watched.

Paul George, on the other hand, doesn’t appear likely to be headed out of Oklahoma City. The team is reportedly committed to keeping him for the duration of the season, with the hope being that the Thunder will get their act together and win a round or two in the playoffs. With the team still hovering around .500, it seems a long shot.

There are some, however, that believe that the Thunder should at least see what might be available to them in exchange for George, especially with the team trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him. That’s especially true with Oladipo closing in on what certainly appears to be his first All-Star selection.

– Moke Hamilton

Dallas Mavericks Are Open For Business

The Dallas Mavericks are in a clear rebuild and the prospect of making the playoffs is more dream than reality this season, but the team does have some things going for it.

The Mavs have roughly $13 million in cap space, which puts them in a prime spot to acquire talent at the deadline without giving up any of their players in return. In fact, Mark Cuban went on the record and said exactly that.

“I would say we are looking to use our cap space actively,” Cuban told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “We will take back salary to get picks or guys we think can play.”

The Mavericks have the second-lowest payroll in the league, but Cuban has been known to spend money to acquire relevant talent. The team hasn’t had much success in in attracting free agents in recent years, and with the Hall of Fame career of Dirk Nowitzki coming to an end, the team is undoubtedly looking to retool.

– Lang Greene

Cavs and Lakers Each Likely To Do Something

It’s a poorly kept secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have had their sights set on acquiring a superstar or two this coming summer. With Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James among those who could hit the market in July, the Lakers have quite a bit of incentive to try to rid themselves of the contracts of Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson.

Where things get interesting for the Lakers is with the emergence of several of their young players this season. Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma and to a lesser extent Josh Hart have each given the team impressive minutes this season. If the Lakers feel they have a real shot at signing James and, say, DeMarcus Cousins, it may be enough for them to package Deng and/or Clarkson with one of their promising young players and perhaps a future draft pick.

It’s certainly something I’d keep my eyes on.

And speaking of future draft picks, with the Cavs not taking their standing in the Eastern Conference for granted, one can only wonder the extent to which the Nets’ first round pick this coming season is burning a hole in their pockets. Aside from the Nets pick, though, the Cavs do own their own first round pick, which could be enough for them to pry the likes of a player like Mirotic or Favors from their current team.

There has also been some conjecture revolving around the availability of Tristan Thompson, with one interesting scenario having the Cavs and Clippers at least contemplating a trade involving Thompson and Jordan.

The Cavs and Lakers each have too much at stake to not do something.

– Moke Hamilton

Only 21 Days To Go…

With the trade deadline exactly three weeks from today, talks will certainly heat up.

For now, though, the Mavs, Cavs and Lakers appear to be the teams most involved in conversations, with Nikola Mirotic, Derrick Favors and DeAndre Jordan among those most likely to be dealt.

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Young Glad To Reunite With McGee, Embracing Chance With Warriors

Spencer Davies chats with JaVale McGee and Nick Young about the sharpshooter’s first year with the Warriors.

Spencer Davies

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You never forget where you started.

As first-round draft picks with only a year apart between them, Nick Young and JaVale McGee began their respective careers in our nation’s capital with the Washington Wizards.

That’s where a bond began. Despite a tumultuous four-year stay with an organization that never sniffed the playoffs and finished dead last in the Central Division three times in the span, the two remained close friends.

Almost a decade later, “Swaggy P” and “Pierre” are reunited. Only this time, it’s with the NBA’s defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“Just shows,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “We’ve both been in this league for a long time and people didn’t think we was gonna make it this far and that’s a blessing. We’ll continue to do it and prove people wrong. From the bottom to the top, you know what I’m sayin’?”

McGee agrees wholeheartedly. Winning his first title with the Warriors last summer, he’s learned quite a few things about the healthy climate within the organization that Young, at first, was surprised by.

“It’s definitely a different environment,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “Even when he came here, he asked certain questions of stuff he could and couldn’t do just because the environment that we used to be in was real restrictive of things that really didn’t have to do with basketball.

“Here it’s a player’s team, so they do a really good job of catering to us.”

In regards to his on-court fit with Golden State, McGee feels that Young has adjusted accordingly throughout the season.

“I feel like he’s fit in well,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “Definitely got his conditioning right and he’s pretty good getting in the system, figuring out the screen system that we have here, so he’s doing a pretty good job.”

Though he hasn’t played as much as he’s used to, Young is truly enjoying his transition with the Warriors. He says it’s been the most fun he’s had in his career.

“Just being in the winning circle,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Being around good teammates, good people and just competing for a championship man. We fightin’ for something big. It’s my first time being a part of something like this.”

As for what’s stood out to him about Steve Kerr’s system, it’s been the unselfishness from everybody on the roster, coaches and players alike.

“They embrace me good,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “That’s the one thing I like is a good team, good teammates. Pretty much just everybody knowing their roles. Nobody’s bringing negative energies to the locker room and it’s just a good vibe.”

Once asked about who the best shooter on the team is, Young went with Kerr as his answer. He told Basketball Insiders that he’s “still going with Steve,” but probably anybody else would have to give Stephen Curry the nod.

Curry’s been playing out of his mind this year. Kevin Durant’s done the same. There have been multiple times where one or the other has been out due to rest or, most recently, nagging injuries. It’s allowed for others to step in and get some extra minutes, and Young’s been the beneficiary of that multiple times.

So with Curry in and Durant out or vice versa, how would he compare and contrast the periods?

“It’s a different game,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Of course, different styles. Both of ‘em draw so much attention that leaves guys like me open, but when one of ‘em’s out we’ve still got enough depth to keep up with anybody.”

Recently after Curry scored 45 points in three quarters against the Los Angeles Clippers and didn’t even play in the fourth, Young was baffled. His only explanation for the outburst was that he was from another planet.

And yes, Young believes Curry’s “got a shot,” as does Durant, when it comes to the MVP conversation because of where the Warriors are at this point of the season.

The belief goes both ways. Just as Young is ecstatic watching his teammates succeed, so are they for him. McGee recalls his friend’s debut for Golden State at Oracle Arena on opening night.

It was a night of celebration for the Bay Area, as the crowd cheered during the pre-game championship ceremony to commemorate the team. Young ended up dropping 23 points on 8-for-9 from the field in his first game for the Dubs. The Houston Rockets spoiled the party with a win, but the moment was special for the two.

“I was excited,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “I always get excited when he’s out there scoring and doing his thing. I’m always happy for him. That’s my friend, long-time friend, and it was dope that he could be out here.”

Though you wouldn’t know it by his performance, Young had butterflies in his stomach before it all started.

“Ah man it was unbelievable,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “I was nervous. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. First time playing for the Warriors opening night. Had my family there. It was ring night, so I didn’t think I was gonna play that much, but I got an opportunity and I just took advantage.”

Since that game, Young hasn’t eclipsed the 20-point mark. But to his defense, that first game was his season-high in minutes thus far. Kerr understands the depth of his team makes it difficult for him to get consistent playing time, but he’s taken it in stride and been a good teammate.

But we all know how he shoots the rock when he finds a groove. So how many games like the opener does he have in store for us?

“I don’t know,” Young told Basketball Insiders with a laugh. “I just gotta get hot, so it could be any night.”

And whenever that night comes, expect to see him smiling as he drains those buckets.

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