Phoenix Suns: How Each New Player can Assert Himself at Training Camp

Phoenix Suns, Landry Shamet (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Landry Shamet (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

Having made it to the NBA Finals with several home grown pieces, a crafty veteran, and a couple hungry gunners running behind them off the bench, the Phoenix Suns want to run things back during the 2021-22 season. With training camp on the horizon, the team’s roster looks eerily similar to last year’s, thanks mainly to those who worked to re-sign Chris Paul and Cameron Payne.

However, some new faces still exist across this team. A draft day trade allowed Phoenix to exchange a pick and Jevon Carter for Landry Shamet. During their free agent shopping spree, the Suns also added JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, and later Chandler Hutchison.

As the “new kids on the block,” it might help these four players to try and stand out during training camp if they plan on significantly contributing to Phoenix’s Western Conference defense.

Phoenix Suns guard Landry Shamet turns heads with some tough defense.

Working primarily as a sharpshooter during his first three NBA seasons, everyone knows what Landry Shamet brings to the table for the Suns.

But last year, Phoenix lacked a true shooting guard to play behind Devin Booker during the entire season. E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway resembled the closest things to a true off guard, but they both primarily play the point, and neither averaged more than 15.0 minutes per game.

However, Shamet joins the Suns as the long awaited understudy to work behind Booker. But to clearly illustrate himself as that, he needs to build on the missing components within his game that commonly go associated with shooting guards.

Shamet already checks all the boxes offensively, but his defense requires some attention. With the Nets last season, he struggled mightily to stop the ball at the point of attack, causing Brooklyn to roll with a one-legged James Harden during the postseason, rather than a fully healthy Shamet.

So if Shamet enters camp and strongly emphasizes improving his defensive game, he becomes a fully formed shooting guard, ready to fill the backup role. By doing that, he also fixes the rotation’s largest issue from last year—certain to please Monty Williams’s coaching staff.

JaVale McGee stands out with Phoenix Suns by staying conditioned.

As a 33-year-old big man, JaVale McGee’s decreased production over the years follows him into Suns training camp as his most primary concern. Despite being named to the 2021 Team USA Basketball Team this summer, only once has McGee averaged double digit points since the 2011-12 season.

But best way for him to subvert the notion that he “no longer has it” lies with how he approaches his conditioning. If McGee works himself into great shape during camp, then the Suns training staff will take it as a surprise, but one very appreciated.

Elfrid Payton reintroduces himself to the Phoenix Suns with better 3-point shooting.

Elfrid Payton played just one season with the Suns four years ago, shooting a career low 20.0 percent from beyond the arc. Although Phoenix’s coaching staff today looks much different now than it did back then, some assistant coaches, trainers, and ownership members present during Payton’s first stint still remain attached to the team, and they all likely remember this clear flaw within his game.

During his last few years away from the Suns, Payton still struggled to figure out long range shooting. Between playing for the New York Knicks and New Orleans Pelicans, he shot a gross 27.1 percent from downtown. Every Phoenix scout and coach surely knows about that, no matter their prior engagements with Payton

Additionally, the Suns more or less brought Payton back to replace the hard-nosed, third string point guard Jevon Carter. Last year, Carter shot a solid 37.1 percent from outside.

So if Payton manages to at least partially improve his 3-point shooting efficiency, he pleasantly surprises the Suns coaching staff, and fully fills his desired role. Sounds like a good way to start off a season.

Chandler Hutchinson draws interest from Phoenix Suns with general aggressiveness.

The Suns agreed to a two-way deal with Chandler Hutchinson a few weeks ago, making him the most recent player to join the Suns—and the one with the least expected of him. However, a player that comes into camp and immediately hits the ground running will always attract Monty Williams.

Possessing a six-foot-six and 210 pound frame, Hutchinson already wields the tools to bully players off the block very similarly to teammate Jae Crowder. He only needs to flick that aggressive switch in his head, and start playing accordingly.

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Only a few years ago, Hutchinson averaged a whopping 7.2 free throw attempts per game during his senior season at Boise State. He certainly knows how to work his way inside, play hard, and find contact, but just needs to start going for it.