You know what’s fun about July? When your team strikes out on a free agent there is little time to despair because the summer league starts up!
Who needs LaMarcus Aldridge when you have Alec Brown! Am I right? As I wipe the tears off my keyboard let's get into the Phoenix Suns' 2015 summer league team.
Bright Side will be bringing you coverage yet again from Las Vegas. Keith Scheessele and I will be at the games. I'll be there from Sunday to Wednesday while Keith will be trying to make as many games as he can. Here's some examples of the posts I had last year. You can expect the same from me while Keith will be handling the pressers and things of that matter.
All of the young guys will be back this year. The Suns still have a good lineup in terms of talent. The one difference from last season to this season is a roster spot being up for grabs. That's not the case this time around.
Last season was the ballad of Dionte Christmas, Seth Curry, and Taylor Braun fighting for the sharpshooting spot on the bench. If that sentence doesn’t hype you up for summer league you are in the wrong place my friend.
Let’s take a look at the roster.
While Len started 44 games last season it's good to see him playing in Vegas again. Len will be one of the primary options offensively in Vegas and this experience will give him some valuable reps in that role. This will be similar to what the Suns did with Miles Plumlee last summer except not as much of wanting to claw your eyes out. Look for the Suns to establish him early and often.
One mystery heading forward for the Ukrainian axe man person guy (?) is his fabled high post game. Len was a raw prospect out of Maryland who was supposed to eventually become an option both as a shooter and a passer from at least the midrange. There are rumors coming out from his time working out this summer that he has that jumper ready and then some. I'm ready to see if those rumors are true. Any third-year player should be borderline dominating in the summer league and although he's not that type of player, we should see some of that from him.
This is Archie’s year. Last year we here at Bright Side were justifiably excited to see what improvements Archie would bring to his game in year 2. Will he be able to shoot? What about his playmaking off the dribble? Can he run the point now? How’s his defense looking? The result was an extremely underwhelming summer league where Archie showed no improvements. The good news is that Archie got his first real chunk of playing time in the NBA last season and his slashing still 100% translates at a higher level.
Regardless, this is the time we should be seeing improvements in Archie. The perennial comeback here is "he doesn’t turn 21 till August!" This is true, but Archie has a team option for next summer and then will either get a contract extension or enter free agency as an RFA or a UFA. If there was ever time for Archie to be motivated it’s now. Devin Booker just got picked this year and is a better overall fit and Bogdan Bogdanovic is slated to come in 2016. He's got to start improving now.
Warren doesn’t really need to be here, but the guy just loves to ball. He was off the charts last summer league and we should be seeing something similar this year. With the Pistons trade to clear cap space opening up the wings, Warren should be playing significant minutes all season. In his rookie year he didn’t enter the rotation until late in the season.
Warren was productive with that playing time and made the case for more. He was consistently having a better impact than Mook and T.J. is the main reason it was so easy to let him go. Some scouts believed that Warren would eventually have full range on his jumper so that’s something to watch out for. His biggest improvement over the course of last season was defense and if that growth continues he should avoid being a negative player on that end, which is a massive deal because of how good he is on offense.
If the Suns don’t acquire a scoring point guard it’s going to be his show off the bench. Warren was always finding ways to score without touching much of the ball so imagine what he can do with it.
This is pretty surprising to me. McNeal is 28, only played in six games for the Suns last season, and only averaged six minutes per game in those appearances. McNeal's contract is not guaranteed for next season so maybe this is the Suns wanting one more long look at him. The word is that the Suns are still looking to add another point guard so this is an important couple of games for McNeal.
Future Rotation Player
This is a huge week for Booker. If he can out-play Archie that’s a significant step towards him getting some minutes from day one. I could easily see Booker’s shooting being prioritized over Goodwin’s slashing if Archie’s can’t show playmaking off the dribble and stays where he was at as a defender. The question for Booker is what he can do besides shoot.
Booker is really good at every aspect of being a shooter. He knows how to move off the ball, make quick cuts, maximize space when he comes off screens, and hit jumpers from all over the place. Booker has the tools to defend well and wasn’t bad at Kentucky, but this is a serious step up. The usual rookie wall with defense should always temper your expectations when it comes to youngins on that end. If Booker can show anything off the dribble and hit his shots I think he could play next season. Stay tuned.
The one guy you should be keeping an eye on
Brown looked raw as hell last summer league. I took some flack for what I thought was a fair evaluation of Brown. He had a serious run of defensive mistakes down low, wasn’t hitting his jumpers, and looked overwhelmed around the basket on both ends. There is nothing wrong with that for Brown. He was a second-round pick out of the freaking University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Of course he was going to struggle. The stretch big should be much better this time around.
I highly recommend a scan of Brown’s box scores in the D-League last year and using the excellent videos of full games that the D-League provides so you can get a look at how he's progressed. He just seemed to be in the flow all the time. He was open from three when he needed to be, he was one of the few guys that looked focused defensively, and he was constantly looking for and getting shot blocking opportunities. I’m expecting a much better summer league performance from Brown. If the Suns feel anywhere close to the way bossman Dave King feels about Markieff Morris Brown could turn out to be really important for the Suns in the future.
The rest of the roster
Harrellson is part of the fraternity of questionable New York Knicks draft picks that includes Renaldo Balkman, Maciej Lampe, and Andy Rautins. Harrellson is a big body and can rebound. He works hard and that's about it. There's not much else to his game.
Harper is a stretch four who went 32nd overall to the Magic in 2011. Harper could never do enough besides shoot and be a good athlete to find a place in the NBA. He's played in Israel and Italy the past two seasons. If there was one guy out of this group that could make the roster it's Harper. If he's added more to his game besides range and athleticism he could still have a chance in the NBA.
If you watched college basketball in the late 2000's then you know that Harangody is a legend. He has a legitimate post game that extends to the midrange and is great on the glass. His strength and passing were the extra push he needed to be an NBA prospect, but he still hasn't overcome some poor athleticism and size. He's probably going to look good in at least one of these games.
McConnell's a local kid from Mesa who will be the other point guard on this team besides McNeal. He spent his first two years at St. Mary's mostly on the bench because of Patty Mills and then spent his last two years in a great backcourt alongside Matthew Dellavedova. McConnell's a crafty player who can shoot the lights out. Beyond that, there's not much there. He will be another fun player to watch.
Justin Carter went to Creighton. Bright Side of the Sun also has someone who went to Creighton. Here's Jacob Padilla on Carter:
All you need to know about Justin is that he has been dubbed the "Vince Carter of Turkey" by BallisLife.com.
Oh, you want more than that? Fine.
Carter graduated from Creighton in 2010, where he spent two seasons playing for the Bluejays after two years of junior college. He spent much of his time as a three and undersized four because of a lack of size on Creighton and his insane motor. He's spent the last five years playing overseas, primarily in Turkey, and was a TBL all-star in 2014.
At 6 feet 4 inches and 200 pounds, Carter is a terrific athlete (seriously, click that link above if you haven't already) who has a nose for the ball. He's not a first option offensively, but he's more than happy doing the little things - hustling after lose balls, rebounding, defending - that a team needs to win. He's a lot like PJ Tucker, minus about 30 pounds of muscle.
Mystery Point Guard
Per Paul Coro, the Suns are still looking to sign up another point guard. Currently, McConnell and McNeal are the only real ball handlers and I think we've all seen enough of Archie to know he's not going to be an NBA point guard.
Let's see how that unfolds over the next day or two. You've got to wonder what point guard the Suns are targeting for their summer league squad that hasn't committed yet. Either someone they wanted just recently backed out (which hasn't been leaked in any way), or they are targeting one who is otherwise occupied on another team at the moment.
Here is the Suns' regular season schedule in Vegas.
- Saturday, July 11- Washington vs. Phoenix 3pm
- Sunday, July 12- Phoenix vs. Houston 1:30pm
- Tuesday, July 14- Phoenix vs. Utah 4:30pm
- The playoffs start next Thursday and everyone's invited (all 23 teams are in).