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Center of the Sun: Suns start NBA Summer League 2-0, Devin Booker signs max extension

It was a very good weekend for the Suns and their fans.

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NBA: Summer League-Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Summer Suns vs Summer Mavericks W (92-85) Full Recap

Summer Suns vs Summer Kings W (71-63) Full Recap

This past week is possibly the most positive one in recent history for the Suns and their fans. While that in itself is a little sad, I’m not going to let myself dwell upon that aspect. No, two solid Summer League victories and Devin Booker signing a five year contract extension are reasons to rejoice.

There are still a few doubters that believe that a max extension for Booker was too much but I’m not one of them. Many, many others have frequently gone over the reasons why he is worth it and numerous NBA players and experts have proclaimed him to be a rising star. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by trying to recount all of these things here. You’ve heard them all before. But I do have one thing to say that might be new to some.

I now think of Devin Booker as an NBA veteran.

He may only be 21 years old (22 on October 30) and yet to begin his 4th NBA season but he has played 6703 NBA minutes, started 183 of the 208 games he has played in, scored 4.120 points and has been the main focus of every defense of every team the Suns have played against since he was thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie. He’s seen just about everything in his three years in the league except a winning season.

And I have high hopes that last bit will change soon.

The Suns are trying to flip the switch this season and turn this team around. Very few - including myself - believe that the playoffs are a reasonable possibility this year but I don’t think that a 42 win season is too far out of reach. I don’t expect the Suns to win 42 games but won’t say that it is an unattainable goal. I’m well aware that win total is double the amount of wins the Suns got last season and only 3 short of their total for the past two seasons combined but this is my hope, not my prediction.

The reasons I have fairly high hopes for the Suns are many. I have faith that Book will continue to progress. I believe that the Suns finally have a good head coach again in Igor Kokoskov. I think that adding Trevor Ariza was a smart move. I like most of what I’ve been seeing in the NBA Summer League from our rookies and younger players. And I don’t think that Ryan McDonough is done yet as far as offseason moves are concerned.

Speaking of the Summer League Suns, I like the offense that Kokoskov has been running and the defensive effort I’ve seen on the court too. It’s hard to put much faith in summer league performances as real season predictors but the Suns’ stats are promising overall.

Table courtesy of

I wish I could say that everyone has performed well in the first two games but that’s just not the case. Dragan Bender stands out as the most disappointing Summer Sun so far. Defensively he hasn’t looked bad but he has contributed very little on the offensive end. As a third year player, he should be able to contribute much more than he has in SL games.

Josh Jackson said that he wanted to “dominate” in summer league this year and I think that he’s trying a little too hard to do that. He’s taking way too many jumpers that aren’t falling and just taking too many shots. Nine of his 28 FG attempts (which are 10 more than any other SL Suns player) have been from three and he has hit only one of them (11.1%). But that’s my only complaint as far as his play goes.

Everyone else has as well as or better than I had expected with Davon Reed being the biggest surprise so far.

And to continue with the evaluation of our Summer League team, I asked the Fantable for their opinions.

Fantable Question of the Week

What are your thoughts on the Summer League Suns’ performance so far?

GuarGuar: It’s been really refreshing watching actual ball movement and defense these past 2 games. Igor’s system is already showing it’s value and that’s great to see. His halftime adjustments have been great too and we have played like the “3rd Quarter Warriors” of Summer League. The switching on defense and versatility has been great to see and we made life hell for both the Mavericks and Kings. Certain players have played really well so far and certain players have not.

Deandre Ayton‘s been solid throughout the first 2 games. He hasn’t really “wowed” anyone yet, but that’s ok. His defense has been much better than advertised so far which is huge. His jumper is still flat, which is currently my biggest concern. Igor is mainly using him as a rim runner and backdoor screen setter. Very few post ups. I expect Ayton to but up better performances as he gets more comfortable.

Josh Jackson’s jumper has been bad so far, but everything else has been great. His defense is on point, and I was really impressed with how he defended DSJ opening night. That block on Bagley was something special. Not really concerned with the FG% of JJ thus far. We know what he’s capable of.

Mikal Bridges has been fantastic so far. He really has lived up to his “3 and D” player archetype. Smooth stroke and can knock it down effortlessly while contested too. His defense has been phenomenal too. Excited to see him the rest of Summer League.

Davon Reed has been great. He looks healthy. Okobo had a fantastic first game but a poor shooting 2nd game. He’s a very intriguing player and I’m excited to see his growth. Peters and Shaq are just doing what they do (Shaq’s playmaking has been frustrating at times though).

And then we have Dragan Bender...sigh. He has more turnovers (8) than points (5) so far in his THIRD summer league. He’s been absolutely atrocious, no other way to put it. His shooting has been bad. His dribbling/playmaking has been bad. It’s just been awful. His time is running out.

Hopefully the team keeps running like a well oiled machine and wins the championship!

Sun-Arc: Vacationing in Hawaii (Enjoy!)

SDKyle: I need to start with an obligatory disclaimer: I don’t believe one can draw too many meaningful conclusions from two games of Summer League play. The level of competition is too low and the style of play too disorganized for me to watch a guy play in a couple of SL games and say with any confidence that he’s likely to succeed or fail in the upcoming season. That said...

I liked what I saw in those first two games from a team standpoint. Ball movement was solid, the defense looked competent by SL standards, and the guys seemed to have pretty good chemistry given how many of them have only been teammates a few weeks.

Now for some individual notes.

I personally loved what I saw from Ayton. I was perusing the Brightside game thread and saw a lot of the old Luka Doncic crowd criticizing his showing mercilessly. He’s too slow on his rotations, he’s getting bullied inside, he looks out of shape, his shot is sooooo flat...etc.

I thought he looked really good. The Mavericks double-teamed him to an absurd degree, and he didn’t force anything. He made nice passes out of the double-teams, fought underneath, gave more than he got in the shoving matches, and played solid defense. When he faced a more conventional defense against the Kings, he filled up the statsheet and looked like the best player on either team in the second half.

Maybe he did look a little winded at times, but it wasn’t serious enough to concern me. I was happy with Ayton.

I was happy with Bridges too. He looked awesome in the first game when the Mavs dared someone other than Ayton to beat them. His shot looks true, and he got after it on defense. He definitely isn’t super confident as a creator, but he had some nice moments in both games.

Jackson was pretty underwhelming for me. He played hard, but not especially well, at least on the offensive end. His defense looked pretty nice for the most part, and he moved the ball decently... but his shooting was pretty poor. At times I thought he was forcing things, perhaps out of frustration.

Okobo looked about how I expected. You can see the potential... he has a nice shot and has confidence out there, but he didn’t look like a guy ready to play a lot of minutes in the NBA, in my opinion. At least not as a lead guard. I think he can get there though.

Bender looked good on defense. His big Mutombo-approved swat was a nice moment. On offense he looked like pure straight trash. He was embarrassingly mistake-prone and looked incredibly tentative. Not awful for a rookie in his first SL but for a man entering his third NBA season? Ugh.

SouthernSun: I’ve only watched the first game so far, writing this before the second one. I was impressed by the team as a whole. I’ll go down the list with the standouts.

Ayton - While he didn’t dominate, he wasn’t really given a chance too, as he was being constantly double teamed when he got the ball, and denied the ball a lot too. But what he did do was play good defense on a number of possessions, including a very fun block (though he did have some lapses on that end as well). He also drew the defense in, making a ton of room for the Suns shooters to bomb away. Which is something I hope to see a lot of in the regular season.

Bridges - He looked great. Beautiful three point stroke. Good defense. Quick. Athletic. That trade is looking good so far...

Okobo - He played very well. His passing was impressive. Anybody penciling him in as a major rotation player this season is getting a little ahead of themselves though.

Reed - Caution. Warning. Overzealous Suns fans may be already forgetting how garbage Reed looked in real NBA games this past season. Granted, he was coming off an injury, but Reed looked amazing in summer league last season too. And Derrick Jones Jr looks like a beast this year. Maybe, just maybe, doing great in summer league isn’t a very good example of what that player will be like in the NBA.

Bender - Hey! The Dragan cultivated some mass. He had a nice block. And hit a shot or two. And lost the ball while doing dumb things a number of times. And played much like the waste of a #4 pick we all know and lo... well... that we all know.

Alex Sylvester: I didn’t get the chance to watch much of the 2nd game, but from what I’ve seen thus far:

Ayton: Looks poised in terms of passing the ball out to shooters and accepting double teams. He doesn’t try to force shots and this benefits the guys he’s playing with. It’s unbelievable how often he was getting double teamed by Dallas!

He’ll become more assertive and it’ll be great to see how he plays when Booker is on the court. Like what I’ve seen so far.

Bridges: Looks ready to play right away. His shot seems to be pure swishes from distance, which is a great sign. He spaces the floor great and I even liked one of the pull up jumpers he hit in the first game. He looked a bit like an older Kobe in his form. Very pleased with his showing so far.

Okobo: If you knew nothing about NBA basketball and if your first experience reading about it was on this blog day 1, you’d presume that Elie Okobo was the GOAT. Mind you, I’m very encouraged with what I’ve seen out of Elie but I’m not entirely sure if I’m ready to pin Okobo as the backup PG yet. I still am an advocate of acquiring Patrick Beverley but this summer has me higher on Okobo than I thought I’d be!

JJ: JJ, short for ‘Just Jumpers’. As in, just his jumpers are all I care to see improve. Everything else will continue to fall into place for Jackson.

Bender: This tough. I know to an extent Dragan Bender has value on a basketball court. He’s unselfish, can shoot a little, and is a long armed defender. But there’s a lot of concern that comes with the fact that he’s simply not making big impacts on Summer League games.

The Suns certainly have one of the deepest rosters quality wise in the Summer League, but Bender is failing to be part of that. Let’s hope that this can change a bit in the next coming games, but I’m not too pleased with his showings thus far.

Many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input! And have a great time in Hawaii, Sun-Arc!

Summer League Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks Full Game Highlights / July 6 / 2018 NBA Summer League

Deandre Ayton Rookie DEBUT 2018.07.06 Suns vs Mavs - 10 Pts, 8 Rebs!

Mikal Bridges Rookie DEBUT 2018.07.06 Suns vs Mavs - 14 Pts, 5-6 FGM, PURE!

Davon Reed Full Highlights vs Mavericks (2018.07.06) NBA Summer League - 18 Pts, 3 Reb

Elie Okobo 9 pts 4 rebs 6 asts vs Mavericks 2018 Summer League

Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings Full Game Highlights / July 7 / 2018 NBA Summer League

Deandre Ayton Full Highlights vs Kings (2018.07.07) Summer League - 21 Pts, 12 Reb, BEAST!

Quotes of the Week

“You have to win games. There’s no excuse. You can say Chris Paul didn’t play Game 7 (of the Western Conference finals) for Houston. You can say we’re too young. You can use all the excuses, but no one really cares about that. All they care about in this profession, in this business, is winning. So just get it done.” - Igor Kokoskov

Interesting Suns Stuff

News & Notes

Now is the time for the Phoenix Suns to take a step forward. ISportsWeb

How Suns’ Elie Okobo went from shooting guard to point guard. Atreya Verma/Arizona Republic

Davon Reed doing everything he can in Vegas to stay on Suns roster. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Jackson Embraces Leadership Role for Summer League.

Phoenix Suns coach Igor Kokoskov’s journey began with near-fatal auto accident. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Trevor Ariza is easy to miss. He shouldn’t be. Zach Lowe/ESPN

Suns History in Video

Did The 2007 Phoenix Suns Get ROBBED Of The NBA Championship?

(Author’s note: There is a 20 second ‘commercial’ at the beginning of this video.)

Suns Trivia

Phoenix Suns ROH member and all time franchise leader in assists, Steve Nash, is also third in all time career assists (10,335) in the NBA behind only John Stockton (15,806) and another former Sun, Jason Kidd (12,091). Nash also ranks 1st in all time best free throw percentage in the NBA at 90.43% and 10th in all time three point percentage (42.8%).

Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

July 6-17 - 2018 NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)

  • July 9 - Suns vs Magic @ 6:30 pm AZT on NBA TV
  • Tournament play follows the three game schedule, opponents and game times TBD.

July 13 - Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

July 15 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks; those players become free agents on July 16 if not tendered.

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.

Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.

Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “What is you opinion of the Suns’ acquisition of Trevor Ariza?”

44% - I love it!

52% - It’s okay but it’s not what I was hoping for.

04% - I hate it!

There were a total of 487 votes cast.

This week’s poll is:


Will the Summer Suns win the NBA Summer League Championship?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    (169 votes)
  • 44%
    Only if they don’t pull any players off of the SL roster.
    (154 votes)
  • 6%
    (24 votes)
347 votes total Vote Now