EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Summer Suns fall to Kings; Ish Wainright’s future in Phoenix

Jul 15, 2022, 7:04 PM

Ish Wainright #12 of the Phoenix Suns is fouled by Quenton Jackson #3 of the Washington Wizards dur...

Ish Wainright #12 of the Phoenix Suns is fouled by Quenton Jackson #3 of the Washington Wizards during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns’ second-to-last Summer League game was an 82-69 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

Phoenix had a chance to play in the championship if it had won by a certain margin but a loss sealed its fate to a consolation game on either Saturday or Sunday.

The Suns’ offense in Las Vegas has either been great or not so great, and the latter came on Friday and put them down 15 points midway through the second quarter.

They showed their fight, going on a 16-1 run to get within 10 at 5:34 remaining. Those minutes were led by a lineup that had forward Ish Wainright playing the 5, something he’s familiar with.

He finished with a team-high 13 points.

With Deandre Ayton’s future sorted out, one more potential returnee worth mentioning is the unrestricted free agent Wainright.

The 27-year-old signed with the Suns on a two-way contract last season and did everything right in his rookie year. His personality and work ethic were a seamless fit, and as a small-ball five option at a bulky 6-foot-5, he took advantage of every opportunity he got in the rotation.

That rightfully earned him a spot on the playoff roster, a move that required the Suns to release an injured Frank Kaminsky.

While Wainright is older than the average rookie, there’s clearly a rotation-caliber NBA player in there and there’s the obvious comparison to former Sun P.J. Tucker. Both spent time playing in Europe before getting their next shot with Phoenix and cover similar lanes when it comes to the role they play.

The X-factor for Wainright is his 3-point shot, one that was hardly utilized in college at Baylor before he started taking it more in his last two years, ending up at 33.1% on 1.3 attempts per game for his collegiate career.

That was five years ago, though, and Wainright has put in a ton of hard work to become a better shooter. He made that clear when he got chances to prove it last season, and has again in Las Vegas.

This type of footwork is the byproduct of endless practice reps, and he’s been using a noticeably quicker release in Summer League play as well.

Wainright is 9-for-21 (42.8%) on 3s in four Summer League games.

The potentially good omen for his future has been Phoenix using Wainright in the role he would play on the Suns, as opposed to putting him on the ball more as a featured player. Summer League head coach Steve Scalzi has also used Wainright as a small-ball 5 for a few segments of games too, which also qualifies. It makes sense if they want him to get used to it!

Wainright, in this writer’s opinion, deserves a standard NBA contract after the calendar year he’s had for Phoenix. With that said, he can still be added as a two-way player again. The rule is a maximum of two years under that type of deal with the same team, and Wainright’s only entering his second season in the NBA, meeting the threshold of under four years of experience.

He wants to be back.

If the Suns are able to execute a Kevin Durant trade, it will leave their depth in a challenging position, a group that would be in a slightly better spot if Wainright was a part of the wing rotation.

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Summer Suns fall to Kings; Ish Wainright’s future in Phoenix