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Suns fade quietly into the depths of summer with win over China

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The Summer Suns finish 3-1.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 8 - China v Phoenix Suns Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Summer Suns closed out their NBA Las Vegas Summer League schedule with a 3-1 record after beating the Chinese National Team 94-64 on Friday.

Eight different players scored between 8-11 points for the Suns in an easy blowout win over the boys from China. Later today, you’ll see a story from Evan Sidery on Jalen Lecque from yesterday and the summer league as a whole.

Lecque was the only “super young, super athletic, could be great one day” player on the entire roster, and that’s a major change of pace for this Suns franchise that’s been trotting out a whole roster of THE FUTURE for almost a decade now.

For the first time in almost a decade, the Suns did not have anyone on their Summer League roster with a certain regular season rotation role waiting for them in November.

  • In 2012, the team was led by Kendall Marshall and Markieff Morris, and were surprised by P.J. Tucker’s emergence.
  • In 2013, they added brother Marcus and rookie Archie Goodwin to the Marshall, P.J. and Keef show.
  • The 2014 team featured Archie with rookies T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, plus Miles Plumlee and the recovering Alex Len.
  • The 2015 team was loaded with rookie Devin Booker joining T.J., Archie and Alex yet again.
  • The 2016 team had super-Book with rookies Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender plus “Big Sauce” Alan Williams.
  • In 2017, those guys returned and were joined by Josh Jackson and Davon Reed, while Mike James led the team in points to earn a roster spot.
  • The 2018 team was loaded once again with Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, along with Reed and Jackson. This time it was Shaquille Harrison and Reed pushing their way into roster spots.
  • This year’s team had only third-or-worse string point guard Elie Okobo. No Ayton. No Bridges. No first round draft picks.

So you can be forgiven for being disappointed in the talent on this year’s Summer Suns, especially for a team with the second-fewest wins in the league the year before.

SUMMER LEAGUE IS OUR JAM! It’s the only time a year the Suns are usually favored to win the damn game, if not the whole thing.

The only two players on guaranteed contracts didn’t even start! Point guards Elie Okobo and undrafted rookie Jalen Lecque are both signed for the 2019-20, yet it was undrafted rookie Jared Harper who played the most point guard minutes and led the team in assists per game and in total. Neither of the Suns contracted point guards even finished in the top five of assists per game.

Even Ray Spalding, who probably has the inside track to a roster spot, led the team in blocks (2.0 per game) and was second in rebounds (5.3) but was not among the top five in minutes per game.

There was definitely a different tone set by the James Jones front office. After years of hyping Summer League as the best place for Suns fans in the summer, this year’s squad just didn’t generate any buzz.

And the Suns weren’t pushing for that buzz either. Neither Spalding nor Elie Okobo, even made the top five in minutes played. And neither first-round rookie suited up at all, mostly due to league rules that didn’t let them even work out with the team till after SL started.

Yet, the Summer Suns still finished 3-1 for the week and probably only lost out on the weekend tournament because one of their games was cancelled due to the earthquake. Making the playoff tournament is based on points. You earn a point for every quarter you win, and two points for every game you win. The Suns, playing 25 fewer games at the time of playoff seeding, simply didn’t have the points to make the tournament.

This was a veteran SL team. Starting point guard Jared Harper played three years at Auburn. Leading scorer James Palmer Jr. looked smooth after four years at Nebraska. Both went undrafted but they looked like they belonged on that court moreso than Okobo or Lecque did.

The entire team fit the mold of the random Suns surprises in years past. There was often an undrafted guy who outshone the rookies. P.J. Tucker. Mike James. Seth Curry. Alan Williams. And so on and so forth.

Who will be this year’s breakout on a team of undrafted prospects? Will any of them earn a roster spot?

Could 6’6” guard James Palmer get a look on a two-way contract after balling out this past week? Or could it by Rayvonte Rice, a 6’4” guard who made the most threes on the team at the 41% clip, but has not made an NBA roster since graduating from Illinois three years ago? Maybe even Jared Harper could get a look, though he’s quite undersized and the Suns already have a billion rookie-ish point guard options.

Let’s say goodbye and goodnight to the SL squad that finished with the highest winning percentage of any Suns team in a long time. And let’s say hello to speculation season, which is the two months of dead air between now and training camp.