What we’re watching during the Suns’ Summer League run

Jul 5, 2023, 12:01 PM

Toumani Camara, Dayton, Phoenix Suns draft pick...

Toumani Camara #2 of the Dayton Flyers handles the ball against Nathan Cayo #4 of the Richmond Spiders during the 2022 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament Semifinals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

It didn’t look like the Phoenix Suns’ Summer League squad would need our attention heading into this offseason.

But following the Bradley Beal trade and a draft that included adding a second-round pick in Dayton product Toumani Camara, there are actual roster implications for Phoenix.

First-year Suns coach Frank Vogel wants his team’s identity to begin with physicality and defense. And he wants that to be a tone set from Day 1 of practice. We’ll assume that means the same ask will be there for the Summer League team.

Beyond that, there is a roster overload. Phoenix has 16 players, one over the regular season limit. Jobs will be on the line as the team determines what works around Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Beal.

Here’s what we’ll be looking at as Las Vegas could hint toward eventual roster construction things for the 2023-24 version of the NBA squad.

The extent of Toumani Camara’s defensive versatility

Arizona Sports’ Kellan Olson confirmed the 52nd overall pick is on a standard contract via the new second-round pick exception. That means he counts to the roster maximum — signing a two-way deal would not have — and has a three- or four-year deal with team options on the backend.

One thing of note: This doesn’t count against the cap until July 31. Even in that context, it seems like the Suns expect him to be a long-term piece to this squad.

All that said, there are questions.

Camara was a strong finisher at the rim as a power forward for Dayton, but some of that offense of bullying smaller players — or finding post touches at all — won’t fly in the NBA.

There’s evidence he has a three-point shot and good ball-moving abilities on offense. But he was drafted for his defense.

How does that translate? He’s not an elite athlete and is more fluid and smooth than explosive.

Can he be switchable enough to stay in front of smaller guards? Is he bulky enough to hang against bully-ball power forwards of the NBA?

Dayton pressed fullcourt often, threw out traps and switched when necessary. Camara has the awareness to help the weakside if presses are broken and can move well. He should do just fine in the halfcourt making the right reads.

But he’s gotta be capable of switching and surviving against guards or hanging with most power forwards at the pro level to really accentuate his value. There are some clips you’ll see in the lengthy video above of explosive players getting their hips by Camara and, on the other side of things, small school bigs posting him.

Everyone gets got from time to time, but it’ll be interesting to see his strengths and weaknesses against better athletes on both ends of the spectrum.

Jordan Goodwin’s floor-spacing improvements

We don’t need to watch tons of film to buy into Goodwin’s strengths. He should be a roster lock after being added to the Beal deal.

Every story you read about him indicates he has “that dog” in him. He’s, weirdly, really good at rebounding for a 6-foot-3 guard. The defense and the effort will be there.

Consume more of his highlight reels, and you see good decision-making, true lead guard stuff and enough off-the-bounce creation to think he can be a long-time backup point guard in the league.  His three-point shot needs to develop for that to happen.

Goodwin shot 32% from three over 62 games last year, taking nearly two shots every 17.8 minutes played per game. It’s coming for the 24-year-old, but it needs to be a lot more reliable to get into the Suns’ rotation on a consistent basis.

The load-up is slow for Goodwin, especially when he has time to launch. It’s clear he’s still getting the mechanics consistent.

Isaiah Todd’s NBA role

Todd, another inclusion in the Beal trade, is unlike Goodwin in that he doesn’t have any NBA-ready skills.

Unless you count athleticism as a skill.

The 6-foot-9, 219-pounder will turn 22 around the start of next season and went from a high-profile high school recruit to the G League Ignite club instead of the college route. Since going 31st overall in the 2021 draft, he’s not found traction regarding how he could help an NBA team.

Todd played only 18 games for the Wizards over the past two seasons, but even his G League stats scream project.

He was a sub-40% shooter in G League play the past two seasons and last year took 4.1 of 5.7 attempts per game from three despite that athleticism. A lot of that can be attributed to his high-post, midrange turnaround offense that is not exactly efficient.

Todd is long as heck, but he only tallied 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes. Again, that’s in the G League!

In theory, he looks like a floor-spacing, rim-protecting, small-ball center or modern power forward. There’s just not enough production to buy into at the moment.

Phoenix will get a look at him and see if a little more structure could help things click into gear. You’d think embracing defensive menace stuff will be his in if sticking in the NBA is part of his future.

The other two-way contracts

Los Angeles Clippers PG Russell Westbrook

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Saben Lee has a qualifying offer that, if signed as a restricted free agent, will land him a two-way roster spot for the Suns.

That leaves two more under the new CBA.

Is there anyone else on the Summer League roster who could make a case?

The roster is full of players who haven’t touched the NBA level other than Goodwin, Todd and point guard Jawun Evans.

Evans, you might remember, spent seven games with the Suns during their point-guard-lacking 2018-19 season.

Evans, Marcus Carr, Barry Brown Jr., Eugene German and Grant Sherfield all have extensive college or overseas experience at point guard. A change-of-pace backup could be good to stock.

At wing, there’s Gabe Brown, Savion Flagg, Jordan Usher and Louis Olinde who have to flash something worthy of casting their NBA projections.

Likewise, Arizona product and undersized energy big Keanu Pinder or all 260 pounds of Trey Jemison bring very different stuff at center.

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What we’re watching during the Suns’ Summer League run