What: Summer Suns (1-3) vs Summer Grizzlies (2-2)
When: 6:30 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Phoenix (Summer) Suns look to end their season against Memphis on Saturday evening on NBA TV. Unfortunately for Phoenix residents, that does not in turn mean that temperatures will be cooling anytime soon with 115+ temperatures becoming the new normal. Hopefully, by the NBA season, this heat wave will dissipate to a comfortable level for all Suns’ stakeholders.
Suns free agency still hotter pic.twitter.com/jOOtzLRlhF— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 8, 2023
Although these games seemingly do not count towards an official record and teams do not actually get a banner to hang in the rafters if they win the SL Championship, there are some decent takeaways each team can take from this stretch. For starters for the Phoenix Suns, the extremely positive play of Toumani Camara speaks dividends to the drafting job James Jones and the front office did with the 52nd pick of this year’s draft.
Camara has shown all of the tools necessary to earn a valuable rotational role for the Suns this upcoming season. The Belgian product flashed explosiveness, post-presence, and a keen sense of patience which is rare for rookies. Considering the fact that Camara spent 4 years in college (two at Georgia and Dayton respectively), this immediate maturity and ability to play at his own pace makes more sense.
Camara averaged 15.5 pts, 5.5 rebs, and 1.5 asts in 31.8 mins. played per game in his Vegas debut. I personally doubt however that we will see more of Camara unfortunately, with the coaching staff choosing to sit him last game against Phoenix’s loss against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Another player I wish we got to see more of was Jordan Goodwin. Like Camara, Goodwin could also be an integral part of the rotation and possibly establish himself as the number-one point guard option on the team. Considering the recent Cam Payne rumors as well, this could be more of a possibility than ever. Goodwin continued to show his value as a scrappy defender and capable ball-handler to be able to create open shots on offense. The duo between Camara and Goodwin was lethal in the opener, combining for 32 against Milwaukee before Goodwin suffered a left knee injury that kept him out the rest of the game.
It was not just the Camara and Goodwin show, however, with a couple of other Summer Suns flashing their potential such as Trey Jemison. The UAB product has demonstrated his rebounding and athletic prowess on both sides of the floor in his short tenure with Phoenix. Jemison has already had plenty of notable highlights in Vegas, presenting the ability to help any NBA team looking to do damage above the rim.
TREY JEMISON WITH THE BACK TO BACK DUNKS pic.twitter.com/8BCb7ICXJf— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 12, 2023
A breakout performance from the Serbian Basketball League guard Hunter Hale was also extremely notable, as Hale showed his marksmanship from three against the New Orleans Pelicans in making six from beyond the arc. Not a better time to do so as well, with the power trio of GM James Jones, owner Mat Ishbia, and newest head coach Frank Vogel sitting courtside to the matchup. It will be extremely interesting to see if Hale can continue this hot streak against the Grizzlies.
Although there has been a demonstration of promise from different members of this Suns Summer Team, in terms of two-way spots, these are already dwindling with the Suns coming to an agreement with returning guard Saben Lee on a two-way deal. Lee showed enough promise last season in making the most of his minutes filling in for Chris Paul to guarantee a spot on the roster going into next season according to management.
James Jones praised Lee in a team-released press release stating, “Saben plays with toughness and aggression on both ends of the court,” “His point guard instincts and ability to attack the rim are critical traits for us as we seek to build a better team.”
How the Suns will use the other allocated 2-way spots will be worth monitoring leading up to the season. The Suns' current roster stands at 16 players including the newly resigned Saben Lee.
In terms of the upcoming matchup with Memphis Grizzlies, a player to watch out for is undrafted forward Kenneth Lofton Jr. At a monster 6’6 275 lbs. frame, Lofton Jr. is able to use his size to present mismatches at will and has been on an absolute tear in the gambling capital, averaging 20.7 pts and 6.7 rebs. through three games played.
Kenneth Lofton Jr was hooping tonight— Bryson (@BrysonWright3) July 9, 2023
23 points on 8-14 shooting (2-3 from three), 3 blocks, and 2 steals
Looks even more comfortable heading into year two pic.twitter.com/VrRVqXNXne
Another Grizzly that has proved his worth in the league is the second-year player out of CSU David Roddy. Roddy, like Lofton Jr., is built essentially like a linebacker at a 6’4 255-pound frame. The guard has shown in this year’s Summer League that he is well-equipped for rotational minutes with Memphis next season. Despite being a traditionally shorter player on the glass, Roddy is still managing to haul in an impressive 6 boards per game while adding in 11.3 PPG and almost 4 assists.
There also may be more opportunity for Roddy to carve a consistent role with the team due to simply positional needs. As the NBA community knows, franchise player Ja Morant was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2023-24 season after breaking the NBA code of conduct resulting from a variety of different incidents that surfaced to the league’s attention.
Suns fans looking to get their last chance at basketball until the Fall should be looking to reserve time for Saturday’s 6:30 matchup with the Grizzlies on NBA TV. I personally can speak for myself that I will not take this game for granted considering the substantial gap until the start of next season.
However, the Summer League is always fun, with players on every squad battling it out not just for victory but also to compete for a spot on the roster. And with scouts, coaches, general managers, and all other essential personnel watching closely it makes for some incredibly passionate hoops being played.
Hopefully, the Suns can pull off one more win before getting ready for what should be a very exciting season for the franchise as they get one step closer to their first ring.