The Phoenix Suns franchise is alive and kicking through the summer despite scorching hot temperatures.
One hundred and eight-degree Las Vegas temperatures aren't going to slow down general manager Ryan McDonough from evaluating talent and shuffling the roster. Nor will they slow down new coach Jeff Hornacek from hiring a full staff and entrenching himself in film to learn all about his new players.
Apparently, 108 degrees of desert heat doesn't phase the Suns' NBA Summer League squad either. Phoenix has pushed out to a 4-0 start, defeating the Portland Trailblazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies and Blazers again on Wednesday.
Phoenix moves on to play the 3-1 Toronto Raptors on Saturday, July 20.
The Suns' success in the summer league must be evaluated with the understanding that most of the NBA's premier talent sits out these camps, while the unproven battle for recognition. Although everybody on the floor is playing hard, this league is only a leaping point for the cream of the fresh crop to sign with the varsity squad.
Let's look at the Suns' key contributors over the team's first four summer contests.
The Morris Brothers
Marcus and Markieff Morris are clearly the leaders of the Suns' dynamo of a tournament team. They combined for 32 points and 10 rebounds in the first affair and 40 points and 10 rebounds in the second affair against Minnesota.
While they hid behind an electric third-game performance from Archie Goodwin, Marcus was there at the end to hit a buzzer-beater for the win. To reach 4-0, the Morris brothers chipped in 22-10.
This shouldn't surprise us, right? Both brothers have played at the NBA level before and should therefore have a pretty good feel for the speed and flow of the game.
Either way you look at it, Markieff Morris is still the scoring leader (14.8 points per game), and both are in the top five. Marcus has played the most minutes, and behind the two brothers, the Suns seem to be getting in a bit of a groove.
I was unsure of how to feel about the Suns' No. 29-overall draft choice Archie Goodwin, as he was not the best shooting guard I believed Phoenix had the opportunity to select. Of course, doing things my way would have resulted in the Suns choosing Ben McLemore with their lottery pick and filling the spot earlier on.
However, given that No. 5-overall selection Alex Len hasn't played in the Vegas league, Goodwin has had a chance to showcase why exactly he was first-round potential.
He's played almost as much as Marcus Morris, scored almost as much as Markieff Morris (he's the second-leading scorer, averaging 11.8 points per affair) and at times was the most dynamic player on the floor.
His inconsistency—Goodwin looked very raw before his breakout 22-point performance against the Grizzlies—is to be expected from a rookie. He won't see starters minutes this year due to the addition of Eric Bledsoe and hence has plenty of time to develop his body, his NBA rhythm and his relationship with the coaching staff.
Alex Len's Absence
Let all the talk and deliberation over GM McDonough's choice to draft Alex Len at fifth-overall continue. After being drafted, Len had a procedure on a stress fracture in his ankle that has sidelined him from all summer league activity. This was his second procedure to fix the same issue.
I guess Alex Len wasn't totally absent from summer league action.
We're supposed to trust in the bodily health of the big man, but at this point, we can only be left wondering what kind of value the Suns got out of this draft choice.
Len has the tools and size to compete for major minutes next year and would likely have to pass Luis Scola and Markieff Morris on the depth chart in order to do so.
I'll believe in his talent when I see it translate to the NBA level. Missing summer league time sure won't help his transition.
Arinze Onuaku has led the team in rebounding through the first four games of the summer league season and looks to continue using his size to bully opponents near the basket.
Onuaku is a Suns D-League asset who just turned 26 and is doing everything he can to help the team win. He knows that his spot on the big league roster is still very much in question, but he also sees an opportunity to help his team advance through the Vegas tournament.
At 6'9" and roughly 275 pounds, Onuaku is the kind of bruiser this summer team needs to continue its unbeaten streak. With comparative veteran talent on the Suns squad, Onuaku's stellar play under the basket is starting to catch the coaching staff's attention.
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