The former Brooklyn Nets duo of Kevin Durant and Yuta Watanabe will be reunited once again as the Phoenix Suns signed Watanabe to a one year deal for an estimated $2.3 million.
The two agreed to terms shortly after the NBA free agency market opened, giving the Sun’s another wing shooting three to compliment ball heavy stars, and for Watanabe, a chance to contribute to a rising team in the Western Conference.
Watanabe’s career in the NBA has been inconsistent since signing a two-way deal to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018. The first Japanese born Division I player to earn a scholarship played all four years at George Washington University where he averaged 16.4 points per game and 6.4 assists per game in his senior year.
He will join former Suns player Yuta Tabuse as the only two Japanese NBA players to play for the Suns and third overall in the league.
Watanabe is a true two-way swingman with a 6’10” wingspan. His 6’9” height is yet another Sun to be signed in Friday’s free agency scramble to stand over 6’8”, making it four of the five free agents with significant height. His lanky frame and fit composition makes Watanabe a durable player with high energy.
While Watanabe hasn’t seen the production stick consistently on the offensive side of the ball, his defensive instincts is what makes Watanabe a mismatch when he is inserted. His hands and wingspan pose a threat to many wings across the league, as Watanabe has gained a reputation around the league as a disruptor in the paint and the passing lanes.
What Watanabe offers to the Suns specifically is a high energy player that will fit head coach Frank Vogel’s style on the defensive end. Watanabe, although likely not a starter, will see minutes in the game, especially when Durant is on the floor.
Durant and Watanabe played in Brooklyn for only one season last year and only 26 games together. But the chemistry between the two was evident, Durant and Watanabe’s relationship both on and off the floor was something that the Suns considered in the off season, thus striking the deal with the 27 year old Watanabe.
Durant assisted Watanabe 15 times in only 26 games during a stretch in which Watanabe only saw 16 minutes a game.
The combination is one to look out for this season for Phoenix when Durant drives to the hoop attracting multiple defenders. Watanabe, one of the league’s best shooters from a pure percentage standpoint, will be lurking on the premier for an effective kick out.
Watanabe will perhaps be the biggest beneficiary of ball dominant players, as Watanabe can cruise around the perimeter and pick a lane for an open look. His athletic capabilities also grant Watanabe the ability to blow past a close out and take it to the rim with height and length.
His left handed shooting stroke, 6’9” height and hustle on the floor proves why Watanabe was such a sought after free agent and one of the best pickups in the market. The Suns will look forward to the production and growth out of a player for an affordable price.