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Summer Suns: Josh Jackson flashes toughness, while Point Bender is a go

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Unique talents are showing off their unique traits before heading off to the Sin City for Summer League.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day
Point Bender will be a hot topic this week
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns began their Summer League preparation Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena, and there’s a lot to look forward to while watching the action. Not only will Josh Jackson and Davon Reed be making their debuts, but Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss will also see extended run, at least for the first weekend.

Out of the main three getting minutes in Las Vegas — Jackson, Chriss, and Bender — the former Jayhawk is the one everyone is looking forward to seeing how he translates to the pro level. Much like general manager Ryan McDonough discussed on draft night, Jackson is a perfect fit in Phoenix on both sides of the floor. Especially in an offense that wants to get up and down in transition consistently, Jackson is the prototype wing for such an attack.

Also, on the defensive end, Jackson’s versatility offers him an ability to guard nearly every athlete on the floor. Jackson also believes those areas will translate over rather smoothly.

“I think all of it, to be honest, my athleticism, versatility,” Jackson said. “I feel like when you watch the game today, you see wing defenders out there playing the four and five sometimes — and also being able to guard one through four — I feel like I can do that pretty well. I’m pretty good in transition, I think that’s where I’m best at. And today’s game is a transition game now.”

That tenacity Jackson showed throughout high school and his one season at Kansas is on full display here. On every possession, he’s going to give it his all. Head coach Earl Watson said Jackson will come in and fill the team’s void that PJ Tucker left, getting the top assignment each game. He’s ready for that challenge and ready to hit the court in Las Vegas and give it his all.

“I’m just trying to come out and give my best effort, try to come out and do my best and get better at the same time,” Jackson said. “So, if I’m trying to hard then I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you.”

I can already tell the attitude Jackson exudes will make him a fan favorite pretty quickly.

Chriss also notices the competitiveness he brings to a team night in and night out, and is definitely a fan of Jackson’s. He’s excited about the potential of this team with him joining the fray.

“He’s a competitor, I like that. He has a fire to him. He’s quiet when he’s mad, but it will help him in his career,” Chriss said. “I think he’s going to help our team in the long run.”

Meanwhile, sans Jackson, the excitement to see Bender show off the best tool he has and what makes him stand out, his passing ability, is palpable. Prior to being selected by Phoenix alongside Chriss in 2016, Bender was not able to show off his passing skills with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Bender mentions the pick-and-roll, which is one area that has yet to be really examined by the Suns, alongside leading in transition.

Now, after he struggled through and injury-riddled rookie season, he will finally be able to display what made him such an attractive piece alongside Devin Booker and the rest of their core.

“Quite a lot,” Bender said of how familiar he is with running point forward. “Growing up, I did quite a lot, just like this, playing with the ball in pick-and-roll. Just being a point forward, a distributor. On the offensive end, try to pass the ball to shooters on the floor and spread the floor.”

Bender is a playmaking center, to say the least, who will start to have more of an impact on the offense this season. He’s always looking for the open man and the extra pass to make to free someone open. With the way the NBA is moving towards prioritizing secondary playmakers such as Bender, they will be a commodity much like 3-and-D wings are popularized.

Phoenix now has a roster with three unique playmakers in their youth movement who can find holes and help push the pace: Booker, Jackson, and Bender. That is what makes the extended view so intriguing because it would be off-ball movement heaven for everyone involved if they are able to add more spacing alongside them. Having these pieces mesh together, gives them an enticing opportunity to add supplementarily pieces to help maximize their developments.

There will be two more practices open to the media Wednesday and Thursday morning, while they have evening sessions later on. Stay tuned to Bright Side of the Sun throughout leading up and through Summer League, as we’ll be there, too, bringing you the latest.