COMMENTARY | The 2013 Las Vegas Summer League kicks off on Friday, July 12, 2013 from Las Vegas, Nevada. The Phoenix Suns open up against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center and will play three preliminary games before the debut of the tournament-style schedule begins. Let's take a look at the Suns and what to watch for.
ROSTER (Name/Position/Previous Team or League)
Thomas Abercrombie, F, Washington State
Chris Babb, G, Iowa State
Dionte Christmas, G, Temple
Jake Cohen, F, Davidson
Diante Garrett, G, NBA
Archie Goodwin, G, Kentucky
Kendall Marshall, G, NBA
Marcus Morris, F, NBA
Markieff Morris, F, NBA
Arinze Onuaku, C, Syracuse
Alex Oriakhi, F, Missouri
PJ Tucker, F, NBA
The first thing that stands out when reviewing the roster is how many guys got quality minutes for the Suns during the 2012-13 NBA regular season. The Morris twins, Marshall and Tucker were integral parts of the team, with Tucker and (Markieff) Morris combining to appear in 161 games (77 starts).
Usually the league is more about giving the rookies a chance to get their feet wet while evaluating undrafted players. If NBA players appear, it's usually because they didn't get much time in their rookie year (such as Garrett, who played just 149 minutes).
For the rebuilding Suns, they want to get as much work in as they possibly can to get accustomed to new head coach Jeff Hornacek and his style.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
While most would love to see Alex Len in action, he is still recovering from his injuries sustained during the college season. Goodwin is a project that will take some time to develop, but Suns fans are eager to see if his helter-skelter style at Kentucky translates to the NBA and whether he can play both guard positions.
The key player in this league for the Suns will be (Markieff) Morris. Late in the 2012-13 regular season, Morris got hot and started to build some confidence. If he's able to carry that over into these games and the 2013-14 season, the Suns will do backflips.
Morris had a five-game stretch in April where he averaged 16.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. His shooting line during that stretch was a remarkable 53/75/88.
He is expected to clean house against lesser talent. If he struggles, red flags will fly all over the place. Watch for him to come up big and continue his positive momentum from late last season.
While winning the tournament would be nice, the Suns really need to focus on their evaluations. They know what they're getting out of the Morris twins and Tucker. They need to get Goodwin as many minutes as possible to evaluate where he's at and see if he's capable of playing both guard positions.
A secondary goal, but still important, is to intensely watch Marshall to find out if he can compete at the NBA level. He's been panned as a bust so far (and rightfully so), but he's still young and can develop. If the Suns see improvement out of him, they can continue to use him. Otherwise, they need to start looking another direction, perhaps at Goodwin if he shows that ability.
With all that said, let's temper our expectations a bit. If Goodwin goes off, we should understand it's not against premiere talent. This is just the beginning of a long evaluation process by general manager Ryan McDonough and his staff. Don't forget that Jonny Flynn won MVP here a few years back.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded , HoopsHabit.com.Follow @iambabyd13 on Twitter!
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