Growing up in Phoenix as a Phoenix Suns fan there has always been one oddity that never really made sense…being a fan of a team located in one of the seven largest metropolitan areas in the United States, why was there such a the lack of hometown players to play for the team?
In my lifetime there had been two local players to play for the team: Channing Frye and Horatio Llamas.
While Channing reinvented himself in Phoenix as the rare 7’0″ sharpshooter, Horatio Llamas was honestly nothing more than a publicity stunt in the 1996-97 season as the first Mexican-born NBA player and a local kid who played 143 total minutes in his NBA career and averaged 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in two NBA seasons.
Now it appears the Suns may have another local product that could be a fixture of their near future and become a fan favorite: Alan Williams.
Williams is an undersized rebounding machine with soft hands and a soft touch around the rim. He is a 6’6″ 260 lb center (he’s listed as 6’8″) that has been a revelation since getting an opportunity to play some real NBA minutes and start for the Phoenix Suns. He averaged 13.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game in March. He also became the first player in Suns history with five straight double-doubles off the bench.
“Big Sauce” as he’s affectionately referred to was undrafted in 2015 out of UC Santa Barbara after averaging 15 and 10 over his four year career including leading the Big West in rebounding his final three seasons and winning Big West Conference Player of the Year in 2013-14.
He also starred at Phoenix North High School and was a part of two state championship winning teams (fun fact: he was on the same club team in the Phoenix area as I was growing up, I was on the 17U team when he was on the 15U team) and his mother Jeri Williams was recently appointed the Police Chief for the City of Phoenix.
After playing a season in China in which he averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds per game, he was originally signed to a 10-day contract with the Suns on March 8, 2016.
The Suns would sign him to a multi-year deal 10 days later and he became viewed as a valuable guy at the end of the bench for his work ethic, as well as being a good locker room guy and an elite bench hype man.
Now Alan Williams is an impending free agent that has actually outplayed fellow impending restricted free agent center and former No. 5 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft Alex Len, which gives the Suns a very interesting decision this off-season. Len will command much more money in restricted free agency, some front office types project as much as 12 to 16 million (Think Timofey Mozgov) with his size and more traditional skill set, but the Suns may be better suited to look elsewhere for a franchise center and pay Williams to be a rotational front court piece in the range of five to eight million instead.
It’s not everyday that an undrafted and overlooked player gets a chance to prove himself for his hometown team and establishes himself as a valuable NBA asset in a matter of a month, but it seems like that could be what’s happening with Williams in Phoenix.
Here’s to hoping to local kid sticks around and becomes a part of the Suns rebuilding project moving forward as they attempt to find their way back to the upper tier of the western conference, causing Suns fans to get “lost in the sauce” as they say, one double-double at a time.