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Center of the Sun: Viva Las Vegas! The Fantable discusses Phoenix Suns in Summer League

How well will the Summer Suns do this year?

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NBA: Summer League-Final-Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Although free agent news and rumors have been mostly on our minds lately it's almost time for the Las Vegas NBA Summer League to start and we will be able to watch some actual Suns basketball again! At the time of my writing this the Suns still haven't released their official Summer League roster but we already know who the main attractions will be. Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender will be there for their second go around as well as second year pro Derrick Jones Jr, draftees Josh Jackson and Davon Reed. Also Mike James who played on the Suns 2015 Summer League team, Darion Atkins who played last season in Israel, Tre' McLean a 23 year old former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga product and Washington State PG Ike Iroegbu are either going to be on the roster or have been rumored to be on it.

Unfortunately Tyler Ulis will miss this year as he is still rehabbing from surgery as will rookie 2nd round draft pick Alec Peters who is still recovering from a broken bone in his foot. I know that everyone would have loved to watch Ulis run point for this team and to see what Peters can offer but the Suns should still be able to field a very good squad and make some noise in Vegas.

The Summer Suns' first game is this Friday against the Kings at 7:30 pm on ESPN2. But before the games begin I've asked our Fantable a few questions regarding this year's Summer League team.

1. The Suns have announced that Marquese Chriss will play in summer league but should he? Has he proven himself enough to maybe just play in a game or two like Booker did last summer?

GuarGuar: I am very excited to hear Chriss will play in Summer League. Unlike Booker, Chriss definitely can use Summer League to help improve his game such as 3pt shooting, dribble moves and defense. More importantly it would be great to get Chriss and Bender to play a lot of minutes together at the 4 and 5 for 5+ games.

SDKyle: I personally do not think Chriss needs to play in the Summer league. I suppose a shortened appearance a'la Booker in 2016 makes decent sense, but he's already acquitted himself well in extensive NBA time. Playing against a bunch of rookies and scrubs in glorified pickup games won't meaningfully develop his skills.

SouthernSun: While I think very highly of Chriss, and believe he will have a bright future in the NBA, I don't think he is quite on the level Booker was when the 2015/16 season ended. Booker was already well on his way to becoming the face of the Suns franchise. Chriss definitely flashed a lot of potential, but he's not the same caliber of rising star as Booker seemed to be after his first season. I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect Chriss to play in most of the summer league games, if only to get him adjusted to playing with Josh Jackson, who I think will be starting at SF for the Suns for much of next season, or at the very least, play just as many minutes with Chriss as TJ will.

2. What does Dragan Bender need to show in Summer League this year, what's your take on Earl Watson's statement, "We want to figure out a system where he can run some point..." and do you think we'll see some of that in Summer League?

GuarGuar: I don’t expect Dragan to be a full time point guard or something, but I definitely can see him bringing the ball up on fast breaks and show his playmaking skills from there. I want to see Dragan’s mechanics on his shot first and foremost. When he came back in April his shot was broke (rust hopefully) and i hope he has put some time in on it. It is huge for our offense if Bender can get to 35-36% 3pt shooter. I also would like to see him be more aggressive on offense and do some dribble drives. I expect his confidence to be high with some experience now. He really needs a good Summer League performance IMO.

SDKyle: I just want to see a Bender who asserts himself more offensively. He doesn't need to wow, in my view...just show that his skills and abilities are improved. As for the Watson comments, I know I snarked about it in the thread, but I actually think it's a very noncontroversial idea. It sounded to me like he means that Bender should be looking to push the ball up the floor when he gets a rebound, rather than pulling back and dumping it off to whoever is playing point. To me, that just makes good sense and all of our players should have that mentality.

SouthernSun: I'm not quite as down on Bender as some people are, but I certainly would have liked to see more out of him in his rookie year. Which is probably illogical, because didn't we all know he was supposed to be a project who was going to take a few years to really become a good player? It's just that people expect a top 5 pick in the draft to have a little more immediate impact.

I think what I'm most hoping to see some improvement in is his 3 point shooting. He was absolutely abysmal from beyond the arc last season, and that was one of the highly touted parts of his game. He's supposed to be a stretch big. Stretch bigs should shoot better than 27% from 3. They just should. Whether they are rookies or not. But another thing I'm interested in is seeing him on the defensive end, and watching how comfortable he looks switching off of bigs onto guards and things like that, which is another part of his game that is lauded, but we haven't had much of a chance to witness yet.

As for him running point. No, he's never going to run point, as in actually play at that position. I believe Watson just meant that he will encourage Bender to, when he grabs a defensive rebound, go ahead and keep the ball and bring it up the court and run a fast break. I highly doubt we see a lot of Bender orchestrating the offense in the halfcourt. That's just not what he's going to be.

3. What do you want to see most from Josh Jackson during the Summer League games?

GuarGuar: With Josh Jackson an easy answer would be his jumpshot because that is what needed the most work with his game. However, I’m more invested in seeing if his defense has translated, can he slash at a high level, and I am really interested in seeing his playmaking skills. Jackson has so many aspects to his game. I doubt his jumpshot improved drastically over a month or two. My biggest thing will be did his college strengths carry over.

SDKyle: I want to see it all. Show me the motor, show me the defensive intensity, show me the slick passes, and show me some dunks. And maybe hit about one three pointer a game, if possible.

SouthernSun: I want to see Josh Jackson dominate the summer league. I fully expect him to be visibly one of the couple best players on the court every single time he steps on it this summer. This is a guy who was talked about as possibly going #1, and a consensus top 3 pick all year long, in a loaded draft, and we ended up getting him at #4 (perhaps due to some sneaky maneuvering by our front office). This guy is supposed to be NBA ready and his defense and facilitating capabilities are supposed to translate immediately. Not to mention his top notch athleticism. I want to see him locking up opposing wings on he perimeter, and I want to see Jackson running an effective fast break, just like Bender. I know it's a high bar to set for a rookie, but I simply have high expectations for him.

4. Chriss, Bender, Jackson, Davon Reed and Derrick Jones Jr are the "name" players on the SL team and Mike James and Darion Atkins seem like very solid additions. The Suns should be able to put a pretty strong team on the court in Las Vegas but how much do you think that they are going to miss Tyler Ulis running point and can they win the tournament without him?

GuarGuar: DRAGAN BENDER POINT GOD! Kidding aside (kinda), I really wanted to see Ulis dominate SL again so it disappoints me he won’t be there. He really was a key part to last year’s success. I don’t know who we could get to play point, but whoever it is I hope they are a good distributor. A plus side to no Ulis will be Bender and Jackson’s playmaking skills will have a greater opportunity to shine. I want a summer league title and I’m hopeful we can still reach it without Ulis.

SDKyle: They'll miss Ulis plenty, because he's a quality player. Can they still win? Sure. But Ulis' absence has the bonus of opening up time for other players that might otherwise have seen much less.

SouthernSun: I think that not having Tyler will definitely hurt them, but two of the guys in the front court have above average passing ability for their positions, Bender and Jackson, and I think just the sheer talent level of this team will be enough to win most games anyway. We're trotting out the #4 and #8 picks from the 2016 draft, and the #4 pick from the 2017 draft, along with a 2017 dunk contest participant and Mike James who, according to a recent article on BSotS, is the "most electrifying combo guard in EuroLeague." Do they win the tournament? I'm not sure. Lakers have an interesting summer league squad, and Philly of course. It'll be fun to see.

Once again many thanks to our Fantable... GuarGuar, SDKyle and SouthernSun!

Sun-Arc is still on vacation in Europe and was unable to contribute this week but he'll be back at the Fantable soon. Until then he's traveling though Europe and enjoying sights like this while hiking through the mountains.

UPDATE! Summer Suns Roster Released!

Phoenix Suns 2016 Summer League Highlights

Suns vs Nuggets

Suns vs Trail Blazers

Suns vs Celtics

Quote of the Week

“Be 1% better than yesterday.” - Earl Watson

News & Notes

Alex Len's Time in Phoenix at a Crossroads? Inside MD Sports

Phoenix Suns end Paul Millsap pursuit, focusing on young core. Doug Haller/AZCentral

The 5: Great moments from low-key Suns free agent signings. Arizona Sports

Notes: Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss to play for Suns in Vegas summer league. Doug Haller/AZCentral

Notable CBA Changes That Will Affect Free Agency. Hoops Rumors

Big-name free agents, Suns’ young core a matchmaker’s nightmare. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns NBA free agency primer: What to know. Arizona Sports

This Week in Suns History

Tom Chambers became the first NBA unrestricted free agent to sign with another team... the Phoenix Suns.

The Impact of Tom Chambers and Unrestricted Free Agency

Suns Trivia

In his five seasons with the Suns Tom Chambers scored 7,817 points (11th all-time) and grabbed 2,491 rebounds (12th all-time). He was a three time All-Star for the Suns (1989, 1990 & 1991) and was twice selected for the All-NBA Second Team (1988-89 & 1989-90).

Statistics courtesy of Land of

Previewing the Weeks/Months Ahead

Las Vegas Summer League: July 7 - July 17.

Friday July 7 @ 7:30 pm: Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings (ESPN2)

Sunday July 9 @ 1:30 pm: Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks (ESPN)

Monday July 10 @ 3:30 pm: Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets (NBA TV)

Important Free Agency Dates:

July 6: Moratorium ends at noon ET; signings and trades can be made official

July 13: Deadline to withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents

July 15: Deadline to sign first-round draft picks (picks become free agents if not given a required tender)

Sept. 5: Deadline to sign second-round draft picks (picks become free agents if not given a required tender)

Last Week's Poll Results

The question was, "What is your overall grade for the Suns' picks in this year's draft?" The results were:

87% - A

11% - B

02% - C

00% - D

00% - F

There were a total of 420 votes cast.

This week's poll is...


How do you think the Suns will do in Summer League this year?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    They will win it all!
    (98 votes)
  • 32%
    They will make it to the finals.
    (88 votes)
  • 23%
    They will make it to the semi-finals.
    (64 votes)
  • 6%
    They will disappoint us and flame out early.
    (18 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now

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