EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Ty-Shon Alexander showing midrange potential for Suns at Summer League

Aug 9, 2021, 9:49 PM | Updated: Aug 10, 2021, 7:21 am
Phoenix Suns guard Ty-Shon Alexander is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Josh Hall (15) duri...

Phoenix Suns guard Ty-Shon Alexander is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Josh Hall (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 2, 2021, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 140-103. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Ty-Shon Alexander couldn’t possibly have had better people to learn the midrange game from.

The Phoenix Suns second-year guard spent his rookie year watching Chris Paul and Devin Booker form one of the league’s most efficient backcourts from that area in years, and it appears Alexander has absorbed some of that and is incorporating more of it into his game.

Alexander had a game-high 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting in a 63-57 Summer League loss for the Suns against the Utah Jazz on Monday in Las Vegas.

When Alexander was asked about his midrange game, that’s exactly where he took his answer.

“It was something that I kind of got a chance to watch this year with Devin and Chris,” he said postgame Monday. “They pick their spots, they do an excellent job. [They’re some] of the best midrange shooters, probably all-time. Having those guys being able to do that and also me working on those types of shots and situations.”

The 6-foot-3 guard entered the 2020 NBA Draft out of Creighton with most of his stock reliant on being a top-notch defender and decent three-point shooter, with a pinch of ball-handler upside at 22 years old. After he went undrafted, the Suns brought him in on a two-way deal and he’s set to be back again this year on that same contract.

In his last two years with the Blue Jays, Alexander wasn’t taking a ton of shots from the midrange. Two-point jumpers were only 19.7% of his total attempts as a sophomore, while it was a slightly higher 23% in his junior year, but he shot under 40% on those looks, per Hoop-Math.

Alexander has almost exclusively been shooting from the midrange through two games in Vegas and has shown a nice feel for getting to those spots with good rhythm on pulling up.

This is some smooth stuff right here.

The latter clip might look like just an open jumper on first glance, but focus on solely Alexander and his footwork with a second look. He’s getting himself in the spot and set for the shot as the pass arrives while he’s still on the move. That’s an obvious indicator of Alexander putting some serious work in, and that was indeed what he did at the Suns’ practice facility last year.

Some off-the-bounce scoring is always useful.

The main attraction of the team, 2020 lottery pick Jalen Smith, followed up a night of highs and lows on Sunday with more lows in Monday’s contest.

Smith shot 5-of-15 from the field for 12 points and added 15 rebounds, three steals and two turnovers. While the stat line was just about as encouraging as the one the day before with 15 points and 12 rebounds, Smith started the game 1-of-9.

In Summer League play at least, the signs of Smith still needing some more seasoning have been there.

At times, Smith has looked the part of a young player still finding his flow with so much going on around him. That was the part of his game he talked about improving on prior to Vegas, and what head coach Monty Williams said last season he wanted to see Smith grow in, but Summer League basketball just hasn’t looked like the right environment for him to show that.

Smith was rushing himself a handful of times on both ends of the court, the part of his game you would have hoped to be reeled in a bit given the year of NBA experience to his name. Alexander, for example, is one of the few Summer Suns through two games who looks to have that down.

In a few situations, Smith attacked the basket off the dribble, but his lack of explosion against 4s didn’t see him getting to the rack. Getting used to driving with his shoulder into his defender more will be another step in his development after the work that’s been put into improving that handle.

With all that in mind, Smith bounced back in the second half, making four of his six shots. Because of how hard he plays, Smith will always find a way to make an impact on the game, as his eight offensive rebounds show.

That final score was not a typo. Phoenix shot 24.1% from the field and 4-of-19 (21.1%) at three-point range. It’s not for a lack of effort, though, as you wouldn’t be surprised to know the Suns found guys who all play hard.

Justin Simon, an Arizona Wildcat that later transferred to St. John’s, was the top example of that with 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.

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