Phoenix Suns unveil Valley Suns as new G League affiliate, home games set for Mullett Arena

Phoenix Suns and Mercury CEO Josh Bartelstein, right, share details about the Valley’s new G League team Wednesday at Mullett Arena as NBA G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim, left, and Suns announcer Tom Leander look on. (Photo by Jack Barlett/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – There’s a new team in Tempe.

The Phoenix Suns officially introduced their new G League affiliate team, the Valley Suns, who will play at Mullett Arena beginning in November.

During Wednesday’s press conference at the arena, Phoenix Suns CEO and president Josh Bartelstein and G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim announced their plans for the new team, from their logo design to their home venue.

“It’s a lot of work to get this thing going. We’re really proud of it,” Bartelstein said.

Before the announcement, the Phoenix Suns were the only NBA organization without a G League affiliate. The team’s former affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns, spent four seasons in the desert before moving to Detroit in 2020.

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia had teased potential plans to reinstate a G League team in July last year. In a statement given to The Athletic, Ishbia explained that bringing a G League team back to Phoenix was a priority for the organization.

Ishbia kept his promise, and on Feb. 14, the organization officially announced it had acquired a G League team, with plans for its debut during the 2024-25 season.

Shortly after the announcement, the organization held a contest for the team’s new name. Over 12,000 fans submitted name ideas, with multiple fans submitting the team’s chosen name, the Valley Suns.

The team’s logo, a purple and orange sun-shaped icon, was designed to align with the aesthetic of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

The Valley Suns will play home games at Mullett Arena, the former home of the Arizona Coyotes and the current home of Arizona State University hockey.

Bartelstein said the arena’s close proximity to Footprint Center and the organization’s partnership with the operators of Mullett Arena, the Oak View Group, were contributing factors to finding a home for the Valley Suns.

“When the community here in the Valley comes out to see the Valley Suns, they’re seeing the NBA stars of the future,” Abdur-Rahim said.

The transition into the NBA can be stark for young rookies. The G League allows players and coaches to develop and adapt before potentially entering the NBA.

Each NBA team can have up to three players on two-way contracts, which allows younger players to split their time between the NBA and G League to practice and improve their performance. Almost 60 percent of players on the 2022-23 NBA postseason roster had experience playing in the G League.

Currently competing against each other in the Eastern Conference finals, Indiana Pacers power forward Pascal Siakam and Boston Celtics point guard Derrick White are just two success stories who competed in the G League before entering the NBA.

The Suns currently have three players signed to two-way contracts. Last season, Saben Lee, Udoka Azubuike and Theo Maledon were permitted to play for other development teams. Yet, none of these players played a single G League minute during last season. That may change this upcoming season now that the Phoenix Suns can send players to Tempe.

Abdur-Rahim noted that potential prospects and injured players on the Phoenix Suns’ roster can prepare for their NBA starts or returns to the court in the G League.

Aside from player and staff development as an organization, Abdur-Rahim expressed his excitement to grow Phoenix’s basketball community with the new team.

The Valley Suns reinforce the many recent basketball-related developments within the community. The 2024 WNBA All-Star Game and the 2027 NBA All-Star Game will take place in downtown Phoenix at the Footprint Center.

“The completion of the NBA family of leagues really completes Phoenix as a basketball town,” Abdur-Rahim said.

Sports Digital Reporter, Phoenix

Anne-Marie Iemmolo expects to graduate in December 2024 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Iemmolo received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and has interned as a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen.

Jack Bartlett(he/him/his)
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Jack Bartlett expects to graduate in August 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in political science. He has interned with the St. Joe Mustangs and the Music City Collegiate League in Nashville.