Top Five Summer Suns Storylines

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital

By Aaron Seidlitz,
Posted: July 15, 2012

The offseason has been busy for the Phoenix Suns, between the NBA Draft and free-agency. But the next step in the process of preparing for the 2012-13 season begins today, as the “Summer Suns” begin play in the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas. will be on the scene throughout the next week, covering all five summer league games with exclusive video, photos and daily reports. Before we tip off, we thought we would give you a preview of what’s to come with the top five storylines heading into Vegas…

1) How will Kendall Marshall’s game convert to the pro level?

We’ve already seen the passes that Marshall made at one of the most prestigious collegiate basketball programs in the country, so there is little doubt of his playmaking abilities. And through just three summer league practices, Suns power forward Markieff Morris is verifying that Marshall’s game even reminds him of a certain someone.

“He throws passes that are just crazy,” Morris said. “You just have to keep your eyes on him all the time; otherwise he’s going to hit you in the head with the ball – sort of like Steve (Nash).”

2) How has Morris’ game progressed?

The focus for the Suns’ coaching staff regarding Morris this offseason has been clear. They want to help him develop his post game. As a rookie, the 6-10 forward showed he was capable of playing with Nash and Sebastian Telfair in the pick-and-pop, and pick-and-roll portion of the Suns’ offense. Now it’s time for his game to expand.

“Last year, he didn’t get to do (summer league) because of the lockout, and then, due to the condensed season, there wasn’t a whole lot of practice time,” said Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle, who will lead the Summer League squad. “So we’re just getting him as many touches as we can, and we’re getting him in the post to work on that side of his game instead of just the pick-and-pop side of his game.”

3) Can Marshall and Morris develop their chemistry?

As you can probably tell, this summer will be focused a lot on Marshall and Morris – the team’s most recent draft picks. While individually, the rookie will be focused on proving himself at this level and Morris will be content with continually improving his game, the two could also provide a spark to the Suns this season if they mesh well together.

Between Marshall’s ability to find others in the open court and off the pick-and-roll, and Morris’ athleticism, size and jump shot, the two could form a lethal tandem. If that happens over the summer, it could affect how the two are used come November.

4) What is Dan Majerle’s focus for this team going to be?

Majerle said after the summer league team’s second practice, that Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry has completely handed over the reins of the summer league team this year. That includes play calling, handling the roster, substitution patterns and practice planning.

For the player who really wants to make an impression this year, a lot of it will have to be done through the eyes of “Thunder Dan.” But what is the coach’s main priority for this week?

“(Alvin) has basically decided that this is my baby this year. Lance (Blanks) and John (Treloar) have pretty much said that, too, and I talked to them when they got the players,” Marjerle said. “They told me just to do what I want to do with them. Obviously, I’m going to try to get Kendall and Markieff as much playing time as I can, and the rest of it is up to me.”

5) Which collegiate star will catch on?

The Summer Suns’ roster is riddled with former collegiate stars attempting to find a home in the NBA, the Development League or overseas. The five games they play for Phoenix in Las Vegas will be a tryout in front of all sorts of talent evaluators.

As far as summer league rosters go, the Suns’ could be an exciting group. Erving Walker is a lightning-fast point guard out of Florida – one who Marshall said he has known and watched since the Suns’ rookie was in junior high. David Lighty was an effective shooter and defender at Ohio State. Matt Howard was Butler’s big when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back national championship games. Jacob Pullen was a high-scoring guard who lifted Kansas State into an elite men’s basketball program and Patrick O’Bryant was a 7-foot center at Bradley who was drafted ninth overall in 2006.