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Guaranteed or not, Shaquille Harrison and Davon Reed can hold their heads high

Both players used Summer League to bolster their case for a guaranteed contract

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NBA: Summer League-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Summer League ended for the Phoenix Suns on Jul. 13 with a 90-55 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the consolation bracket following a tough loss to the No. 30-seed Philadelphia 76ers the day before. Phoenix finished summer play with a 4-1 record.

The conclusion of the Vegas Summer League means no more limelight basketball until September, allowing players two-plus months to return to the virtual anonymity of their preferred haunts for summer hoops. Or to laze around in a hammock sipping umbrella drinks.

For Davon Reed and Shaquille Harrison, though, their Mai Tais will have to wait until their contract statuses are resolved. Reed’s status comes up first, as the guarantee date of his contract was pushed back by the team in June to Jul. 20, according to Scott Bordow. Harrison is in the on-deck circle, with a guarantee date of Aug. 1.

Money shouldn’t be much of a factor in Phoenix’s decision, as both Reed and Harrison are slated to earn $1.38 million next year. But roster flexibility might. The Suns have the league-mandated 13 players under full NBA contract, and guaranteeing both Reed and Harrison for next season would lock in Phoenix’s 15-man roster for 2018-19, barring trade or waiver. At that point, their flexibility would consist of their final two-way contract slot, as rookie George King has already claimed the other two-way deal.

For Phoenix, the front office must weigh the value Reed and Harrison bring to the team against the value of short-term marginal flexibility.

For Reed and Harrison, they can only wait.

Summer League served as a do-or-die tryout for both players. Head coach Igor Kokoskov penciled Harrison and Reed in as his starting backcourt for all five games in Las Vegas and gave them the first- and third-most minutes respectively on the team. In return for the opportunity, both players competed at levels indicative of the stakes.

Harrison took charge of the Summer Suns in a way many hoped Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton, or Dragan Bender would. He averaged 12.2 points per contest, led the team in both assists (6.6) and steals (2.4), and was even third in rebounds (4.6) and blocks (0.8). He shot just 45.3 percent from the floor even though 83 percent of his shot attempts were inside the arc but showed improvement from distance (4 of 9, 44.4 percent), especially over last season (6 of 26, 23.1 percent).

But Harrison’s best move was to put his vice-like defense on full display. A bench player’s game should offer a contrasting look to that of the starter, not a lesser version of the skill set the person ahead of him in the pecking order possesses, and Harrison’s defense differentiates him from, well, everyone else in the Suns’ backcourt.

His size, length, strength, and quickness flummoxed opposing point guards, and as Harrison harassed and harangued them for 94 feet over five games, he reminded the Phoenix brain trust of his contrasting skill set — tenacious defense — not shared by presumptive starting point guard Brandon Knight.

After the third game of Summer League, Kokoskov was asked how much he valued Harrison’s defensive fire. His answer, as per azcentral.com’s Bordow: “A lot. A lot.

“We don’t make any (roster) decisions. He’s making the decision for himself. I was really impressed.”

Similarly, Reed reminded the Suns why they were high on him a year ago. He finished second on the team in scoring (13.4 points per game), third in assists (3.0), and tied with Jack Cooley for fifth in rebounds (4.4). His torrid shooting cooled off as the five games in eight days caught up to his legs, but he still shot a very respectable 48.9 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent (10 of 24) from behind the arc.

Reed needed a showing like this. Last season’s meniscus injury that kept him out until January and limited him to just 21 games eroded the perception of him as a player. He never returned to pre-injury form during the season, leaving the Suns seeking proof that the guy averaging 3.0 points and 1.9 rebounds while shooting below 30 percent from behind the arc and the field overall wasn’t his new form. They needed confirmation that the 3-and-D player they thought they’d drafted in 2017 was still in there. In Vegas, his length and activity defending the perimeter alongside Harrison and his confidence taking shots and creating offense provided said proof.

Now it’s out of their hands, and that can be a difficult pill to swallow. But whether the decision made by the Suns favors them or not, neither Reed nor Harrison should hang his head. Both players showed the best of their games in Las Vegas, and neither shot himself in the foot trying to be something that he’s not. Harrison reminded everyone of his defensive chops and showed growth in other facets of his game; Reed proved he’s no longer damaged goods.

All either player can do now is let the process play itself out, as agonizing as it may be.

To quote noted 20th century philosopher Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.