Cameron Johnson was nearly four months after his 23rd birthday in June 2019, when the Suns selected him with the 11th overall pick in the NBA Draft. The reaction to this choice might lead you to believe that Johnson was looking for housing in one of the many lovely senior communities in the Phoenix area.
Picked by the 76ers with the 10th overall pick a year ago, Mikal Bridges, who was acquired by the Suns in the trade, was not a child when he entered the league. He was only 21 years old at the time of the draft, but he was 22 years old before opening night.
When Johnson was drafted, the Suns were criticized for drafting such a senior player. The Sal Lake Tribune gave the draft a C grade, the same as NBADraft.net. The Bleacher Report gave the draft a D+ and called Johnson “an anti-upward prospect for this draft.” People are not so disgusted with Bridges’ draft picks, mainly Bs, but CBS Sports gave this acquisition a C- because it meant trading out the “high” teenager Zhaire Smith.
Now, Smith has scored 48 points in three years, and the Suns are two games away from the NBA Finals. To date, they have won 10 of the 13 playoff games. Johnson averaged 21 minutes per game, 7.8 points and 42% long-range field goal percentage. Bridges started the game, averaging 33 minutes per game, scoring 11.7 points and shooting 46% from the field.
James Jones was named the NBA Executive of the Year for a reason.
In fact, there are many, but one of them is that he refuses to listen to the metaphor that “drafting young people is the only way out”. The Suns clearly realize that there is nothing wrong with choosing a high-quality 19-year-old player. In the 2018 draft, they selected DeAndre Ayton from Arizona in the first round with a score of 7-1. He averaged 20.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in these playoffs. He was 19 on draft day and played his rookie season at the age of 20.
Among the top eight players in the Suns rotation, only All-Star winger Devin Booker played his first NBA season as a teenager. Average age of these players as a rookie: 21.1.
Now you have a publication like SB Nation with the title: “The Suns follow Michael Bridges and Cameron Johnson“.
When Sports News reported on issues surrounding draft age during the 2020 All-Star Game, when the leading American scorer in the Rising Stars game was 23-year-old rookie Eric Pascal, we quoted an NBA executive from the Eastern Conference. This phenomenon is explained mainly as a product of analysis, and statistics show that draft age is the most important predictor of future player success.
However, allowing intangible things like talent acquisition to be run mainly by numbers does not bring the desired results. “On the surface, this is a good idea, but most people are not ready yet,” the executive explained. “So that’s why you see all these people being traded.”
Just four years after the 2016 draft, 20 of the 30 first-round draft picks no longer belong to their original teams. Among these 10 players, only Denver’s Jamal Murray played his rookie season as a teenager, and 21 is the average rookie season age for players remaining on the first team. You know, there is also a form of analysis.
In fact, we learned this week that even if it proves that a teenage draft pick is indeed ready, his original team may still be interested in sending the player away. If you are ready to be very good but not elite—for example, if you are Colin Sexton instead of Tre Young—your team may put you in the trading zone a few years later in your career.
Young and Sexton are the top point guards in the 2018 draft. Yang was the fifth pick in the first round and caused a sensation, leading the Eagles to the Eastern Conference finals this season. Sexton’s performance was exceptional, from averaging 16.7 points per game as a rookie to 24.3 points in his third season shooting 47.5 percent. Now we find that, according to Sports Illustrated, The Cavaliers are studying Sexton’s trading plan Because he can ask for a maximum salary contract, and the Cavaliers don’t want to offer such a deal.
So many teams don’t want to choose players in their 20s because they shouldn’t have the necessary “advantage”, but teenagers who prove to have an advantage must reach the superstar level, otherwise they may not be worth the trouble.
This is why James Jones’ method works so well, and why the Suns shine so well.
Because the pursuit of a championship has always been the only concern.
Victory never gets old.