At this time last year, we were all sitting around wondering if there was even going to be a season. The lock-out was in full effect and all basketball-related activities were put on hold. Unfortunately, that included Summer League play, which meant a lot of young players missed out on some valuable experience.
Thankfully, there is no lock-out this year and Summer League has already begun. These games provide an invaluable experience for so many players. For drafted rookies, it is an opportunity to suit up and play some professional ball for the first time. For second and third year players, it is a chance to showcase what they have been working on over the summer and continue to build on what they accomplished in their rookie and sophomore seasons. For undrafted players, it is a chance to get a training camp invite and possibly even make a roster. For veterans, it is a chance -- possibly a last chance -- to make it back into the league. There is a lot on the line in Summer League, especially for contests that are little more than glorified pick-up games.
The festivities kicked off last week in Florida as eight teams participated in the Orlando Summer League. The Orlando league, which included eight teams, is a bit of a precursor for the main event in Las Vegas, which began on Friday after the Orlando league wrapped up. 24 teams are in Vegas and 60 total games will be played.
The rules are a bit different than fans are accustomed to. The game consists of four 10-minutes quarters, rather than the 12-minute quarters used in the NBA. It also takes 10 personal fouls before a player is disqualified, rather than the customary six.
The Suns make their debut today against the New York Knicks SL squad at 1 p.m. AZ time. The game will be shown on NBA TV and will also be streamed online via the Summer League Broadband package, which you can purchase for $14.99.
Make the jump for a brief look at the rosters of the Suns and their competition.
For a full breakdown of the Suns' 15-man roster, check out 7footer's excellent work here. The year's lottery pick Kendall Marshall will be making his pro debut today and last year's lottery pick Markieff Morris will also be making his first appearance in Summer League play.
Those two rightfully headline the roster, but there are a couple of other players that will be playing for training camp invites with the Suns.
Former Ohio State Buckeye David Lighty is my pick for most likely to make the roster. He's a capable defender and a good 3-point shooter who chose to head overseas last year after going undrafted rather than waiting for the lock-out to end.The Suns are still a bit shallow on the wing, and Lighty could be a cheap way to fill out the roster.
Excluding Marshall, there are five other guards on the roster that can handle the ball and run the offense. It looks like the Suns may be looking for another guard to bring to training camp, although making the roster will be tough with Goran Dragic, Sebastian Telfair and Marshall already under contract. Because of that, my pick to emerge from the group is Matt Gatens, an undrafted rookie sharp-shooter and combo-guard from Iowa. Gatens visited the Suns twice before the draft, so the team has already shown some interest in him. I wouldn't count out Diante Garrett, though, a 6-foot-4 point guard from Iowa State who isn't a great shooter but can do a little bit of everything.
As for the forwards, Wisconsin's Marcus Landry was invited to the Suns training camp last season and could return again this year with a good week. However, I think Michigan's DeShawn Sims has a good chance to beat out Landry for that spot. Sims is a tough player who won D-League Rookie of the Year after going undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft.
NEW YORK KNICKS (Sunday, July 15, 1 p.m.)
The Knicks come into today after getting crushed by the Memphis Grizzlies 93-77 in their first game in Vegas. James White is the lone player on the team with a contract with the Knicks after the sign-and-trade for Marcus Camby shipped guard Toney Douglas and big men Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan to Houston.
However, their roster does feature three players who have siblings currently playing in the league. Chris Smith (brother of Knicks guard J.R. Smith), Jeremiah Rivers (son of Doc Rivers and brother of Hornets' lottery pick Austin RIvers) and Mychel Thompson Jr. (son of former NBA player and brother of Warriors guard Klay Thompson) should all see playing time for the Knicks. I know how much Suns fans love lesser brothers.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (Tueday, July 17, 5:30 p.m.)
The Cavaliers will be without reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving after he broke his hand during a practice, but there is plenty of talent left on the roster.
Tristan Thompson is the biggest name after being drafted 4th overall last year an having a solid rookie season. Joining him are this year's draft picks guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller, both whom were taken in the first round.
Donald Sloan is a solid point guard who made the team last year after tearing it up in the D-League and filled in when Irving missed some time due to injury. Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody are two more players who spent last year on the Cavs' roster.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (Wednesday, July 18, 5:30 p.m.)
However, their second lottery pick, Austin Rivers is still on the roster and he's joined by second round pick and crafty scorer Darius Miller. Shooting guard Xavier Henry, a lottery pick from a few season ago, will also participate, as will Jerome Dyson and Lance Thomas who made the team as undrafted free agents last year after playing in the D-League.
D-LEAGUE SELECT TEAM (Friday, July 20, 7 p.m.)
There are not many big names on the D-League select team. Chris Johnson is a long, athletic shot-blocker who has played for a couple of NBA teams in the last two years. Renaldo Major is a wily D-League vet who knows how to put the ball in the hoop. Point guard Mardy Collins is a name that some might remember as he spent four years in the NBA.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (Saturday, July 21, 7 p.m.)
Memphis put the hurt on the Knicks in their first game and got big performances from 2011 first rounder Josh Selby as well as this year's first round pick Tony Wroten. Jeremy Pargo is another talented point guard on the squad who made the team lasted year and even started a few games.
The Grizzlies also feature a familiar face to Suns fans as Matt Janning, former Sun and 2010 Summer League sensation, is on the roster.