Who: #3 seeded Suns vs. #30 seeded Sixers
When: 3:30 PM AZ Time
Where: Las Vegas baby!
TV: ESPN 2
On Thursday, the undefeated Summer Suns begin their playoff push against a Sixers team that basically mailed it in this summer.
While the Suns have come back to SL with all their rookies and several of their veterans, including their #4 overall picks in the two prior drafts, the Sixers came back with... Furkan Korkmaz.
So it’s no surprise the Sixers are one of only two winless teams in SL so far, while the Suns have had 17+ point leads in the second half of all three games so far and won them easily.
As the #3 seed, the Suns are the highest seeded team to play in the “first round” of the tournament, so they get to go up against the worst team in SL. The #1 seed Lakers and #2 seed Rockets have a “bye” through Saturday.
Who will sit/play for Suns
In the past, teams have not “respected” the tournament play that occurs over the second weekend, generally sitting our their veteran guaranteed contract players — and sometimes even rookies — after opening weekend.
- Veterans who might not play again this week: Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender. Neither Jackson nor Bender have played well this summer, so that won’t necessarily diminish the Suns chances to win games.
- Rookies who may or may not play again this week: Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo. It’s possible Ayton and maybe even Bridges play sparingly the rest of the way, if only to avoid injury.
SL is generally a showcase for players NOT under guaranteed contract who are trying to win jobs for next season. The Suns have lots of those.
Players fighting to keep their NBA contracts: Shaquille Harrison (non-guaranteed), Davon Reed (50% non-guaranteed) and even George King (two-ways are not guaranteed).
These three are the players with the most to lose if they don’t show out this week, which makes them the least likely to sit out ANY games.
The remaining players on the SL roster have nothing to lose, since they are already without any NBA contract or training camp invite.
- Players just wanting to get a training camp invite to some NBA team: Jack Cooley, Alec Peters
- Players likely just hoping for G-League contracts next season: Tai Odiase, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Javonte Green, Emmet Naar.
What that means
Suns fans can expect to see a LOT of Shaquille Harrison, Davon Reed, Alec Peters, Jack Cooley and George King* this weekend.
Those five players have the most to “gain” from exposure during summer league.
*King has a two-way contract in hand, but those are not guaranteed in the same way an NBA contract can be guaranteed. The Suns could drop King any time in favor of another player if he doesn’t play well.
We can HOPE to see a lot of Ayton, Bridges and Okobo but don’t be surprised if their minutes are curtailed.
Matchup to watch
Well, the first results of the Suns-Sixers trade of course!
Not only did the Sixers get that coveted Miami pick, but they also got Zhaire Smith in exchange for Mikal Bridges.
While they may not line up against each other all night, you should still watch to see which player you’d rather have on the Suns this season.
The Sixers’ Smith collects a lot of counting stats and is superbly athletic. He can’t shoot yet (35% from the field), but he collects stats: 1.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game.
The Suns’ Bridges is shooting better than Smith (54% from the field), and collects his own stats as well: 3.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks in 20 minutes per game.
Their big playing differences will be shooting (Bridges is better) versus playmaking (Smith is better). Bridges is also taller and longer, but not quite as good an athlete as Smith. And finally, Bridges at the old man age of 21.5 is almost 2 years older than Smith.
But Bridges is a small forward while Smith is more of a shooting guard at 6’4”.
So maybe the matchup to watch is really against Davon Reed, the #32 pick in last year’s draft. Reed is trying desperately to get his 2018-19 contract guaranteed, and is playing very well to that end. He’s three years older than Smith, but will most likely play the most minutes opposite Smith in this game.
Smith stats: 8.3 points (35% shooting), 1.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game.
Reed stats: 13.3 points (56% shooting), 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks in 24.4 minutes per game.
*assuming Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender don’t play
- Point guard: Demetrius Jackson vs. Shaquille Harrison
- Shooting guard: Furkan Korkmaz vs. Davon Reed
- Small forward: Zhaire Smith vs. Mikal Bridges
- Power forward: Cameron Oliver vs. Alec Peters
- Center: Joah Bolden vs. Deandre Ayton
- Minutes: Zhaire Smith 25.7
- Points: Furkan Korkmaz 15.0 (31% shooting)
- Rebounds: Isaiah Miles 9.5
- Assists: Demetrius Jackson 8.0
- Steals: Cameron Oliver 2.0
- Blocks: Chris McCullough 2.0
- Minutes: Deandre Ayton, Shaquille Harrison 25.7
- Points: Deandre Ayton 16.0 (67% shooting)
- Rebounds: Deandre Ayton 11.0
- Assists: Shaquille Harrison 5.7
- Steals: Shaquille Harrison 2.7
- Blocks: Deandre Ayton 1.0
What happens next
If the Suns win, they play the winner of Spurs/Bucks on Saturday, July 14 and would be two wins away from winning the goshdarn thing.