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Total Vegas Takeaways: Jordan Usher among Summer Sun Standouts

Jordan Usher’s high-effort and high-flying play landed him among the team’s best performers

2023 NBA Summer League - Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

While it maybe didn’t end up being the group we were most expecting, quite a few of the Phoenix Suns’ Summer League players really set themselves apart.

Jordan Goodwin would be in this group if he played more, but he dealt with knee soreness stemming from the first game, playing only six minutes over the rest. Keanu Pinder was also on my radar with high expectations, but he similarly dealt with injury issues (back soreness) that kept him out of every game.

Personally, I also had relatively high expectations for Louis Olinde, who came over from the Euroleague as a 6’9 sharpshooter, but he oftentimes looked lost in the headlights out there. Trey Jemison came in with the pedigree of a Suns pre-draft workout, but he just didn’t look ready for the NBA game.

Instead, I came to a group that includes 52nd pick Toumani Camara, Hunter Hale, and Jordan Usher. Let’s get into my general notes and takeaway from each:

Toumani Camara: 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 29.2 minutes

  • has a back-down game where he’s able to get to a baby hook where his touch is solid, but can improve
  • throughout all his play, his shot from three looked good despite the 21.4% (3.5 3PA) that he made; takes it confidently and in rhythm
  • does a great job using his 7’0.5 length to disrupt actions on defense and is perfectly capable of taking it the other way for transition offense
  • runs the floor so well both ways
  • pushing for near-great team defense already thanks in part to consistent communication; excels in help but doesn’t help too much
  • already demanding roll gravity, seals so well even when he’s not the play target; has to be accounted for as an offensive rebounder in those situations too
  • struggled with dribble-drives early on in the trip, but looked more comfortable as his time went on, including looking solid in many instances by the last game
  • his drives look especially intentional; he rarely goes east or west, always getting downhill and is willing to take contact to get there, though he’s not as good at taking it while dribbling; much better after the gather
  • most of his turnovers come after having the right idea, but just struggling to execute it; I’ll always bet on feel and process-over-results, so this is a good sign in my book
  • had one especially bad free-throw shooting game vs Miami (3-8 FT) but he was 17-20 (85%) over the other three games, never missing more than one in a game; finished with an impressive 7.0 FTA for a staggering .609 free-throw rate
  • plays between the lines so well, always screening and cutting to keep the offense from getting too stagnant
  • excited to see him as a small ball 5 next to Kevin Durant, who can provide help-side rim protection to make up for the size Camara would give up

Hunter Hale: 16.3 points (52.2% on 7.7 3PA), 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and just 0.3 turnovers in 19.4 minutes

  • absolutely knockdown shooter on a tough shot profile ranging from step-backs to sprinting around screens to transition
  • keeps excellent balance on his stop-and-pops
  • has a bit of playmaking flair, weaponizing his own scoring threat to open up looks for teammates, like dump-offs and kick-outs from drives

Jordan Usher: 10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in 21.5 minutes

  • the name of his game is energy and effort, which Frank Vogel would love; felt worth pointing out more than five times in my notes
  • only shot 26.7% from three, but each make felt massive in the context of the game
  • streaks in transition to corners and the rim, putting tons of pressure on the defense
  • very unselfish and capable of making highlight passes; his secondary playmaking reminded me of LA Clippers wing Terance Mann
  • moves so well without the ball, making him highly dynamic; this includes his great feel for put-back dunk timing

We’re still yet to hear about any of the unsigned Summer Suns staying with the team into training camp, but Mat Ishbia talked about the three two-way slots teams have under the new CBA on a recent 98.7 appearance. Saben Lee is the only two-way slot filled right now, but with the tease of a G League affiliate being announced soon, some more two-ways or exhibit 10’s could come with it.

For those who missed it, Camara was signed to a four-year (one guaranteed, two unguaranteed, one team option) deal before Summer League, but the other two standouts, Hale and Usher, remain without a home now. I’d be more than okay with the two of them filling those two-way slots, especially since you’d then have three different archetypes represented by your three two-way players:

  • Lee: point guard
  • Hale: sharpshooter
  • Usher: utility wing

Time will tell which of the Summer Suns, if any, will graduate to Phoenix Suns, but there are definitely some good options for James Jones and co.

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