Lost in the flash of Scottie Reynolds’ sparking Summer Suns debut on July 12 against D-League Select, Matt Janning played the kind of game that made me think maybe just maybe he could be an NBA player.
Although I spent the majority of my time focusing in on Reynolds (and Gani Lawal and Earl Clark of course), I couldn’t help growing to like Janning throughout that game and really summer league as a whole.
Still, I kept telling myself, “No way he can play in the NBA, but he’ll be one helluva player in Europe.”
Well, somebody thinks he can play in the NBA and that somebody is the Phoenix Suns, as they announced on Wednesday they have signed Janning to a multi-year contract.
Coupled with the signing of Gani Lawal earlier in the week, the Suns have now reached the roster minimum that they have generally stayed at the past couple seasons.
This was a surprising move, especially this early, because Janning is not exactly a pure point guard and the Suns figured to desire such a player as insurance in case Nash or Dragic get injured and to have another point guard who can take reps in practice to allow Nash to rest.
They also figured to be in the market for a veteran big and they still have yet to sign second-round pick Dwayne Collins. Perhaps the Suns will carry 15 on their roster since they won’t be luxury tax payers and there will be additional moves to be made, but otherwise Janning was a kind of curious pick.
However, it’s not hard to see why the Suns like Janning, who played for Boston’s summer league squad before joining the Summer Suns. He was one of the standout performers for Phoenix in summer league, averaging 12.6 points (third on the team) and 5.8 boards (second). He played like a veteran, showcasing an outstanding feel for the game as well as a sweet shooting stroke.
In college playing for Northeastern, Janning was a two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association first team selection, and he took home CAA player of the year honors as a junior. He averaged 14.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists over the course of his collegiate career and was named Northeastern’s top scholar-athlete as a senior.
Definitely count Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle as a Janning fan.
“I love Matt, I think he’s great,” Thunder Dan said. “Can really shoot it, he’s athletic. The thing I like about him more than anything is he knows how to play. He’s got a big basketball IQ, understands what we’re looking for, and he’s a hell of a player.”
When pressed on if his lack of physical gifts could prevent his from being an NBA player, Majerle compared him to Jeff Hornacek.
“He’s got the same kind of body,” Majerle said. “What he lacks physically as far as the strength he can make up for. He knows how to play, that makes a big difference.”
If Janning was battling with Taylor Griffin for a roster spot during summer league, he vastly outplayed Blake’s big brother. At the same time, barring injury I can’t imagine him playing anything more than the Taylor Griffin role this season.
From what I saw of him in summer league he seems like a good guy who will work hard in practice and genuinely embrace the towel-waving role. I still question if he has the physicality to be an NBA role player, but he now has his chance to prove himself as a member of Phoenix’s roster.
I do question why the Suns made this offer before training camp, but perhaps they feared an overseas team would snatch him up like what happened with Scottie Reynolds before he could even get to training camp.
So while I would have preferred a third point guard (such as Reynolds), Matt Janning will be a solid fit at the end of the Suns’ bench.
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