The Phoenix Suns prospects are in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, and coach Nate Bjorkgren gave a glimpse Monday of how the trip has gone.
As the Suns stand at 2-0 and prepare for their Tuesday game against the Heat, Bjorkgren said on The Doug & Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that his team getting a lot out of the offseason opportunity.
“The Vegas Summer league, it continues to get better and better,” Bjorkgren said. “The players that the teams are putting on the floor, the fans that are coming – there’s lines out the door. But as a coaching staff, we use it a couple of different ways. You know, we’re taking a look at every team that’s out here, just some of the things that they’re running, what they’re doing offensively and defensively to get ready for the NBA regular season.”
However, the Suns aren’t there just to scout; they’re developing players like first-round picks Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, and even getting minutes for 2015 star rookie Devin Booker.
Booker and 2016 second-round draft pick Tyler Ulis were roommates (and teammates) at the University of Kentucky. Now playing together with the Suns, the two have continued their old chemistry.
“When you start talking about Booker and Ulis, they play off each other so well,” Bjorkgren said. “They’re one step ahead of the opponent when they’re out there. They’re leading in huddles. Devin is being a great leader. The overall growth of his game, he’s so versatile, he’s good on both sides of the basketball.”
In just two Summer League games, Booker has scored 52 points and pulled 10 rebounds. His chemistry with Ulis and his defensive ability are a plus, too.
“Those two are really turning up the defensive pressure for us. They’re really hounding that basketball. They’re preaching just like we are as coaches that defense will create offense.”
While Booker has thrived, the Suns’ No. 4 overall pick in Bender has just 15 points and 11 rebounds through two games. Addressing the slow production, Bjorkgren said players are still “getting their legs under them.”
“If you remember Devin Booker last year in Summer League, I think he missed something like his first seven or eight three-point attempts that he took, and then he exploded in game three for 30 points,” he said. “The thing about Dragan is he knows how to play. He’s so versatile.
“There’s been so much talk on defense, you just wait, he’s going to explode here soon. I really like him, he’s got a great competitive attitude, a great demeanor, he’s going to be a good one.”
Finally, Bjorkgren said Alan Williams was a player who stood out to him, other than this year’s draft picks, and he adds to an aforementioned chemistry that has defined the summer Suns.
“He plays with so much passion, it’s so contagious to the rest of our guys,” he said. “We’ll be going through drills in practice and he’ll be doing such a great job, we’ll stop the drill and move on to the next one. He is everything that you want in a teammate, everything that you want as a coach, and he would run through a brick wall for any one of us.”