EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

The 5: Takeaways from Summer Suns’ time in Las Vegas

Jul 14, 2018, 6:01 AM | Updated: 8:48 am
Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA sum...
Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 6, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS — The Phoenix Suns have wrapped up another year of NBA Summer League.

The competition had a larger spotlight on it than normal, with No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton, 10th overall selection Mikal Bridges and point guard Elie Okobo topping an intriguing draft class. On top of that, returning players like Dragan Bender, Shaquille Harrison, Josh Jackson and Davon Reed were on the squad.

Here are five takeaways from the team’s time in Las Vegas.

Deandre Ayton’s productivity

One of the big reasons why Ayton had such a high floor as a prospect is the likelihood of him being an ultra-productive center no matter how his other skills developed.

Suns fans got their first hint of this through the team’s first four games. Despite double-teams against Dallas and extra attention in the following three games with a rough performance against Philadelphia in his last game, Ayton still managed to average 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He shot 60 percent in Vegas.

This is notable because those watching know Ayton didn’t play particularly well in any of the games. His best game was the third against the Magic and that didn’t have to do with his dominance in the post, or even much of a scoring presence there, for that matter.

Ayton isn’t going to a team where they will run absolutely everything around him, making what we saw encouraging. Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and Brandon Knight are all offensive-minded players who will be active in pursuing their own scoring opportunities. If they are to do that some nights, don’t expect Ayton to put up an empty box score just because he only had a few post touches.

Davon Reed and Shaq Harrison doing everything they can

Having covered them both earlier in the week, I’ll keep it short on Reed and Harrison.

As the two players on the edge of the roster with non-guaranteed deals, it was an added boost for them to have good performances at Summer Leauge.

More importantly, both did so while maximizing what they do best. Reed showed off his shooting while Harrison’s defense set the tone for the Suns all tournament long.

Mikal Bridges being Mikal Bridges

Don’t be alarmed by the lack of a standout game from Bridges. If you were tuned in, you saw everything you wanted to see.

Bridges was deadly in catch-and-shoot three-point spots, hitting a handful of them with defenders right in his face. When you are 6-foot-7 with a wingspan well over 7 feet, you can rise up and shoot over defenders, which is exactly what Bridges did.

On defense, Bridges’ activity level was as advertised. He used those long arms to disrupt passing lanes and rack up deflections. From stopping ball-handlers in transition to blocking charges after setting up for a charge, Bridges’ defense is the most exciting specific skill for a player coming out of the Summer Suns.

Elie Okobo’s vision

Maybe Okobo isn’t a “pure point guard” but the lefty at least sees the floor extremely well when it comes to making passes.

Okobo had several clever finds throughout the week and showed an advanced feel for the pass to make when a help defender comes toward him.

Okobo’s shooting and scoring were the aspects of his game to tout but we can add his passing to that list after how he played.

People love Jack Cooley

Seriously.

Cooley received several ironic “MVP!” chants during the Suns’ games. Fans recognize him from his Notre Dame days and he is a legendary, “hey, it’s that guy!” basketball player for more casual fans.

On a serious note, Cooley played his role well. He fit right in with the high energy and defensive effort this team relied on.

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The 5: Takeaways from Summer Suns’ time in Las Vegas