'Big Summer League' Coming for Suns

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Less than a month after Suns General Manager tabbed this offseason as “a big summer” for the team’s younger players, the stage on which several of them will perform is set.

The NBA officially announced the dates (July 11-21) for the annual NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, a middle-of-the-summer smorgasbord of hoops that is far more popular in person than those who haven’t gone can imagine.

Why? It’s a chance to see both emerging prospects play and past legends hang out in one of the most laid-back NBA atmospheres around. Last summer saw Reggie Miller, Larry Johnson, Antonio Davis, Patrick Ewing, Sam Cassell and others all making multiple appearances. The bleahcers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas are almost on top of the action, providing absurdly close fan experiences to current and former players alike.

It will be more of a business-like affair for the Suns, however, as they hope to see significant progress made by recently graduated rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin. More new talent is sure to join them. The Suns hold at least three first-round picks in this summer’s draft. That’s not including second-round picks, young players already on the regular roster and free agent additions.

Last season’s summer league team sported five players that made the 2013-14 roster, and four more players that landed on other NBA teams. Phoenix made its effort to acquire eventual starting center Miles Plumlee based largely on his standout performance at summer league in the previous two offseasons.

The league format ensures a competitive level of play, a vital ingredient as the Suns’ front office and coaching staff seek to accurately evaluate the talent on the floor. After three preliminary rounds, the teams are seeded according to record in a single elimination tournament.

Last summer’s Suns team advanced to the championship game behind the stellar play of 29 overall pick Archie Goodwin (13.1 ppg, 50.0 FG%), the Morris twins (27.9 ppg combined) and P.J. Tucker. (11.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.4 spg). Phoenix also unearthed sharpshooting reserve Dionte Christmas, who earned a full season’s spot on the roster in 2013-14.

Again, Goodwin and Len will be the primary focus for the Suns’ coaching staff heading into the 10-day sprint of games.

“Summer league will be big for them,” McDonough said.