Toumani Camara impresses again for Suns in summer league win

Jul 10, 2023, 5:41 PM

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 11: Toumani Camara #2 of the Dayton Flyers dunks the ball against the Fo...

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 11: Toumani Camara #2 of the Dayton Flyers dunks the ball against the Fordham Rams in the second half during the Semifinals of the A10 Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 11, 2023 in New York City. Dayton Flyers defeated the Fordham Rams 78-68. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

All you can ask for out of summer league is for recent draft picks to show what they bring to a basketball team and how it can be effective in a NBA setting.

Phoenix Suns second-round pick Toumani Camara has passed that test with flying colors two games in. After 20 points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s debut, Camara’s box score numbers in Monday’s 73-70 win over the Miami Heat were less eye-popping but included the same amount of encouraging play on the floor.

Camara had 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals on 4-of-8 shooting.

His energy and movement around the floor is unique. He can scoot.

Camara made a handful of key defensive plays through three days, whether it’s on or off the ball.

But considering what headlined Camara’s list of attributes as an NBA prospect, it has been a surprise to see his skills as a screener pop the most. Camara rolls to the basket with intent and looks to have great hands. On top of that, his footwork is sound so he can take those catches and seamlessly translate it into a finish at the rim.

Camara doing this in summer league when point guard play and locating big men from the right passing lanes is rare makes it even more impressive.

The screening game from non-centers is something Phoenix sparsely used under Monty Williams and surely will more with Frank Vogel at the helm. As one example, it’s one of the most direct and simple benefits Kevin Durant can have on an offense.

For Camara, it can help as well and adds intrigue to more small-ball possibilities for the Suns. Phoenix would sacrifice rim protection and size on the glass but if Camara’s 3-point shot and defensive versatility translates, it’s worth jotting down. And that primary skillset is something summer league basketball just isn’t going to allow Camara to show as a more supplementary piece, so we’ll wait and see on that front.

At the very least, it’s a way Camara can contribute to the offense by finding open space whether he’s involved in the action or not. He’s flashed his off-the-bounce game and Camara is definitely quick enough to get by defenders but the decision-making and handle will require a few more steps forward in development. Camara had six turnovers, which is completely fine in this setting, and it’s more about him continuing to be aggressive to explore that part of his game.

And with that said, his dives and post game have shown he has good touch and scoring instincts once he gets near the basket. His 12 free-throw attempts in two games back this up. Camara, though, will have to knock those down. He shot 63.1% at the line through four collegiate seasons and is 6-for-12 (50%) in Vegas.

As far as any potential standouts for two-way spots after a pair of games, wing Gabe Brown is worth a shout.

The four-year product out of Michigan State spent last year in the G League and shot 41.0% from deep on nearly seven attempts a game. He had some nice glue guy moments on Monday. Brown benefitted from an ultra-sloppy effort from Miami with four steals to go with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Jordan Usher, who played professionally in Turkey last season, used his motor on the wing to make an impact as well. He contributed nine points, three rebounds and three steals.

The NBA upped the two-way positions on a roster to three and the Suns currently have zero of ’em filled. Saben Lee is a restricted two-way free agent, so he could be back, but that’s two more openings still. The Suns under president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones have often been patient with using them, avoiding the mad dash of top undrafted names shortly after the draft commences and instead evaluating over the summer.

Ish Wainright was a late add two years ago after spending training camp with the Toronto Raptors and that certainly worked out with his contributions in the regular season, plus his overall growth as a player.

Suns guard Jordan Goodwin did not play due to left knee soreness. He left the floor during Saturday’s loss in the mid-third quarter due to the injury. Phoenix plays two more games on Tuesday and Friday before the finale on Saturday or Sunday.

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