Suns.com Round Table: Summer League Standouts
In our inaugural edition of Suns.com Round Table, the digital team takes a look at who the biggest winners were from this year's NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. To weigh in with your opinions, be sure to log onto our Facebook page.
WHO WAS THE BIGGEST WINNER FOR THE SUNS AT SUMMER LEAGUE?
BRAD FAYE: Archie Goodwin. The young playmaker wasted no time getting himself acclimated to NBA-style basketball, scoring 13 points in under 22 minutes against the Portland Trailblazers in his first Summer League performance. Following that debut, the 18-year-old never slowed down (literally), and only reinforced the argument that he could prove to be the steal of this year's draft. Goodwin's play has not only generated buzz amongst Suns fans, but NBA fans in general who are looking forward to seeing what the rookie will do come the start of the season. One thing that looks certain, however, is that when Goodwin is on the court, there is rarely a dull moment.
MATT PETERSEN: Arinze Onuaku. A D-League All-Star who didn't get a call-up last season, the former Syracuse standout was in danger of being pigeon-holed at the semi-pro level. Now, teams have to be envisioning how his 6-9, 276-pound frame would man the paint in the NBA after seeing him throw his weight around in Summer League play. Onuaku's sixth sense on the glass was uncanny, punctuted by a 13-point, 12-rebound double double against Memphis. When the Suns needed help in the rebounding department, Onuaku punched in with force.
BEN YORK: Jeff Hornacek. The fact that he wanted to helm the Suns' summer squad in the first place is an example of how much the rookie NBA head coach cares about the success of his team. Judging by the collective response from the players, they feel the same way. Still, the most noteworthy part of Summer League for Hornacek wasn’t the amount of wins or losses the team collected, but setting the tone for what he expects out of his team. The short answer? He wants them to compete every single night. Judging by their performance in Vegas, they certainly went above and beyond the call of duty.
WHAT STOOD OUT TO YOU ABOUT NEW SUNS HEAD COACH JEFF HORNACEK?
FAYE: The fight he gets out of his players. The Summer League contest against the Timberwolves is a perfect example of this. Against Minnesota in what was just the team's second game, Phoenix found itself down by 18 points at the half. I'm not sure what Jeff Hornacek told the team at halftime, but what I do know for sure is that the second half was a completely different story. The Suns came surging back behind 40-combined points from Marcus and Markieff Morris. The latter of those twins would cap off his performance with a game-winning shot at the buzzer that helped the Suns secure a 91-89 victory. Known as a hard-nosed player with no quit in his game, it's already evident that Hornacek is capable of getting that same type of effort out of his players.
PETERSEN: Playing well + effort = playing time. That equation came regardless of experience, hype or status under Hornacek. When Dionte Garrett jumpstarted the transition game, Hornacek kept him in long enough for a 26-0 scoring run against Portland. When Dionte Christmas or Archie Goodwin were hot from deep -- or if the Suns needed a perimeter scoring boost -- Hornacek rode the hot hand. If Arinze Onuaku was cleaning up the glass a little better, he was rewarded. Don't forget, Hornacek has already stated that training camp will be a similar affair of granting playing time and roles to those who earn them.
YORK: Pacing, discipline and poise. "Be quick but don’t hurry," as UCLA coach John Wooden famously said, is the perfect description of Hornacek's system. Indeed, the Suns will be a running team but they'll do so with a purpose. Rather, they'll pick and choose select times to relentlessly attack or be more methodical. Defensively, the team showcased discipline while consciously crashing the boards (Phoenix out-rebounded their opposition in all but two games). Yes, it's Summer League, but there's little doubt Hornacek will incorporate those same philosophies throughout the regular season.
WHO WAS YOUR SUNS SUMMER LEAGUE MVP?
FAYE: The Morris Twins. I know it's cheating, but it's kind of hard to tell them apart anyway so just let me have this. Looking back again at that game against the Timberwolves, you could easily make the argument that the contest was the "tipping point" for the Suns and their 2013 Summer League. Getting smoked by Minnesota at halftime, had the team just given up and accepted the loss, there's no telling which direction the team would have gone the rest of the way. The strong play of Markieff, however, proved to be contagious, and it's easy to see that the momentum of Marcus' buzzer beater carried over to the games which followed.
PETERSEN: Can a sixth man be an MVP? Dionte Christmas wasn't always the high scorer, but he was one of the most dependable players not on contract in Vegas. When the Suns needed a boost on offense, Christmas was the guy they turned to. It wasn't just his outside shooting touch, either (at least one 3-pointer in five of the seven games). If the point guard was having issues, Christmas was more than capable of bringing up the ball and spot-running the offense. He also showed a knack driving to the rim or in pick-and-rolls whenever the offense broke down. Most importantly, he brought a veteran swagger and confidence, especially when he helped pick up the team during their big comeback win over Minnesota.
YORK: PJ Tucker. Just as he did during the 2012-13 NBA season, Tucker was the glue that held the Suns together. The best part? He didn't have to be in Vegas; he wanted to be. That type of initiative, combined with Hornacek's innate composure (as mentioned above), fully embodies what this new Suns regime is all about. Case in point: On July 21 against the Heat's summer squad, Tucker's 13 points in the second half helped to hold off a late rally from Miami. Finishing with 19 points in the game (a team-high) Tucker demonstrated why his energy and heart are invaluable, leading Phoenix to the Summer League finals.