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Jalen Lecque steals the Summer League spotlight flashing tantalizing upside for Suns

Lecque has the makings of being the next great preps-to-pros story.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

This time a year ago, I don’t think anyone expected Jalen Lecque to be in the position he is now. Instead of attending college, where he committed to North Carolina State as a four-star recruit, Lecque seized his rare opportunity to enter the 2019 NBA Draft. Following a similar path to that of Anfernee Simons, who also went the preps to pros route after an extra high school season with IMG Academy, Lecque turned 19 just before the draft and declared without any college experience.

Lecque went undrafted, but he was the first free agent signed after the draft. The Suns quickly offered Lecque a long-term contract, and it was apparent Lecque’s camp saw Phoenix as the perfect place to continue his development.

“When we had the opportunity to get him, thinking about how he can develop with us in (Northern Arizona), we thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up on,” said general manager James Jones in Las Vegas.

What Lecque accomplished during his four-game showcase in Las Vegas stole the show. Without Cameron Johnson or Ty Jerome suiting up, the Suns’ new 19-year-old guard took the spotlight. And he certainly didn’t disappoint. Lecque displayed that his ambitious jump this early to the professional level bypassing playing in the ACC wasn’t a mistake.

Lecque finished his Summer League campaign with more steals (5) than turnovers (4) and twice as many assists as turnovers. That’s eye-opening for a raw player who was last playing in New Hampshire for Brewster Academy before his lengthy pre-draft workout circuit began.

Lecque steadily improved each game, becoming more comfortable within a new system. In his final two games, Lecque didn’t log a single turnover while totaling 23 points. Lecque averaged 8.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2 assists (2:1 AST/TO), and 1.3 steals in 18.5 minutes, while also finishing with an impressive 58 TS%.

What stood out more than ever when reanalyzing Lecque’s Summer League was how self-aware he was playing to his strengths. He never really forced up bad shots, instead riding his athleticism consistently finishing well through contact around the basket.

Another major positive that shined through was Lecque’s aggressiveness on defense. Whether it’s fighting through screens or taking charges, a category in which he led the team, Lecque showed upside on the defensive end that made me realize he’s more than a one-trick pony in the athleticism department. Against the Grizzlies, which was the Summer Suns’ only loss, Lecque had multiple sequences where he was successfully harassing Grayson Allen, forcing him into mistakes.

Lecque also showed he understood off-ball concepts, especially knowing when to cut and attack the rim at will. This role is actually what he played most this week alongside Elie Okobo and Jared Harper as other teammates initiated offense.

After entering into Summer League with zero expectations, Lecque showed the Suns’ new regime might have pulled off another savvy move. Already nicknamed “Baby Westbrook” for his freakish hops, Lecque showed he’s not an exhibition wonder, flashing high basketball IQ, scoring potential, translatable defensive skills, and two-way effort.

Lecque’s drive-and-finish style is going to translate immediately from the stage in Las Vegas to G League competition. The possibility to become an above-average combo guard is there with Lecque, if all other areas of his game grow properly in Prescott Valley. The Suns’ exciting undrafted prospect has a guaranteed contract through the 2020-21 season, but expect most of his work to be done with the Northern Arizona Suns.

Within the next two years, Lecque should be able to grow into his frame while also working on his major weaknesses — shot mechanics and overall offensive creation. Ironing out those kinks in his game will take Lecque’s game to a whole new level.

Phoenix suddenly has plenty of point guards on their roster — Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Tyler Johnson, Jevon Carter — after having a shortage the past two season. Though Lecque won’t see much, if any, playing time next season, he left his imprint on Sin City.

Lecque will be the Suns’ first true case study of how player development might go under the new leadership spearheaded by Jones and Williams. During the first chapter of his NBA career, Lecque passed the Summer League test with flying colors.

“That I belong,” Lecque said when asked before his first game what he wants to prove in Las Vegas. “I’m not just a regular high school dude that I believe everyone thinks I am. I just want to prove everybody wrong, that I belong with these guys.”

Lecque certainly accomplished his first goal on the professional level. The New York product will now have more eyes glued than ever to NAZ Suns action following his outstanding debut.