Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
The Suns’ Summer League season ended much sooner than many anticipated but those are the breaks. The main thing was to get a good look at some of the younger players in actual game situations, not to mention how they responded to the guidance of the Suns’ new head coach, Igor Kokoskov.
First off, Igor’s offense looked very good to me. Lots of ball movement and team play. And this was a simplified version of what he will run when the regular season arrives. I can’t wait to see all the bells and whistles he adds when he has some more time to teach his system and integrate Devin Booker and the other veteran Suns players into it.
Two of the Summer League Suns - Shaquille Harrison and Davon Reed - are on non-guaranteed contracts and, as almost everyone is aware of, were playing to get those contracts guaranteed and stay on the team. I think that they both made strong cases for their retention. While neither of them are NBA starter material (not yet anyway), both showed their potential worth coming off the bench.
Both were not only playing hard on defense, but playing it well to boot. Shaq Harrison especially seems to have a ‘junkyard dog’ mentality on defense... he grabs hold and just will not let go. On offense, his outside shooting is still something of a concern but he’s also not one to take many shots that he’s not comfortable with. He’s also a good ball handler and very willing if not great passer (6.6 assists per game in SL). I could see him being the #2 point guard for the Suns early in the season as I’m not at all certain that rookie Elie Okobo is ready for that responsibility just yet.
Davon Reed is a solid 3-and-D player... with pretty good ball handling skills too. Reed said that his knee never felt quite right last season after returning from surgery to repair a meniscus tear but he seems completely over that now. Solid defense and a guy who hit 41.7% of his threes (in summer league) is a good guy to bring in off the bench when needed.
Are there better players out there somewhere that the Suns could add to the team instead of Shaq and Davon?
Sure there are but it’s unlikely that the Suns would be able to find other players to add through free agency that would have the same value at this point. Releasing them both would add only an additional $2 mil in cap space (Reed’s salary is is partially guaranteed for one-half of it’s $1.38 mil value) to add to the $1.1 mil that the Suns have left. It’s certainly possible that the Suns might have their eyes on a player they might be able to sign to a $3 mil contract but I can’t think of a free agent out there that is significantly that either one, let alone both. And the Suns still have the $4.45 mil room exception to use if they want to add someone else.
Keeping the two of them would bring the number of guaranteed contracts up to 15 for the Suns but that’s not really a problem during the offseason. Teams can have up to 20 players (including 2 two-way contract players) under contract during the offseason and only have to have the full-time roster down to 15 shortly before the regular season begins. Keeping Shaq and Davon doesn’t mean they can’t sign another player or two, just that if they do that then someone would have to be waived before the season begins. Or traded.
One player that got a lot of unexpected negative attention from fans during summer league was Josh Jackson. Josh did not look good before being shut down this summer. He shot 24.4% from the field, 9.1% from three and had the the second highest number of turnovers per game (3.0) of all the Summer Suns. He frankly looked out of control on the court at times but I’m still not really worried about him. For a second year player who has already proven himself (to a certain degree), summer league is a time to work on things that need improving which is what I assume he was trying to do. And one positive thing that I noticed was that Josh got to the free throw line more often than any other Sun (4.7 FTA per game) and made 71.4% of his free throws. That’s a fairly nice improvement over his 63.4% FT average last season.
But that’s just my opinion.
So this week I asked the Fantable for their opinions on Josh, Shaq and Davon.
Fantable Questions of the Week
1. Quite a few people seem alarmed/bothered by Josh Jackson’s play during the Summer League games. What is your opinion of JJ, his play so far and if it’s actually significant in regard to what you expect from him when the regular season starts?
2. The Suns presently have 16 players under contract (including George King on a two-way). Only Davon Reed and Shaquille Harrison are on non-guaranteed contracts. They’ve both looked good in the SL games but have they looked good enough for the Suns to guarantee their contracts and keep them on the roster?
GuarGuar: 1. I totally understand the concern some people have with JJ after his summer league. He doesn’t look like he’s gained weight, and he shot the ball extremely poorly (although his free throw stroke looks MUCH better). His play style was erratic and 2017 JJ-esque. Do I wish I saw a better showing from Josh? Absolutely. Am I extremely worried about his future outlook now? Absolutely not. Josh tried to establish himself too much in summer league. He knew he was the #1 option and he tried to maximize it. Josh Jackson is not a number 1 option on a basketball team. Never will be. He’s a number 3-4 guy. Josh’s role in the regular season will be WAY different than in summer league. He’s not going to have the ball enough to force the garbage he forced in summer league. He’s going to be playing a lot more off the ball which is what he’s good at. I’m not going to throw out his entire 2nd half of last season (which he was good in) because of 3 summer league games (and 2 in which he was hurt with a mask).
2. Davon and Shaq both look like players who absolutely belong in the NBA. I think they both showed the Suns they should stay on the roster for the upcoming season. Davon showed why we drafted him at 32 last year, with tremendous shooting and solid defense. He looks like a promising player to back up Booker at the 2 spot. Glad to see he is healthy and moving well. Shaq Harrison’s on ball defense is absolutely fantastic. It’s certainly one of the best in the NBA, let alone summer league. As coach Igor said in an interview, “It’s a talent” to have that on ball defensive tenaciousness and grit. Defensive effort like that is a talent. No reason why Shaq can’t be our 2nd/3rd string PG next season (unless we trade for someone). We need defense and boy does Shaq bring it. Really pleased with what both Shaq and Davon showed in summer league.
Sun-Arc: Still vacationing in Hawaii... but...
I’ll take a moment from my busy beach-going days to give a quick response. I was able to watch the first four games as replays on ESPN.
1. The alarming part of JJ’s play, for me, was that everyone but Josh seemed to be in-line with Igor’s offensive scheme. Josh appeared out of control and made a bunch of bad decisions, which appeared to hurt the offensive schemes more than helping. I think its possible that Igor told him to go out and ‘do what he does’ to see how it worked for the team, so I’m not sure this is his ‘fault’. But if his style wasn’t by design... yikes.
I loved what he did on defense and his energy level was great, as usual. Yet I wished he wasn’t on the court every time he had the ball on offense. The question is, what does Igor do with JJ now that he has seen the worst he has to offer?
Igor seems like a really good coach based on the ball movement, slight-of-hand plays, and defensive schemes I watched this past week. Given all that, I think he reigns in Josh and turns him into a really productive player on both ends. We know he can handle the ball, pass, and create gravity around him on offense with his quickness- all things that should work in Koko’s schemes.
2. I think the Suns should, and will, keep both Reed and baby-Shaq on the roster next season. But it still may depend on how they function in the preseason and whether they make any other roster changes.
Reed: That was the continued evolution of the 3&D player we saw last summer league. I loved the pick when we drafted him and hoped that last season’s poor play was based on his injury- which appears to be the case. Yes, we have a bevy of wings currently. But Reed will likely be a really good back-up player to place in a game if one of JJ, Bridges, or TJ are not producing or defending. Its another good versatile, ‘switchy’, long and athletic player for Igor to utilize. I feel there is really great value to his contract as long as he can transfer his SL play into the season on limited minutes.
Harrison: Man, I love this kid. Sure, he is not the best passer around and still struggles with his shot, but his effort and tenacity on both ends is supremely palpable. He was the best player on the SL team and the engine that made it run. (Though he also limited it on offense with sub-par passing at times). I love him on the roster as an off-the-bench guard stopper when needed. I like his fit next to Booker, but obviously not on heavy minutes. I would keep him on the roster, if for no other reason, than as a practice player that will push the young guys to be better. That alone has to be worth his contract.
SDKyle: 1. I was an enormous Josh Jackson homer in the run-up to his being drafted by the Suns. He was the guy I wanted. Unfortunately, I have had to steadily downgrade my hopes for him from “Scottie Pippen” to “prime Trevor Ariza.”
I am disappointed by JJ’s play in SL, but not really alarmed by it. I think his inefficient and mistake-prone play is at least partly caused by his efforts to “take over” the games...an opportunity he won’t often have when he’s sharing the court with Booker, Ayton, Ariza, and other players who will get their share of time as offensive weapons.
I’m hoping to see an improved JJ when the regular season tips off...just not as improved as I was hoping for.
2. I’d keep both guys. Shaq isn’t an answer at PG, but his defensive skills and hard work make him worth keeping around as the last PG option. Reed deserves at least the chance to translate his solid SL play into a role as a 3&D wing off the bench. Ditching them doesn’t clear enough cap space to move the needle... let’s see what they can bring to the team.
SouthernSun: 1. Okay, here’s my take on Josh Jackson. He’s not ready to be a go to guy yet at any level of the NBA, even though he was put into that position last season and performed admirably. He could potentially one day be an offensive focal point perhaps, or close to it, but he’s not yet that guy. Right now, he should be playing a complementary role. And he will once the regular season has started. Maybe it’s just summer league, and he’s jacking up all sorts of shots he wouldn’t normally take because why not. But even his finishing at the rim has been down. I wouldn’t read too much into that, it’s only a few games, and he looked better than this against better players at the end of last season.
While sure, it’s a little disheartening to see him struggle in summer league, I’m ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and expect he will look better in the regular season.
2. Keep both of them. Not necessarily because I love either of them, but because it’s only 2 million in cap space. So, cool I guess. I’m not holding my breath waiting for Shaq and Reed to play big minutes off the bench at a high level in the regular season, at least not if the Suns are winning some games, but they aren’t bad third string guys, and if they turn out to be better than we should expect them to be, then fantastic.
I sincerely hope the Suns trade for a point guard to start and make Knight the backup, but I’m getting less and less sure that will happen. I’ve now heard McDonough and Igor both refer to him out loud on television as the Suns starting point guard.
Alex Sylvester: 1. Not worried one bit.
Jackson is just pressing. Will Josh Jackson ever be the #1 option offensively for the Suns like he’s trying to be in the Summer League? No. That belongs to Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
His offensive ceiling would be a good #3 for a championship level team, and that’s completely fine. JJ will ultimately be a success if his all-around game is strong, which is what he was drafted to be. I’m personally not worried one bit.
2. I’d be open to keeping both Reed and Harrison.
Each have shown me something this summer. Davon’s shot looks pure from distance and he’s got a lot of upside as a 3/D guy off the bench. Shaq is the bigger story to me, as he has elevated himself into the conversation of potentially earning real minutes next year. With Knight essentially a lock to get 20+ MPG, there is opportunity for Harrison to beat out Okobo for the backup PG role, unless Ryan McDonough were able to swing a trade for a vet PG.
Yes, it was disappointing for the 3 seeded Suns to lose in the 1st game, but there were some encouraging things to take from this year’s SL.
Many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!
Summer League Stats
Tables courtesy of RealGM.com
Summer League Highlights
Phoenix Suns vs Orlando Magic Full Game Highlights / July 9 / 2018 NBA Summer League
Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia Sixers Full Game Highlights / July 12 / 2018 NBA Summer League
Summer Suns Dominate Spurs in Final Summer League Action | Phoenix Suns
INSANE WINDMILL ENDING OF SUNS VS SPURS SUMMER LEAGUE
Best Of DeAndre Ayton | 2018 MGM Resorts Summer League
Quotes of the Week
“I could do better, but overall I thought I did alright. I just think forgetting one or two plays and not really staying vocal with the fatigue, I gotta work on those, but I thought I did alright.” - Deandra Ayton (on his Summer League performance)
“Obviously he’s (Deandre Ayton) getting doubled now in summer league but that’s not going to happen during the season. They can’t do that when I’m on the floor.” - Devin Booker
Interesting Suns Stuff
News & Notes
Suns’ rebuild needs contributions from lottery picks besides Deandre Ayton. Andre Snellings/ESPN
The 5: Takeaways from Summer Suns’ time in Las Vegas. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports
Deandre Ayton’s Summer League Performance Proves He’s NBA Ready. Yahoo! Sports (VIDEO)
Devin Booker appreciative of new deal, excited about Suns’ changes. Brinkwire
NBA Daily: Jackson and Ayton give Phoenix hope. Basketball Insiders
Here’s how Devin Booker’s record-setting contract breaks down by year. Shane Dale/ABC15 Arizona
Devin Booker’s deal changes everything for Phoenix Suns. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports
Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker could be an NBA free agent soon ... in shoes. AZCentral Sports
Suns History in Video
Top 5 Reasons We Love Suns Vs. Spurs
(Published Dec 17, 2013)
The NBA started giving out the Most Improved Player award in 1986. Three of the 32 players who have earned the award did so while playing for the Phoenix Suns: Kevin Johnson in 1989, Boris Diaw in 2006 and Goran Dragic in 2014.
Five other players who played for the Suns (Jalen Rose/2000, Jermaine O’Neal/2002, Hedo Turkoglu/2008, Danny Granger/2009 and Aaron Brooks/2010) also won the award but with other teams. Also, one former Suns head coach (Scott Skiles/1991) won the award during his playing days.
Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead
August 4 -- NBA Africa Game 2018
August 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2018/19 salaries.
September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.
September 7 -- Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Enshrinement Ceremony
September 21 -- First allowable date for players participating in preseason NBA Global Games to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time)
September 22 -- Training Camps open for all teams participating in preseason NBA Global Games
September 24 -- First allowable date for all other veteran players to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time)
September 25 -- Training Camps open for all other teams
Last Week’s Poll Results
The poll was, “Will the Summer Suns win the NBA Summer League Championship?”
49% - Yes!
44% - Only if they don’t pull any players off of the SL roster.
07% - No.
There were a total of 347 votes cast.
This week’s poll is about Shaq Harrison and Davon Reed.
The Suns should...
This poll is closed
Keep them both.
Keep Shaq and drop Davon.
Keep Davon and drop Shaq.
Drop them both.