Why Summer League Matters

The solid play of Marcus and Markieff Morris are among the positives that Suns fans can take away from this year's Summer League.
(NBAE Photos)

“Don’t get too excited; it’s only Summer League.”

That seems to be the collective mantra from a myriad of NBA analysts and fans alike.

Indeed, success in the summer obviously doesn’t correlate with victories during the subsequent NBA season.

Or, does it?

That is to say, the importance or significance of how teams perform in the Las Vegas Summer League largely depends on varied definitions of “success.”

For 2013 Summer Suns, the past two weeks in Las Vegas set an indelible tone not just for the forthcoming NBA season, but for the new regime of Head Coach Jeff Hornacek and GM Ryan McDonough.

The theme? Heart and hustle.

Certainly, no matter what level of competition, the singular goal is to win. As evidenced by the Suns’ 6-1 record in the Las Vegas Summer League, that creed is not debatable. But individual and team performances in the offseason shouldn’t solely be judged on wins, losses or cumulative statistics.

Rather, it’s the little things that truly mean the most.

“Don’t get too excited; it’s only Summer League.”

Let’s start with the decision by Hornacek to coach the Suns’ summer squad himself. While it may not seem noteworthy, it speaks volumes about his leadership as a person and coach. It would’ve been easy to let his new assistant coaches take the helm, but the rookie NBA head coach chose to foster a collaborative team environment where he is actively involved in the success of the team from the beginning.

"They're all guys that we could have on your regular season roster," Hornacek said about his summer team. "They all listen. They all tried to pay attention to what was going on and they tried to play as a team. Sometimes it didn’t work out that great, but the guys are trying to do what was asked.

“That's the big key."

That type of leadership was the main conduit towards inspired play on the court for the Summer Suns. Each member of the team was disciplined, wanted to win and approached games with heart and hustle. Perhaps more poignant, it was clear how much the team respected Hornacek and listened to each adjustment made.

As with any newly assembled team, several standouts inevitably emerge. This summer, rookie Archie Goodwin and the returning Morris twins turned quite a few heads. Ben Golliver of SI.com wrote that the Suns were one of the “winners” of the NBA Summer League.

“First-round pick Archie Goodwin was a bundle of energy, crashing around the court to the tune of 13.1 points per game,” said Golliver. “Not bad for an 18-year-old selected 29th in last month’s draft. The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, who were reunited by a midseason trade, displayed inside/outside versatility on offense and tough-minded defense.”

“Don’t get too excited; it’s only Summer League.”

Yes, it was “only” Summer League, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited as a Suns fan.

Building a winning culture begins with the most miniscule of details, and it starts at the top. For McDonough and Hornacek, that absolutely included a successful Summer League. For the Suns to universally be considered “winners” and routinely turning heads, that is a great sign of things to come.