In a stunning turn of events, Yuta Watanabe, the unassuming small forward who won the hearts of Brooklyn Nets fans, has bid farewell to the team and set his sights on the Phoenix Suns. While not a superstar by any means, Watanabe’s hard work and dedication made him a fan favorite during his tenure with the Nets. Now, he’s ready to take on a new challenge alongside former Brooklyn superstar Kevin Durant in the Valley.
Despite his modest numbers, Watanabe’s efficiency from beyond the arc caught the attention of the Suns, who are determined to assemble a formidable Big 3 in Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal. The Japanese national’s ability to knock down 44.4 percent of his triples on 2.3 attempts per game made him an attractive addition to Phoenix’s roster.
Watanabe, standing at an impressive 6-foot-9, recently expressed his gratitude to the Brooklyn faithful through a heartfelt Twitter message: “Brooklyn, thank you for everything. I’ll always be grateful. Will miss you.” It’s clear that the opportunity the Nets provided him last season meant a great deal, as it allowed him to showcase his skills and have arguably the best year of his career.
The Brooklyn Nets had set out on a mission to build a team around superstars Durant and Kyrie Irving. Amidst this pursuit, Watanabe emerged as a valuable contributor, proving he could thrive alongside these elite players. However, as the Nets experienced changes and Durant and Irving’s tenures came to an end, Watanabe’s playing time dwindled, ultimately leading to his departure. Nonetheless, his impressive performances as a savvy role player did not go unnoticed, and he entered free agency with a promising market.
Watanabe’s journey in the NBA has been marked by ups and downs since signing with the Memphis Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent in 2018. As the first Japanese-born Division I player to earn a scholarship, he played all four years at George Washington University, averaging an impressive 16.4 points per game and 6.4 assists per game in his senior year.
The news of Watanabe reuniting with Durant in Phoenix spread like wildfire. The Suns wasted no time in securing his talents, signing him to a one-year deal worth an estimated $2.3 million. The reunion between Durant and Watanabe symbolizes a renewed opportunity for the two to leave their mark on the court together, this time in the Suns’ colors.
Now, Watanabe finds himself joining other Japanese players in the NBA, becoming only the second player after Yuta Tabuse to wear a Suns jersey and the third overall in the league. Standing at 6’9″ with a 6’10” wingspan, he brings a unique combination of size and skill to the Suns’ roster. His lanky frame and high energy make him a durable player, while his defensive prowess and disruptive instincts make him a force to be reckoned with on the court.
What makes Watanabe an ideal fit for the Suns is his ability to excel in head coach Frank Vogel’s defensive system. Although he may not start, his minutes on the court will increase, especially when Durant is in the game. The chemistry between Durant and Watanabe was evident during their short time together in Brooklyn, and the Suns took note of this when considering the signing.
With Durant drawing multiple defenders, Watanabe’s sharpshooting ability will prove invaluable as he positions himself on the perimeter, ready to receive a well-timed kick-out pass. Furthermore, his athleticism allows him to blow past defenders and finish at the rim with finesse and length. The Suns anticipate that Watanabe’s left-handed shooting stroke, towering height, and relentless hustle will make him one of the best and most affordable acquisitions of the free agency period.
As Watanabe embarks on this new chapter of his career, the Suns eagerly await his contributions and growth within the team. With Durant and Watanabe’s reunion, the Phoenix faithful can look forward to witnessing the development of a dynamic duo that will undoubtedly play a vital role in the Suns’ pursuit of greatness.