And here we are, the end of the road for the Suns' Summer League season. It was not the most successful run in terms of record (2-3), but it ultimately confirmed at least the fact that Toumani Camara is a certified hooper and has the opportunity to contribute immediately. Another thing that is confirmed is that I will severely miss watching hoops for the next few months. Guess I should start firing up those fantasy football mock drafts to fill the void.
As a side note here in Denver where I am located, the Broncos are hosting the Taylor Swift Eras tour where half of seemingly the world’s population is gathered at Empower Field. Me on the other hand? I am stationed comfortably at home waiting for the Suns game to start because I thought for some reason the game started at 7:30 MST instead of the hour later it actually started. Have to seriously commend myself on this amount of awareness as a Suns writer.
I am currently staring at this article with all of the blank space and wonder how I can tweak this article to not make Phoenix’s tenure in Vegas seem like a cruel summer. Hopefully, Bright Side readers do not have bad blood with me after all of these bad Swiftie puns. Alright, seriously enough of that.
Here is a quick look at the Suns' starters for tonight, with all of the usual starting lineup candidates being active minus Jordan Goodwin who has been out since the Summer League opener with a knee injury:
On the other hand, the Grizzlies played without their top performers in Kenneth Lofton Jr., David Roddy, and Jacob Gilyard.
Other Suns News
After some ritualistic pregame surfing of my Twitter timeline, a few things have popped up for the Suns. For starters, the recently rumored-to-be-traded Cam Payne is apparently in Atlanta according to his Instagram story. There may not be any substance to this post, but add that on top of cryptic posts indicating a potential move on the horizon and there may be something there.
Payne has also been thrown into a three-team trade scenario with the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks, sending TJ McConnell to Phoenix, Evan Fournier to Indy, and Cam Payne to New York according to Hoops Hype writer Michael Scotto.
This will definitely be a situation worth monitoring going further into the summer, with Payne being a big part of the Valley turnaround spanning from his debut moments in the Bubble.
Another interesting detail from a potential deal with Cam Payne for the former UofA guard TJ McConnell is that the salaries do not match up in a one-for-one swap, with the Suns receiving over the threshold of 125% + $1,000 of the contract. Makes you think multiple players could be on the move to not only bring back an upgrade but free up roster spots as well for other future moves (such as Bol Bol). Bol is reported to be announced officially signed by the Suns as soon as next week by Arizona Sport’s John Gambadoro.
The attention continued to shift to the talented rookie Toumani Camara, who has displayed a versatile skillset that is accompanied by maximum hustle on both sides of the floor. Camara wasted no time contributing to the game and proving he is a legitimate threat by deep hitting a triple early and following it up with a dribble drive straight to the rack for an easy lay. Again, he continued to show rare patience for a rookie in being able to play the game at his own pace and not feel rushed.
Another Sun who was extremely active early was Trey Jemison, who was battling on the glass, rolling hard to the cup, and setting formidable screens. He also looked extremely comfortable in DHO (dribble-hand-off) sets, which is always promising in the eyes of NBA head coaches.
Grant Sherfield and Hunter Hale led the way to a 10-3 run to end the 1st quarter with two transition triples between both to end the 1st quarter. Camara led the team with 7 points, with Memphis’s Tarik Biberovic leading the game with 8.
Hale turning up the heat in Vegas— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 16, 2023
A buzzer beater to end the first! pic.twitter.com/UMRiaC0zdG
These threes were key considering the Suns were shooting an abysmal 23% from that range. They had been efficient with free throws, however, making all 8 at that point.
To begin the second, Camara shows another flash of insane athleticism attempting to end a Grizzly’s entire playing career with a monstrous dunk attempt. Throughout the quarter both teams were trying their luck from beyond the arc with 28 attempts between both teams with 5:27 left before half.
Toumani ended up getting a crush after all later in the quarter, with a nice cut to the basket after an offensive rebound. Suns were up in rebounding with a 25-20 advantage over Memphis. Of these, 10 were grabbed on the offensive end.
Gabe Brown also got his opportunity at a slam, after jumping the passing lane on a great read on defense leading to a transition dunk.
Hunter Hale continued to show his value in his next stint on the floor as not just a knockdown sharpshooter splashing another three in the quarter to bring his total to (3), but also as someone who is comfortable with the ball in his hand and showing playmaking ability. The Suns would be doing an injustice to themselves by not taking serious consideration on offering a two-way contract to bring Hale on the squad.
Hale led all scorers in the first with 13 on 5/7 shooting from the field. Toumani Camara added 11. These two lifted the Suns to a 6-point lead, up 50-44 at the half despite Phoenix shooting worse than Memphis from the field.
The final half of the Summer League began with how the season started, with Toumani Camara proving how much of a steal he was as the 52nd pick in this year’s draft.
Just in case Camara did not prove enough on the defensive end in the first half, he started off the second by swatting a GG Jackson layup attempt into the second row. Camara’s ability to use his size to get whatever he wants on the floor is impressive, to say the least. Add in the fact that he has an ambidextrous ability to use both hands on boards and finishing attempts, and it is easy to see what James Jones and the Suns' front office saw on draft night.
Memphis staying true to their “Grit and Grind” nature scrapped their way back in the game in the 3rd, forcing turnover after turnover leading to fastbreak points. Camara continued to counter with his craft moves at the basket, adding in a nice spin move and lefty finish. Not only this, but he also continued to play physically in the post, establishing position in the low block and drawing contact fouls.
The effort on the offensive boards continued as well, adding 3 more with 4:43 remaining in the quarter. The Suns were stifling on defense as well, bringing out a 2-3 zone that forced Memphis into a lot of forced shots. Mat Ishbia’s vow to win at everything apparently extends to Summer League coaching tactics as well.
Phoenix Forward Louis Olinde also got into the mix knocking down a triple to extend the Suns league to double digits. Olinde has 8 points and 3 boards to end the 3rd quarter. On the Grizzlies' side, a familiar face in Tariq Owens who was picked up by the Suns after going undrafted was having a productive evening in Vegas. Owens had 9 points and 3 boards through three while adding aggressiveness on the floor for Memphis.
Camara stated in a mid-season quarter that it will “be a quick adjustment” with noticing the pace of the game and physicality being notably different from the college level just in the short time spent in Vegas.
Right on cue, Toumani showed his quick adjustment to the professional level with a baseline drive leading to a couple of free throws. To follow, Camara extended pressure to all 94 feet that would make former Sun Jevon Carter proud. The level of engagement and hustle is going to make him an extremely coachable player for the newest head coach Frank Vogel.
Although it is certainly not raining in Phoenix, the Suns were storming from three with Hunter Hale and company showing their marksmanship upping the pace greatly. This pushed the Suns' lead to 16 with 7:30 left in the game. Camara pushed double-double territory as well with 20 and 9 (in which he eventually pulled his 10th board in the 4th).
The Suns continued to get buckets on all three levels on the floor, including this nice drive and finish by Eugene German. German had a very efficient 16 points through 3 and a half quarters with being 6/8 from the field.
The onslaught of threes continued, pushing the Suns' lead to 21 points. The Suns looked like they were having fun out there down the stretch, especially with Jordan Usher’s personal 6-0 run including a monster putback jam over a helpless Grizzlies’ defender. Turns out Usher is capable of putting on a show in Vegas no matter if it's a basketball court or stage in front of a sold-out crowd.
Speaking of shows, I am starting to wonder about the success of the T-Swift concert. Based on some personal vouches from people in attendance claiming it was the greatest thing they have ever seen I am starting to think that it was fairly fun. Never mind that though because witnessing this Suns dub is worth miles more.
The Suns cruised into their final win and game of the 2023 Summer League, bringing their final record to 2-3. The Suns were led in scoring by Toumani Camara (20), Eugene German (18), and Hunter Hale (16) with 4 total players scoring 10+ and eclipsing the century mark as a team with a final score of 102-79.
Memphis’s top performers included Tarik Biberovic, Timmy Allen, and Aminu Mohammed all landing with double figures. Phoenix was able to turn their shooting woes around in the second half, finishing at 42% from the field on the night compared to Memphis’s 39.7%.
Here is the full box score from the season closer against the Grizzlies:
The Phoenix Suns will now move into the rest of the off-season and then into preparing for next season, through training camp, many film sessions to get acclimated with the new system, and long days in the performance center to get their bodies and mind in top shape.
Meanwhile, I will do what I do best, and continue to report what I can about the team that is not game-related.
Suns Fans, especially those in Phoenix, try to stay cool throughout the rest of this summer because this team will be bringing the heat back when the season starts in October.