EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Jalen Smith records double-double in Summer League debut, a Suns loss

Aug 8, 2021, 10:08 PM | Updated: 10:11 pm
Jalen Smith #10 of the Phoenix Suns passes the ball up the court against the Los Angeles Lakers dur...
Jalen Smith #10 of the Phoenix Suns passes the ball up the court against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2021 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 8, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It wasn’t hard to spot the lone first-round pick on the floor between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers in Summer League play from Las Vegas on Sunday night.

Suns second-year big Jalen Smith’s athleticism and size stood out on the floor, and so did his production, a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds in a 73-72 loss for Phoenix’s first game in Vegas.

On top of those two numbers for Smith being a game high, so too were his 29 minutes. That’s not a surprise given how Phoenix wants Smith to have as much of an opportunity as possible to get some run after hardly playing in his rookie season.

Smith provided what you want to see out of a first-round pick in Summer League, which was a handful of plays that showed what his skill set is all about. That translating to an NBA environment, even in Summer League, is good to see.

The No. 10 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Smith had four of his 12 rebounds on the offensive glass, and Smith got running in transition as well.

Smith always plays with lots of energy, and that was no different on Sunday, something head coach Brian Randle said postgame he cares about more than a 5-of-14 shooting performance.

“It’s the things he can control,” Randle said. “He did that tonight.”

Smith picked up two of his five buckets from three-point range. It was a quick reminder of one of his best attributes coming out of Maryland, a catch-and-shoot motion that’s as fluid as just about any other you’ll see from a big man.

The 21-year-old also had four turnovers and air-balled three of his misses from deep, as is the way Summer League tends to go more often than not. It can be brutal basketball at times, and the box scores visualized that, with both teams shooting under 39% and turning it over a combined 29 times.

Where it gets fun, though, is little glimpses of new skills developing for promising young players, such as Smith’s passing ability.

This is good stuff out of the high post.

Smith also had a few grab-and-go sequences, meaning he got the defensive rebound and brought the ball up the court as opposed to giving the outlet pass to a guard. That’s something he did a bit in the G League bubble last season and is where you can see the effort to add more versatility to Smith’s game.

2020 two-way contract signee Ty-Shon Alexander, who remains on the team’s active roster, looked comfortable with his pull-up jumper and was doing his usual pest work defensively that he built up a reputation for at Creighton. He racked up 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 21 minutes.

Of the notable performances outside of those two, a Summer Suns roster without a 2021 draftee, point guards Jaleen Smith and Nate Mason both had a good mix of getting to their spots and making solid passes.

Smith had a clear feel for kicking it to the weak side and attacking the rim, posting 13 points and three assists, while Mason added four points and three assists of his own.

FELLAS COURTSIDE

Suns players Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Chris Paul and Cam Payne were courtside for the game. Former Sun Jevon Carter, who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets the week of the NBA Draft, was also with ’em. Payne’s birthday is today and he confirmed to ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbath that they’ll be celebrating that, Booker’s gold medal and some of their new contracts in Vegas.

General manager James Jones was in the building too, as was head coach Monty Williams.

PAUL’S WRIST

Paul was sporting a contraption of sorts on his left wrist, the area he reportedly had surgery on, per The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.

Jones in an interview with ESPN’s broadcast team described the deal with Paul’s wrist as minor and that Paul will be returning to the court in a few weeks.

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