EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns’ unique Summer League roster full of professionals, talent from overseas

Aug 6, 2021, 6:00 PM | Updated: 11:39 pm
A basketball is shown on the court during a break in a semifinal game of the 2019 NBA Summer League...
A basketball is shown on the court during a break in a semifinal game of the 2019 NBA Summer League between the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Grizzlies defeated the Pelicans 88-86 in overtime. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It’s not often you see a NBA Summer League roster like the Phoenix Suns’ in 2021. It’s pretty unique.

The entire 15-man roster is players who have played professionally either in the NBA or overseas, the majority of which qualify for the latter.

And if you’re following me correctly, yes, that means the roster has zero players from the 2021 draft class. That is certainly not a common occurrence in Summer League.

It was not concentrated on just one league or region, either.

Australia. Germany. Belgium. Russia. Italy. Israel. Greece. France. Spain. Along with the United States, those are the 10 total countries the team’s roster spans based on the last club each player was with.

That makes Suns assistant coach Brian Randle even more fitting for the job.

Randle entered the coaching scene a few years ago after a successful 10-year overseas career on his own. The former Illinois guard in the mid-2000s is a three-time winner of the Israeli League’s Best Defender honor, and won its award for the MVP of the playoff championship in 2010 when he was an Israeli League champion with Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon.

Randle, unsurprisingly, said this type of roster construction has made things easier for him in the early days of the team being together before it departs for Las Vegas this weekend.

“They all have experience,” he said Friday. “Two years, three years, four years of experience, so that teaching aspect and coming in the first day of camp, it really changes that learning curve. Guys pick up things quick, they’ve been in different countries, (with) different coaches, so it kind of fast-forwards you in what you’re able to do your first couple of practices, first couple of days of training camp.”

As Randle pointed out, two of the players with NBA experience, 2020 first-round pick Jalen Smith and 2020 two-way contract signee Ty-Shon Alexander, were with the Suns all of last year. They know the system and what Randle wants to achieve in the beginning of the process.

Alexander said that communication was something veteran point guard Chris Paul emphasized to him and Smith all last season.

“Me and Stix the only people who really know our scheme and know how to play Suns basketball,” Alexander said. “Chris has really taught me and him both how to communicate and be a leader. Because talking on defense and making sure guys know where they are on offense, making sure that being in the right spots, taking our time — after watching a lot with Chris and what he does on the court, I’m honestly looking forward to what I can do in the summertime trying to win games every now and then.”

The Suns’ Summer League schedule gets underway on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. against the Los Angeles Lakers. That will be televised on ESPN2.

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Phoenix Suns’ unique Summer League roster full of professionals, talent from overseas