NBA Summer League: Suns 82, Blazers 69 — One for Hornacek

Like a warning before any Jackass movie, let’s begin with a notice regarding all Las Vegas Summer League games. The performances witnessed in the NBA summer leagues do not accurately represent the outlook for the Phoenix Suns’ season, nor should they be taken as gospel.

Now that’s out of the way, the Suns’ first summer league game Saturday in Las Vegas went well. Phoenix blew out the Portland Trail Blazers 82-69 after awaking to overcome an eight-point deficit. Leading by as many as 20, the Suns used a surging Markieff Morris to come away with the win. The older of the twins overcame eight personal fouls and a terrible start – including a 3-for-11 start from the field – to finish 7-for-15. Brother Marcus Morris added 14 more on a more efficient 4-for-9 outing.

The Suns shot 43 percent but the second-half output of 50 points in 20 minutes was impressive.

And for all the clammering about the Suns passing on Sacramento’s Ben McLemore to take Alex Len with the fifth overall pick, it was Portland’s 10th overall pick, C.J. McCollum, who was making Phoenix’s decision more questionable. McLemore had an awful outing earlier in the day, shooting 4-for-23 and missing 10-of-11 three-point attempts. Later Saturday, McCollum scored 15 first-half points but finished with just 22.

Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, speaking to NBATV, summed up McCollum’s performance well. He joked that it took 3.5 games into the season for opposing teams to blitz last season’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard on pick-and-rolls. It took 3.5 quarters for Phoenix to send the heat McCollum’s way.

After the rookie guard abused Kendall Marshall and Archie Goodwin, the Suns put P.J. Tucker on him and blitzed him off screens, forcing shotclock violations and throwaways. Meanwhile, the offense began to click as the Suns pulled away.

Marshall’s so-so outing

Was it good that P.J. Tucker can get up on McCollum and stay in front of him? Or bad news Kendall Marshall can’t?

Finishing with the Suns’ second-best plus-minus of plus-14, Marshall controlled the game well. He did that last season toward the end of the year. But Marshall took just four shots and scored four points to go with four assists in 18 minutes. No, it wasn’t bad per se, but Marshall still hasn’t shown aggressiveness that will open up passing lanes and help him score. Two of the points came with a game clock winding down – point is, he can be effective, but he rarely puts himself in attack position to do so.

So who is Arinze Onuaku

In the D-League last season, the 26-year-old and former Syracuse big man averaged 12.6 points and 9.5 rebounds in just 24 minutes per game. On Saturday, he put up seven points, 11 rebounds and had a team-leading plus-minus of plus-16. He was a big part of the Suns blitzing McCollum on pick-and-rolls and hedged well with pressure with his mobile 6-foot-9, 276 pound frame.

The scary part is this. In 17 minutes, Onuaku grabbed more rebounds than the Morris twins, who combined to play 40 minutes (the twins started in the frontcourt with Tucker, and Goodwin and Marshall started in the backcourt).

Upside for Archie

Goodwin’s length showed on defense. He got a hand on the ball against McCollum’s dribble, then nearly stole the ball in a passing lane during the first half. But both times, McCollum recovered. After losing the ball in the first half, he got Goodwin on his back and found himself into the lane for a floater. After nearly having the ball stolen atop the key, he splashed a three-pointer over Goodwin’s reach.

Goodwin also got beat off the dribble by Will Barton but recovered to block it from behind. A foul was called on Goodwin, which was annoying enough for Markieff Morris to draw a technical foul.

Overall, there’s much promise but a long learning curve. If anything, Goodwin looked engaged throughout and showed little signs – offball rotations! – that he is a smart basketball player.

On offense, Goodwin’s jumper was effective. He scored 13 points and hit a three and a long two-pointer coming off a high screen. He struggled to even get the ball on the rim when fouled, but at least he got fouled. Goodwin saw a good deal of time at point guard along with Diante Garrett and Marshall, but he is still far from looking like a point guard – the Russell Westbrook comparisons need to rest.

What does Hornacek’s coaching look like?

In general Hornacek appeared calm on the bench. His coaching changes at the half, especially against McCollum, were simple but smart.

By scoring 82 points on 43 percent shooting, Phoenix really did push the tempo – remember, there are only 40 minutes in summer league games. The Suns had 16 turnovers, not bad for their first game. Organizationally, all looked well. Most impressively, the Suns were balanced. They shot 6-for-16 from three-point range but also got to the foul stripe 27 times.

And 1

The Suns have added Dwayne Collins, their No. 60 overall draft pick from 2010, to the Summer League roster.


    in this years finals the suns will beat the heat 4-1

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Finally have an office again. Posting on a phone can be annoying at times.

    I watched this game and i’m going to take it for what it was and comment from that standpoint.

    Onuaku is a beast, or at least he was for this game. For what it’s worth, if a player of his mold has been something the suns have been looking for, then he should get strong considerations moving forward if he strings together more games like this.

    You don’t need everybody to score. You need players like him. Guys who seem to be vicious in certain areas, and we really do need rebounding and switch defense. He looked great.

    In that same vein, my take on Ken-Doll.

    To be honest, guys, I don’t really want marshall to score 20PPG. I kind-of understand what he is and I’m comfortable with that. He’s not a rocket. he’s the rocket launcher. The more weapons he has around him the more he amplifies them.

    The jumper will come and eventually somebody will teach him a floater. he’s never going to turn into a player who goes all the way to the cup. He’s still very young too. I’d like him to develop here.

    That being said, he needs advanced weaponry coming off that bench.

    He didn’t post the best numbers, but the Suns were far superior with him on the court. That has always been the case going back to college as long as he’s surrounded with talented athletes.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    So, why did the Suns draft Len and not McCollum?

  • Azbballfan

    Marshall has to be more aggressive

    4 points and 4 assists and a steal in 18 minutes isnt going to hack it in the NBA

    I really like Marshalls point guard qualities, but he is on thin ice as it is

    He has Goodwin, Bledsoe, Dragic to compete with as well and if you cant knock down a 15 footer in todays NBA your going to be stuck at the end of a bench and get scrap minutes

    I love the guy that had 7 points and 11 boards for us

    he was a real space eater in the paint

    he puts up more games like this and alex oriaki will struggle to make the team with this guy around

    you want bangers like that

    every nba team needs a pj tucker and a rebounder defensive guy off the bench

    the morris twins? more of the same

    inefficient offense and poor defense

    i just dont see marshall or the morris twins getting their options picked up

    sad to say it too cause thats 3 failed lotto picks by blanks right there

    Those 3 players should be crushing the summer league

    much as i want to marshall develop too, the NBA awards aggressive offensive teams

    he has to develop an offensive game to stick in this league

  • Scott

    Part of the problem with Marshall and CJ McCollum was that Marshall didn’t make McCollum work on defense, so he was fresh for offense. Marshall did his usual thing of dribbling slowly up the court and then passing to the first open person, so McCollum had an easy time defending.

    While I appreciate Marshall’s court vision, if he doesn’t have an immediate lob pass to make, it would be great if he could mess with his defender by quickly running off a few screens before dishing.

    BTW, Ray McCallum, the new PG for the Kings, had a nice game. He was controlling the offense for his squad, and was often scrappy on defense. His effect on the game was so obvious he drew some cheers.

  • Scott L

    I just got done watching the game and I spent most of my time focusing on Archie Goodwin, what I saw was a guy who could be a superstar at the 2 and a bust at the 1. This kids slashing abilities and ability to make guarded of balance shots is off the charts, but his passing and decision making at the point are awful. If he can get stronger physically, learn to play more under control and raise his overall basketball IQ I see him thriving as a D Wade type 2 guard.

    Also he needs more arc on his shot, that’s something I noticed at the combine and something that I think would vastly impove his jump shot and free throw Percentage.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Just different developmental arcs.

    it’s magnified by the state the franchise is in currently, but i like Marshall’s game. I’m under no illusions in regards to it.

    He already has an elite skill. The problem is that his elite skill is a bit different from the norm. It isn’t just court vision, it’s court study as well.

    The more you surround him with players, (the SAME players), that he can mature with, the better he is and the better they are.

    If Marshall gets traded, then he gets traded. I won’t be shocked because almost everybody on the roster is available or will be used if the right opportunity presents itself. We already saw that with JMZ.

    If he doesn’t get traded, I don’t really see him having problems from a pure PG standpoint, especially if he is working on that jumper and working on executing in and out of screens like Scott previously mentioned.

    I grade guys like the Morri, and even Goodwin a bit differently because these guys are supposed to have a skill set that allows them to be effective offensively in a more independent fashion. The Morri are supposed to be improving in terms of being more efficient scoring options. They are supposed to be working towards being better rebounders. Goodwin is supposed to be a slashing guard, (and I think he and Marshall are a perfect fit for one another).

    Marshall is already an elite passer and a great game manager. I’m not going to hate on him. I’m already on board with the type of player he is. That being said, (and I think people have to understand this)…

    Not only does he need time to work out where he wants / needs to be, but he also needs more time figuring out where these new players need & want to be in a new system. he needs consistency from his lineup, so he can understand how his bigs roll or pop off of a screen. He needs time to figure out how vicious a cutter Goodwin is and where he might like the ball, (like on that Marshall-to-Goodwin-3-pointer in transition).

    That is who he is. That is the player he is. He makes others better and at the same time, he should be working to improve himself.

    I don’t see the guard log jam. I see Dragon and EBled playing beside one another and I see Ken-Doll and Goodwin playing beside one another. Two potentially good combinations that can be interchangeable if given time.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ Scott L -

    Goodwin is a 2. He should be a 2. Now, in this new NBA roles aren’t as defined, or they could be if adjusted.

    I like ‘Distributor’ ‘Executioner’ & ‘Playmaker’ better.

    Goodwin is an Executioner. EBled is an Executioner.
    Marshall is a ‘Distributor’ while Dragon is a ‘Playmaker’

    I think the best think Hornacek can do is keep Marshall out there with Goodwin at all times. They are perfect for one another.

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  • Scott

    @Scott L -

    What the Suns want from Goodwin is a greater ability to see the floor and to be able to make the occasional assist pass without it being intercepted. Goodwin has the IQ to be able to expand his PG skills, and I think that’s what they want to work on, in addition to fixing his shot.

    My assumption is that in practices they’ll have Goodwin play PG in order to improve his court vision and passing. Barring injuries, he probably he won’t get onto the court outside of garbage time, as ahead of him on the SG depth chart will be Dragic, Brown, and Tucker.

    Goodwin is a classic slash and shoot SG though, and that’s where he’ll make his career.

  • foreveris2long

    Marshall will have trouble finding a job in the NBA in two years unless he gets aggressive offensively. I saw a 6’2 point guard playing help defense block his jumper. That is exactly what Coach was talking about when he said Marshall’s release is too low. Additionally he is painfully slow on defense, making him a liability on that side of the court.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Regarding Marshall, I agree he has higher upside than most people think as a smart floor general and I don’t think he needs to be an athletic guy to be effective. I do think he must attack more … he’s shown that he’s crafty enough to at least give himself more passing windows and even score, but often he’s too comfortable just “running the offense,” if you will.

    Randy Hill of Fox Sports once made this very important and detailed observation (he’s a coach so noticed this pretty easily): Marshall comes off pick-and-rolls standing straight up, without leverage and because of it he can’t — and won’t — attack the defenses even if the PNR defense is poor.

  • DBreezy

    Thing is can Kendall actually attack more? We all agree that he should attack more, but we’ve seen little evidence in college or the league that he has those kinds of skills. He got a nice and one in the game and I kinda chuckled to myself because I thought I shouldn’t be surprised that a guy finished a layup with his strong hand over a rookie that he’s bigger than. It reminded me of one the late season games where Kendall got all excited because he made a simple layup when everyone played him for the pass.

    If Kendall succeeds playing his way in the league he really will be a truly unique player. We’ve seen unathletic guys before but they all had scoring moves you had to honor. Mark Jackson had that teardrop shot and was just as sad as Barkley when the NBA put in that rule that said you can only dribble the ball for 5 seconds on the box with your back to the hoop. Andre Miller has those old man game moves and leverage that get him shots in the paint. Rubio isn’t the greatest athlete, but he routinely gets to where he wants on the floor and must be honored because of it. Rondo is the same way but with more speed and craftiness finishing.

    What is Kendall going to do if actually gets in the paint?

  • azbballfan

    I dont know and i think he doesnt know either

    Marshall isnt like jared dudley, who worked and worked and worked to be a better player and it actually showed in games

    i have no idea what marshall did this summer, because it sure as heck hasnt showed yet

    Marshall is too content with just walking the ball up and passing to the 1st open guy

    what about calling for a screen?

    driving to the basket?

    a ball fake?

    is he afraid he will get injured if he makes a move ot the basket?

    i dont know

    he is such a great passer and can really control the tempo of the game

    but he cant defend or shoot

    yeah he makes players better and the better you have around him the better, but so what you give any point guard worth anything scoring weapons and a bigman with an offensive game and he will look great

    Marshall is getting paid millions of dollars

    he needs to be aggressive and go out there like his job depends on it, otherwise he might find himself out of the NBA

    if he is not aggressive because he has low confidence that that is on the coaches and they need to work on that

    i just dont know, its hard to tell if it is something fixable or if he is just going to be like boris diaw

    diaw had alot of talent and could play 4 positions but you were always getting frustrated with him because he played too passivley

  • foreveris2long

    IMO Marshall needs to find a soccer and dance coach to improve his footwork. Nash is a perfect example that excellent footwork can place defenders on their heels giving Marshall more scoring opportunities. Perhaps then he will make defenders concentrate on playing him instead of offering help defense on someone else. It might even help his defense.

  • Ty-Sun

    Marshall (and everyone else) should play better this year if Horny just starts the season with a stable starting 5, bench unit and stable rotations. The Suns didn’t have that last season but I can’t really blame that on Gentry because he was under pressure to find a way to win. If Horny just keeps things more consistent, everyone on the team should at least feel more comfortable with their roles and each other on the court.

    Interesting observation, foreveris2long. Olajuwon also credited growing up playing soccer as part of his success in playing basketball. My biggest worry about Marshall is that he might think he will just “naturally” get better with experience and not put in the extra work needed to accelerate the process.

  • Foreveris2long

    Ty_Sun, Yep The Dream did credit soccer for his impressive footwork in the NBA. Nash and Kobe also played a lot of soccer growing up. I do not think it is a coincidence that these guys have some of the best footwork in the history of the NBA. I have attended enough soccer practices with my daughter to appreciate the definite correlation between basketball and soccer. I think it would help Marshall a lot as well as improving the release point on his jump shot.

  • Ty-Sun

    Interestingly, when Olajuwon started outgrowing the other kids in soccer he began playing goalkeeper which he gave a lot of credit to for his shot blocking ability in the NBA.

  • DBreezy

    It would be nice if Horny can keep things consistent, but that’s really up to the players. Young teams/players always have their ups and downs and that will reflect in lineups over time. It’s not just winning that causes that, but sometimes the needs of developing a certain player or in Len’s case injury recovery.

    Remember during Kieff’s rookie year for example when he indicated that he was more comfortable coming off the bench than starting at that point in time? Also, I think Goran would have done a bit better under Porter if he had been allowed to play with more starters early on. For example, between Porter and Amare’s late season injury Goran really didn’t get to play with Stat until his second season. Making that big transition as a young pg and coming from a different league and culture, I think it would have been nice to be in S/R’s with Stat where the decisions were generally much clearer cut than they were with the bench crew.

  • Ty-Sun

    With lower expectations and less pressure to “win now”, Horny should probably only make lineup changes when he feels they are right to do.

    After the Beasley experiment failed last season, I think Gentry made some lineup changes out of desperation rather than because they actually made sense. Gentry was given a knife and then sent to a gunfight… but the FO tried their best to convince everyone that knife was actually a gun.

    This year there’s no doubt that the Suns will go into this season under-armed and no BS from the FO trying to convince anyone otherwise.

  • Foreveris2long

    If anyone is watching the Suns summer league team in their second game, you are clearly seeing an indictment of Blanks. Morris, Morris and Marshall have done very little. They are losing by about 20 and I really do not see any talent to get excited about. Hopefully Goodwin gets some quality minutes in the second half to see if he can find a slight groove.