Top o’ the September morning to you!
Believe it or not, the NBA season isn’t as far as it may feel. The Phoenix Suns will play their first preseason game against Monty Williams and the Detroit Pistons on October 8, which is just over one month away. To pass your time until then, you can watch the final months and push for the playoffs in Major League Baseball. You could set your fantasy lineups and enjoy the National Football League. You can get excited at what’s going on with Coach Prime with the University of Colorado and consume some college football. And you can sit back and prepare for the 2023-24 NBA season with the Suns Player Preview series that your Bright Side of the Sun writing team is eager to roll out for you!
This is why I love September. The anticipation. The hope. All sports matter right now, and while the hustle and bustle hasn’t officially occurred, the prospect of it all excites us as sports fans. As much as I hate August, I love September, knowing that October is the best month of the year.
So let’s kick this thing off, shall we? First up on our Suns Player Preview series?
Wing, 6’8”, 220 pounds, 23-years old
The Phoenix Suns didn’t have a first round pick this past off-season and therefore had to wait until deep in the second round to make their only draft selection in the 2023 NBA Draft. Their choice? In typical James Jones fashion, a fourth-year 23-year old player out of the University of Dayton, Toumani Camara.
Camara was a productive player and brought with him maturity that was apparent when he played for the Summer Suns in Las Vegas this past July. His talent is obvious and his level of development is evident. He carries himself in a way that is noticeable on the court, or at least we hope. The Summer League is a far cry from NBA minutes, but you’d rather see him carry himself the way he did, averaging 16.3 points and 7 rebounds, than being dominated by players who will never have a shot in the league.
Toumani played two seasons at Georgia before transferring to Dayton prior to the 2021-22 collegiate season. In two seasons with the Flyers he averaged 12.4 points on 58.4/35.2/63.7 splits. He led the Atlantic 10 Conference with 8.6 rebounds per game his senior year and was named to both the All A-10 First Team and All A-10 All-Defense team.
Camara signed a 4-year, $7.6 million contract, although years two through four are not guaranteed. On a team as top heavy as the Suns are, the $1.1 million owed to Toumani this season certainly helps the contractual situation for the team.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The strengths that I mentioned above, which include his maturity, are also amplified by his length. Toumani appears to be somebody who can play with defensive stability and offensive impact. The defensive stability is due to his 6’8” frame and athleticism. While his lateral quickness isn’t elite, it is an attribute that should garner him some playing time and could be where he makes his impact on this team.
As for offensive impact? It will have to come within the confines of how Frank Vogel wants to use him with his offense, but we saw in the Summer League that he is willing to attack the cylinder and put pressure on opposing defenses. The left-handed Camara has no qualms about going right with the ball and can finish around the rim with both hands.
If you are willing to hustle, if you’re willing to play with energy, and if you’re willing to grind, good things will happen. It appears that Toumani possesses all of these attributes.
Weaknesses might be more of the cerebral kind than the physical kind for Camara, although his 21.4% from beyond the arc – 3-of-14 shooting in Summer League – does raise a red flag. It is a small sample size, but his 71-of-231 in four years in college (30.7%) does show us that is an area he’ll need to address.
Camara most likely won’t see much playing time, which is where the cerebral challenges will arise. If he isn’t successful in the sporadic time he does receive, confidence for a young player is always an issue. If he plays within himself, he shouldn’t have to worry about this, but how every player approaches the game and processes the time allotted to them is as unique as the player themselves.
We won’t know until we know, and neither will he.
One Key Factor
The challenge that many rookies have faced during the James Jones era is they don’t have an opportunity to develop. Given the roster that Jones has constructed this off-season, it appears that this once again could be true. Unless Phoenix is absolutely obliterating the opposition, we probably won’t see too much Camara. The Suns could send him to the G-League, despite not having an affiliate as of yet, in an effort to try to give him more minutes and develop as a player.
Predicting Camara is a tough one. As stated above, we don’t know how much opportunity he’s going to receive. But it’s early September, and I’m full of hope! I don’t foresee him having being somebody who has a massive impact on this team, but I do see him as somebody who will take advantage of his minutes and play like he belongs. Is he going to develop into a starter one day? Probably not. The odds are not in his favor nor are they typically for 52nd overall picks. But what we witnessed in Summer League was something special and it could happen, right?
I’m going to get real specific here, just for the sake of looking back on my predictions at the end of the season:
20 games played, 9.8 minutes per game, 3.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.3 assists. And he’ll shoot 31% from behind the arc, which will drive us nuts.