Suns

Craig Making Immediate Impact on Rising Suns

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Not every player that goes undrafted is able to make their way back to the NBA.

It is a physically difficult and mind-wrenching journey that not many are capable of. Every player given another opportunity at the highest level has their own unique story of how they got there.

Phoenix Suns’ newest addition Torrey Craig is no different. Cut from his own cloth, Craig has shown all his life he is capable of more than given credit for. Doing it again, posting career highs in stats across the board since joining Phoenix, the 30-year-old is looking to prove people wrong once more.

After an overall boring trade deadline for the Suns, they were able to sneak away after all, with an asset who is here to stay. Is this maybe the steal of the deadline?

Torrey’s Beginning

Born and raised in South Carolina, Craig played high-school ball in-state and then went on to attend South Carolina University Upstate. Posting per-game stats of 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals in college, Craig was also named 2012 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year in only his sophomore season.

Despite all this and just above 4,000 minutes logged into his college career, Craig said during an interview with “The Pick and Roll” he was only able to get a workout from the Minnesota Timberwolves, which didn’t seem to pan out, as he went undrafted later in 2014.

Thus thrusting Craig into his pro career.

Pro Time Overseas

It is not uncommon for undrafted players to look for a new life overseas. Like many others, Craig knew basketball was going to be his livelihood, and he wasn’t stopping yet.

Although the skill amounting from his collegiate career may not have been enough to land him a spot on an NBA roster, Craig took his talents to Australia’s NBL. He was then able to land a spot on the Cairns Taipans– the perfect landing place for a developing athlete like Craig.

Cairns Taipans

Craig spent his first two years overseas with the Taipans not only elevating his game, but his confidence as well. His first year, Craig put up 9.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 block a game. While these numbers aren’t necessarily eye-popping, they didn’t need to be as he had no real expectations yet.

Craig’s upside then — and still now — is that he didn’t stop developing. He was then able to raise his per-game stats in nearly every category his second year. Averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.1 blocks a game, it was obvious he was only going to get better.

Brisbane Bullets

Craig’s last season in the NBL came playing for the Brisbane Bullets. This was his best and most influential year by far of his professional career up to that point. Reflecting on his time in Australia, Craig says “My last season with the Brisbane Bullets I had to be a leader, both on and off the court. Developing good habits. Playing with a lot of energy and playing hard. Getting tough”.

Performance-wise, it definitely showed. Craig averaged 15.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists all while leading the league in stats all over the board. His high-level play earned the 2016-17 NBL Best Defensive Player Award and was named to the All-NBL Second Team for the first time.

Not only were his numbers getting right in the box score, Craig’s physical game also had some improvement made throughout his last year. “It’s a physical league so getting roughed up by the guys really helps you out,” Craig explains, “Just learned how to stay ready and stay prepared”.

Little did Craig know, this was only the beginning of a new journey, one he had been waiting for all his life.

NBA

Only being in the NBA three years now, Craig has already found himself on three different teams. However, this is not because lack of appreciation for his game, more so the complete opposite.

Craig has had his options open since being in the league and the door has been even more open now than ever before. Since his entrance into the league, his name has been called on his fair share of nights already. Wasting no time, he is making his name known around the league before you know it. Which is why probably why you’re here reading about him right now.

Nuggets

Torrey began his NBA career in 2017, a little abruptly, to say the least. After showcasing amazing performances in the NBA G-League, including a 37-point performance that initiated the call-up in the first place, it was not so easy getting from point A to point B.

During an interview with ESPN, Craig goes on to talk about when he received his call up from the Nuggets G-League.

“The Nuggets called me and said they might be calling me up, they told me to stay tuned,” Craig recalled. “At around 11 pm they said they were going to fly me out early in the morning. I had to Uber in the middle of the night, got to my hotel around 3 and my flight was at 5 so I got like an hour sleep, got up, caught my flight to Denver, and then went straight to shoot around.”

Craig mentioned how much playing in Australia taught him to “stay ready and stay prepared”, and he wasn’t lying. His first NBA moment came in his first night back at the top. Coming down to a last-second shot by now ex-Pelican Jrue Holiday, to either win or send it into overtime, Craig was put on the assignment. He was able to take the one-on-one challenge, blocking Holiday’s shot, sending the game into overtime, eventually winning the game.

This was just the beginning for Craig as he signed a two-year, $4 million deal. Keeping him with the team. He was instantly made into a full-time rotation player for the Nuggets. Playing roughly 20 minutes a night, Craig averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds while also being the defensive focal point. Glued the hip of players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, Craig took on the role of guarding the best wing of each team, each night. Playing valuable playoff minutes for the Nuggets also increased the Torrey Craig stock, as if it wasn’t already on the up-rise. Teams took notice of his play, and have been on the lookout for him ever since.

Bucks

After his stint in Denver, Craig was set to become a free agent and would begin to look for other teams. Officially signing with the Milwaukee Bucks on November 26th, 2020, it wasn’t the easiest decision for Craig to make.

“It was tough man, free agency started, and it got to the point where training camp was starting on Dec. 1 and it was Nov. 24 and I still hadn’t decided on what team I wanted to go to.”

After choosing Milwaukee in the end, the mindset for Craig never changed. Even with the new scenery, Craig knew what it took to play winning basketball. Saying “…you understand a team and knowing what a team has and what it doesn’t have…hopefully for Milwaukee whatever role they need I’m just willing to do whatever I can to help the team.”

Craig signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with the Bucks, cementing his place with his new squad.

For the time, at least.

With his short time with the Bucks, Craig only played in 18 games, getting roughly 11 minutes a game. Averaging only 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds a game, it seemed Milwaukee just wasn’t able to get the right usage out of the 6’7″ forward, as they shipped Craig off to Phoenix for infamous “cash considerations”.

Suns

Most recently, Craig has found himself in Phoenix, rejuvenating his career once more. Creating instant impact since coming to The Valley, it almost feels like a full-circle moment for Craig, as the Suns were one of Craig’s options in free agency, per a story from Bright Side of the Sun

“Once I found out it was Phoenix,” Craig said of finding out he was traded. “I was like, ah, that’s perfect because that’s one of the places I wanted to go anyway.”

Craig goes on to say “I actually wanted to come here… But some things happened, pretty crazy and pretty wild and unpredictable. Some things kind of fell through and I ended up going to Milwaukee.”

While one can speculate what the reasons were, the end all be all is, Craig is finally a Sun.

Not only has he filled in as a regular, 15-20-minute-a-night bench piece, but he has also upped his per-game stats in nearly every category. Averaging 6.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals so far, he is exactly the plug this bench unit needed. A high-tier defensive threat to throw at the opposing teams’ best players is crucial in the playoffs. The shutdown pairing of Mikal Bridges and Torrey Craig is one that will be feared for years to come.

Smooth transition

Since joining the Suns, Craig has fit in just as nice off the court, as he has on. During a recent game against the Chicago Bulls, Craig was seen by AZ Sports reporter Kellan Olson “dealing” fake cards to a huddle of Devin Booker, Jae Crowder and Chris Paul.

He then asked Book about it after the game,

“The booray guys”, Book states. It’s moments like this that make not just Torrey Craig, but the whole culture around the Phoenix Suns so lovable. A bunch of guys just having fun. Craig fits right in that mold seamlessly. making him absolutely the best pick-up from the deadline nobody is talking about. Not yet anyway.

Big Month of Basketball

As April rolls around, playoffs loom and big games are on the horizon. Craig will continue to be a key role piece in what the Suns are trying to accomplish this season. Not just as playoff contenders, but title contenders.

While he has already earned the trust of his players and coaches moving forward, all that is left is solidifying play as much as possible before the regular season ends. There is no telling who the Suns are going to match up against in the playoffs this year. Injuries are going to cause a disarranging of Western Conference seeding all across the board. So as Craig has said before, the Suns better be ready and prepared.

Follow us on Twitter @SunsLead for the latest Suns news and insight. 

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About Cameron Prichard

Twitter: @TheValleyAthltc

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