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Spalding’s Suns audition, Lecque’s bright spots continue in Vegas

Ray Spalding #26 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the first half of the NBA game against the Utah Jazz at Talking Stick Resort Arena on April 03, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — After former Phoenix Suns center Ray Spalding’s first 10-day contract expired last season, he signed another deal through the rest of the year with a team option for 2019-20. The widely assumed outcome was the Suns would decline it.

As is the case with many of those types of contracts, the Suns did that on June 28, making Spalding an unrestricted free agent.

Halfway through the 2019 edition of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, he’s teamless and still auditioning for a job.

After not playing in the Suns’ first game on Sunday due to a strained calf, Spalding thrived in limited minutes off the bench as Phoenix fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 79-69.

Spalding was a late second-round pick by Dallas in last year’s draft and a big part of that had to do with his athleticism and length.

He got to showcase that often against Memphis, consistently deflecting balls and blocking shots. The weight he put on since April showed and was what Spalding noted when he was asked of the biggest difference in his game since the season ended.

Like many players out in Vegas, it’s clear when you’re watching one who has spent time around an NBA team and has played some legit minutes.

Spalding is no different, and for a player in his small role, staying constantly engaged is essential. It allows him to make simple plays like this.

His first-half stint with six points and three rebounds was the best stretch by any Suns player through two games. He finished with six points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 15 minutes.

“I enjoyed it,” he said of his minutes, joking he was rusty and made a few mistakes. “Felt comfortable, felt good being out there.”

When evaluating the Suns’ roster, counting Kelly Oubre Jr., the team has 14 players. With the guard group overcrowded, there could be even another spot opening up. Plus, both of the Suns’ two-way contracts are available, which takes the max roster size up to 17.

With the Suns needing a reserve center behind the likes of Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes, Spalding makes a whole lot of sense as a familiar end-of-the-bench face with upside at only 22.

“I love Phoenix,” Spalding said. “If I was given the opportunity to come back, I definitely wouldn’t turn it down.”

LECQUE FLASHING AGAIN

It’s hard not to be impressed by point guard Jalen Lecque through two games.

Yes, he can soar through the air and his athleticism is off the charts. That gives him the ability to convert on ridiculous finishes like this one.

But Lecque has shown he’s much more than a highlight reel.

As noted after Sunday’s win over the Knicks, Lecque gets physical on both ends and the agility translates defensively.

This is a great block by Spalding but look at how Lecque is in Grayson Allen’s business.

On two separate occasions, Lecque picked up a bogus foul call for bumping Allen. On one, Lecque beat Allen to the spot defensively and Allen fell over when he took Lecque’s chest bump. The second was a forearm separation by Lecque to finish a drive, one that seemed fair from a close vantage point that sent Allen, a second-year player who starred at Duke, flying.

A reminder that Lecque was a five-year high school player while Allen is already 23 years old. With Lecque swarming him, Allen traveled two different times.

Lecque has shown a skill for getting through screens as well, something many good NBA players are terrible at. He’s a competitor and hasn’t gotten too sucked in driving as a ball-handler.

He made the simple pass off defensive rotations a few times on Tuesday.

What Lecque hasn’t done in Vegas is bring the ball up as a point guard, nor show off touch with his jump shot. But even with that in mind, it’s clear even in this setting that he has multiple traits teams desire out of young players.

On that aforementioned crowded guard group, the point guard depth chart sits at Ricky Rubio, Tyler Johnson, Ty Jerome, Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter and Lecque.

While Johnson and Jerome could play some of the minutes behind Devin Booker, there figures to be room for only two of Okobo, Carter and Lecque, potentially only even one.

With what Lecque has shown, and what you assume he is showing the Suns behind the scenes, bet on him making the cut.

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