Warren makes stellar impression with Summer League Suns

T.J. Warren, left, was named to the All-NBA Summer League second team after averaging 17.8 points per game and shooting 54.4 percent from the field.

Matt York/AP

PHOENIX — In 2013, what happened for the Suns in Vegas didn’t stay there.

And that was a good thing. The rise of the Morris twins in the NBA Summer League continued in Phoenix, and P.J. Tucker went directly from The Strip to the Suns’ starting lineup.

Things were more forgettable this season, although it’s unwise to go all-in on anything that happens while working against a high percentage of players who won’t be around during the regular season.

With that caveat nailed down, let’s review some of the most important summer Suns.

Our runaway qualifier for this category is rookie T.J. Warren, whose chops as the No. 2 scorer in Division I college basketball translated quite well.

Warren, chosen by the Suns with the 14th pick in last month’s NBA Draft, averaged 17.8 points and made 54 percent of his shots from the field.

He was stellar in three games for the 2-3 Suns, averaging 25.3 points in 28 minutes on those occasions while making 33 shots in 56 attempts. The other two games weren’t nearly as stupendous. Warren played only seven minutes before getting cut (and stitched up) in the second game and struggled while playing out of position in the finale.

Otherwise, he played well enough to be named with the second unit of the all-summer-league team and inspire this comment from Suns general manager Ryan McDonough:

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"He looked like a veteran, even though he’s only 20 years old."

Avoiding shot-blockers and charge-takers with a fully-functioning Euro step, Warren was dynamite in transition. He also was pretty thrifty while scoring from mid-range against set defenses.

"He fit right in," McDonough said. "He just has that knack, that ability to find seams in the defense and get the ball off with a soft touch.

"His play kind of confirmed what we hoped we would see. You never know how long it’s going to take to translate that from summer league, then NBA camp and, hopefully, the regular season."

Warren didn’t make any of his four 3-point attempts and connected on a mediocre 65 percent from the free-throw line.

But shooting more accurately from distance is easier to teach than the things Warren thrives on.

After having some encouraging moments in a six-point, six-rebound performance during the summer league opener, Alex Len missed the final four games with a fracture in the pinky of his right hand.

"I felt bad for Alex . . .  it’s like he’s snake-bit or something," McDonough said of the former Maryland star whose rookie season was muted by surgery on both ankles.

The 7-foot-1 Len, selected by the Suns with the fifth pick in last year’s draft, wanted to continue playing.

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"We’re obviously thinking long term," McDonough said. "We want him to be healthy for training camp, and we think he will be."

McDonough said having quite a few Suns players in Phoenix for large chunks of the summer will enable Len work against high-level players in competitive situations.

"How many places do you have guys between 6-10 or 7-foot like the Morris twins or Miles (Plumlee) to go against in workouts?" McDonough said.

One year after kind of serving Summer League notice as a precocious 18-year-old rookie, Archie Goodwin had an uneven stint in Las Vegas.

"He had a good start early," McDonough said of the former University of Kentucky shooting guard.

But over five games, Goodwin managed 12.8 points per game, making only 36 percent of his field-goal attempts, including a chilly 13 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

"And we still need to see him improve his defense," McDonough said, "especially off the ball. We saw some good things from him, though."

Another young Sun who could have a prominent future in Phoenix is 19-year-old rookie Tyler Ennis.

Ennis, chosen by the Suns with the 18th pick after starring at point guard for Syracuse as a freshman, averaged 4.2 points and 3.2 assists but shot just 22 percent from the floor.

"We saw what we needed to see," McDonough said of Ennis after pointing out the rookie seemed to "hit the wall" as the event ran its course.

"His feel stood out. He gets the ball to shooters and what he does to create good looks stood out."


Alex Brown, a 7-foot-1 stretch-four prospect chosen by the Suns at pick 50 in Round 2, shot 24 percent overall (22 from distance) while averaging 2.8 points.

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