2009 NBA Summer League round-up: Phoenix Suns
July 23rd, 2009

Kaspars Berzins: Kaspars is a tall Latvian, but he’s not Andris Biedrins. He’s a fine outside shooter for a seven-footer, but he’s not Dirk Nowitzki. And he’s a good athlete, but he’s not Chris Andersen. Mainly, he’s a tall jump shooter who avoids contact and doesn’t play much defence. In the fine tradition of teams drafting tall foreigners in the second round despite their unsuitability for the physical NBA game, being 7’3 would probably have gotten Berzins drafted. But a mere seven-foot? Pah.


Josh Carter: Carter is a decently-sized wingman out of Texas A&M, who is primarily a jump shooter. He’s a good jump shooter at that. But he’s not a really good jump shooter. And that’s why he wasn’t drafted. (Even then, being a really good jump shooter is not a guarantee you’ll be drafted. Anthony Morrow wasn’t, after all. But it worked out all right for him in the end. If Carter gets his jump shot to that standard, he’ll have a chance as well.)


Earl Clark: I saw a lot of Louisville last year, because they played in a lot of games, because they were good. And Earl Clark is a large part of why that was. He should have been taken ahead of Terrence Williams, given that he’s younger, bigger, and won’t struggle to score as much. But he will struggle a bit; the jump shot’s not good and nor is the free throw stroke, he’s not much use off the ball at the moment, and he barely posts up. Still, a lot of this was true of Boris Diaw once, and he turned out all right. I’ll push this comparison for a while yet.


Geary Claxton: Claxton is one of those rare beasts, a 6’5 man with forward skills in a guard’s body. He’s versatile, has an inkling of a jump shot, rebounds well and defends better, but can’t hit a foul shot to save his life (or a basketball game, depending on which comes first). Claxton put up four big seasons at Penn State, but tore his ACL before the draft. Last year he spent a couple of months with the Erie BayHawks, yet averaged only 3 and 3 in limited minutes before being released. I’m guessing his knee wasn’t fully rehabbed yet.


Lee Cummard: Cummard just spent four years at BYU, and before that spent a year serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nashville. He’s an under-athletic wing man with a fine shot and plenty of offensive skill, but every athletic disadvantage under the sun when measured at this level. And spending a year on that mission won’t have helped his upside.


Zabian Dowdell: Dowdell averaged 19.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals in Italy last year, numbers pretty much identical to his senior year at Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, they were in the LegaDue, which makes them a bit less impressive.


Micah Downs: Downs is tall, thin, athletic, a good shooter and better dunker. He’s also well travelled, having gone to seven high schools in three states and transferring from Kansas to Gonzaga after one year. He left Kansas because he didn’t get on with the coach, he left some of the high schools for the same reason, and also reportedly for not getting on with the players. He also used to run his own Micah Downs-orientated offence, and refused to join weight programs. Supposedly he’s figured it all out now, but it’s come a bit too late for him to get drafted.


Goran Dragic: Dragic was really, really REALLY bad for the first half of last season, before his jump shot turned up for the last three months and saved him. Should we blame all this on everyone else? Yeah, screw it, why not. Goran, you get a mulligan. Ball-handlers almost always need one adjustment season.


Taylor Griffin: What’s Taylor Griffin’s skillset like? Not great – a sub-par jump shot, no significant interior offence, an aggressive and smart and physical defender but undersized for the NBA, and a bad rebounder. What’s his upside like? With few plus NBA skills and an unassailable height disadvantage, not much. What’s his hairline like? Better than Blake’s. Why was he drafted? Not sure. Will it matter? Probably not.


Jiri Hubalek: Former Iowa State big man Hubalek was with the Suns summer league team last year, too, and it was reported that he was going to get a training camp contract. He didn’t get one in the end, but it didn’t hold him back; he went to Italy instead, and signed with Lottomatica Roma, averaging 8.3 points and 5.0 rebounds for a very good team. He put up much the same for the Suns in summer league, too. Hubalek is probably too slow for the NBA game, but he’s not talentless.


Takuya Kawamura: Kawamura was a late and ultimately unnecessary addition to the Suns roster, who led the Japanese JBL in scoring last year. The JBL is one of two Japanese leagues that are kind of at war with each other, the other being the brilliantly-named BJ League. Haven’t figured out how that unalliance works yet. Either way, Kawamura played in one game for the Suns, did nothing, and is now back in Japan for another year, perhaps forever. Nice knowing you.


Robin Lopez: Robin Lopez was awful last year. Really quite bloody awful. As his brother Brook went on to be one of the ten best centres in the game in only his rookie season, Robin struggled so badly that the Suns had to bring in Stromile Swift. But I still believe. And it’s hard not to believe in a man that’s dating Michelle Wie. Surely he can achieve anything now. Imagine the genes those two could put together.


Carlos Powell: Powell puts up huge, huge numbers wherever he goes, basically because he never lets go of the ball. Australia, Portugal, Ukraine, anywhere; the numbers are big. Perhaps his most notable achievement was leading the D-League in scoring in the 2007/08 season (along with a far-from-shabby 6.4 rpg and 4.8 apg) that came immediately after a training camp contract from the Golden State Warriors. His career went a bit weird last season, though, as Powell spent the year in South Korea for some reason. He averaged typical Carlos Powell numbers (56 games, 32 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.2 apg), but when you’re on the cusp of cracking the NBA, why do you go to Korea? That’s for after you’ve fallen out of it, not just before you go in.


Chris Rodgers: Rogers left Arizona in 2006 in not very good standing. Since then, he spent the 2006/07 season in the D-League, the 2007/08 season in Belgium, and last season in the holy trinity of Bosnia, Finland and Hungary. Now THAT’S a career move. Take note, Carlos Powell. Rodgers’ Arizona connections seem to be his reason for visiting the Suns team, because his resume isn’t strong. But it is kind of funny. And so is this.


Alando Tucker: Fun if slightly pathetic fact – on a plane flight a few months ago, I was sitting on my own, bored out of my mind. I hadn’t brought a book due to an unfortunate hand luggage situation, and it was a dirty cheap flight so there was no on-board entertainment to keep me sane. Needless to say, I was struggling for things to do. After spending a good twenty minutes in the toilet, struggling valiantly to make the tap work before eventually complaining to a crew member that it was broken (apparently it wasn’t), I sat back in my seat and tried to sleep. But I was surrounded by too many kids, and no shut-eye was forthcoming. So to pass the time, I decided to try and recite every person on an NBA roster at that time, for no reason other than to stay sane. (Also, the chicks love that sort of thing. Love it.) A few minutes later I opened my eyes, list completed, and proceeded to double check it. And Alando Tucker was one of the two people I forgot. Sorry, Alando.

The other person that I forgot was Rashard Lewis, of all people. Not sure how that happened. Chris Mihm? Got him. Othello Hunter? No problem. Jeremy Richardson? A doddle. But Rashard Lewis, the most novelty oversized contract in the world today, somehow slipped my mind. Must have had deep vein thrombosis or something.

Posted by at 6:21 PM

2 Comments about 2009 NBA Summer League round-up: Phoenix Suns

  1. chiaone23 July, 2009, 4:45 pm

    Hmmm. Not sure I buy your assessment of Earl Clark. When I watched him, he didn't seem to have the passing skills that Diaw brought to the table. I'll grant you that they have eerily similar defensive attitudes, though. Wait, were you saying that Clark is going to show up to camp next year with a weight problem?

  2. Sham23 July, 2009, 10:34 pm

    He's not as good of a passer as Diaw, but he's a pretty good one. Better than most small forwards. He and Williams used to initiate all of the offense for Louisville, partly because all their guards were defense/shooting specialist, but largely by design.