Many teams come to Summer League looking for 10th to 14th guys to fill out their roster, and to give their fresh draft picks some game action using the basic sets they will be asked to run in training camp and regular season.
The rules for Summer League competition limit participation to NBA players currently under contract to those with two years of NBA experience or less. This is the last time Archie or Alex, as long as they are under contract, can play in Summer League.
Free agents, such as Josh Harrellson and Luke Harangody, can play despite their NBA experience because they're trying to earn their way onto a team.
It's not really an environment built for team-level competition. Many teams rest their best players just when the so-called playoffs start in the second week of play. Again, it's about exposure for fringe NBA players and rookies rather than a spotlight for NBA veterans.
But don't tell that to these Summer Suns, who have started 3-1 in Summer League after blitzing a depleted Bucks team whose only NBA-caliber player is 18 year old rookie Rashad Vaughan. The Bucks left all their current NBA-level kids at home, including the Greek Freak.
Conversely, Archie Goodwin, Alex Len and T.J. Warren all jumped at the chance to play again this summer.
"My first year with the Suns, we went to the final game," Alex Len explained before summer league started. "We started really good, and the season was the same way. We had 48 wins. So we're trying to get some wins, get to the [Summer] Finals."
Back in 2013, Len was rehabbing his ankle issues and didn't play SL, but the Suns won a lot of games behind third-year players Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, along with second-year guards Kendall Marshall and Dionte Garrett and brash rookie Archie Goodwin. P.J. Tucker, technically only a two year NBA vet, played a major role on that team as well.
The stacked Suns won their first six SL games before falling to the Golden State Warriors summer team in the inaugural championship game. That experience, coached by rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek, helped springboard the Suns into a winning environment for the whole magical season. They went on to go 5-2 in preseason, then 48-34 in the regular season behind a winning spirit that started as far back as Summer League.
Last summer, though, was a bummer and it all began with Summer League. Len was out again after three quarters (finger) and surprise center Miles Plumlee was pulled from the rotation after the Suns started 2-1, just like many teams sit their best players after a few games. Archie and rookie T.J. Warren couldn't carry the load, and the Suns limped home by losing their last two games in ugly fashion. The uninspired summer league showing bled into the season which never got any kind of sustainable momentum.
Now, the Suns want to right that ship and have stacked the summer team with a healthy Len to go along with Goodwin, Warren and rookie Devin Booker.
Spreading the floor with Warren at PF, and spelling those guys with the burly Harrellson has left Harangody and last year's second round pick Alec Brown with spot minutes while the Suns focus on winning games.
"We're just trying to win the whole thing," Archie foretold a week ago.
The Suns play the also-stacked Bulls on Saturday at 5pm, to be shown on NBATV. The Bulls boast rookie Bobby Portis, as well as second year player Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow. They also have Diante Garrett.