Entering into their final action of Summer League up in Las Vegas, the Phoenix Suns definitely looked the part of a team who should have been in championship contention. However, after yesterday’s surprising loss to Philadelphia, the Summer Suns ended up in the consolation bracket versus San Antonio.
Even though this game was rough on the eyes (more on that later), here are my takeaways from the latest drumming on the competition by Phoenix.
Thumbs Up: The biggest winner of Summer League for the Suns was by far new head coach Igor Kokoskov. Over this 5-game sample size, Kokoskov showed off a completely different system than what Suns fans are accustomed to watching. Unlike Earl Watson and Jay Triano, Kokoskov prioritizes heavy ball movement and switch-heavy looks.
When glossing over the passing numbers compared to last season, the Summer Suns carried an assist percentage of 62.4% (final game not included) while the 2017-18 Suns assisted on 55.3% of opportunities. With more NBA talent on the floor once October rolls around, that number could rise closer to 65%, putting Phoenix in the top 10 in terms of passing metrics. Many times throughout last year we saw more turnovers than assists in blowout losses. Under Kokoskov’s guidance, I doubt that happens much, if at all.
Another area I loved to see was Kokoskov’s demeanor. He received a technical foul on Thursday when Ayton got the ball stolen from him, which is great to see, but his cool, calm and collected attitude will rub off the right way on the players. Speaking of them Kokoskov is the ideal players coach.
I’m excited to see what he can do with Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton and many others once the regular season rolls around. In the meantime, he left a great impression me over the past week in Vegas.
Thumbs Down: Wow, what an ugly game that was. At the end of the first quarter, it was all tied up at 13. By halftime, Phoenix led 42-22. It’s no surprise with many on both rosters getting extra playing time, but it was rough on the eyes for multiple minutes at a time. There was a moment where there were turnovers on three straight possessions.
Luckily, it settled down from Phoenix’s perspective but San Antonio looked rattled from the get-go. That led to the Suns being on cruise control leading by 20+ points throughout the second half.
Thumbs Up: Jack Cooley, the Summer League legend, has etched his name in the record books tying for most appearances in its history. 32 games in six years for Cooley, the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish product.
Cooley had some fun moments throughout this week, including some fun passing and defensive sequences. Against San Antonio on Friday, Cooley finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 24 minutes.
Wherever Cooley ends up next, I wish him the best of luck. He’s an entertaining player to watch who brings a fun attitude onto the basketball court.
Thumbs Up: I’m going to highlight both Shaquille Harrison and Davon Reed here for the final positive point. If General Manager Ryan McDonough was considering releasing one or both of Harrison and Reed, he should seriously be second-guessing those thoughts. Those two, outside of Kokoskov, were the big winners of Summer League for Phoenix.
Not surprisingly, both had their way against San Antonio, like they have all week against any competition matched up against them. Harrison tallied up 13 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks in 27 minutes while leading the team in plus-minus with +36. Meanwhile, Reed had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in limited action.
What’s going to be an interesting storyline to follow leading up into September’s training camp in Flagstaff will be Harrison and Elie Okobo battling it out for the backup point guard spot. Even though Okobo might have the edge with his playmaking chops, Harrison has proven this week that his defense flips games on its head entirely.
Also, Harrison is more physically built at this stage than Okobo, which could allow him to play a 15-20 minute per game role behind Brandon Knight.
If this week was any indication, Harrison is on a mission to prove he belongs not only in Phoenix but on most NBA rosters. Harrison took the bull by the horns and completely took over this week in Vegas.
Now with Summer League over, the Suns will have an 8-week break before preparation begins for training camp. Until then, no more live action after their disappointing bounce in tournament play on Thursday.
However, the 35-point dismantling of San Antonio was one way to put a cherry on top of their great week.