The Phoenix Suns team goal of a 2016 NBA Summer League championship fell short Sunday, with a 93-83 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hours later though, the Suns would have indvidual efforts of this year's tournament recognized.
Alan Williams was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team. Williams started all six games in Summer League competition and averaged a league high 11.2 rebounds per contest. He is joined on the First Team by league MVP Tyus Jones of the Timberwolves, Cleveland's Jordan McRae, Chicago's Bobby Portis, and Ben Simmons of Philadelphia.
Second round pick Tyler Ulis, whose buzzer beating three-pointer to eliminate the Denver Nuggets on Saturday was arguably this Summer's most memorable moment, received Second Team honors. Also named to the Second Team was Boston's Jaylen Brown, Milwaukee's Thon Maker, Washington's Kelly Oubre Jr., and Norman Powell of Toronto.
After Sunday's loss to Minnesota, Summer Suns coach Nate Bjorkgren talked about the high expectations for Ulis.
"We want him to come out and get 20 and 10 and 5 steals, you know. I was calling his number a lot today. He was coming off a lot of ball screens and I was asking him to chase around their point guard too. So, playing him 35 minutes he gave us everything he could."
Also receiving high praise from Nate Bjorkgren was forward Troy Williams. The undrafted rookie out of Indiana University wrapped up an impressive Summer League slate with 24 points against the Timberwolves. This Summer Wiliams averaged 12.3 points on 54% shooting. He started three games following an illness that kept first round draft pick Marquese Chriss out for the second half of the tournament, and averaged better than 20 points in those three games. Coach Bjorkgren commented on the progress that Williams has made in Las Vegas.
"He definitely opened eyes. He became a lockdown defender, a corner three-point shooter, a straight line-driver, those things will take him far in the NBA."
For a team in desperate need of a culture change the six games in Las Vegas this Summer, at least on the surface, appear to have been a big step in the right direction. The unity witnessed at UNLV was palatable, particularly for team that did not have a lot of opportunity to practice together before July's tournament. While many fans looked forward to the performances of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, unlikely efforts were delivered, and the Suns set a tone for the 2016-17 campaign.
"I love the way our young guys played," Bjorkgren said. "I loved the way that we stuck together. We set that tone, for the upcoming regular season. That's how hard we're going to play, that's how hard we're going to approach the regular season, training camp. That's how hard we're going to approach any Summer workouts that we might have. There's other guys on this team, if they're not an NBA player, they're going to get an opportunity overseas. I told the guys after the game as coaches, if there's anything we can do for them, for their careers, we sure will help them."