Team-wise, the Suns ended the Vegas Summer League on a positive note, using a 30-6 explosion in the fourth quarter Sunday to rally for an 88-69 win over Washington and finishing with a respectable 2-3 record.
But for the Suns, individual performance and improvement were the name of the game this summer. And rookie center Robin Lopez and second-year performers D.J. Strawberry and Alando Tucker all produced strong numbers while attacking their weaknesses on both ends of the floor.
Suns general manager Steve Kerr saw pluses that will give all three players a leg up on rotation time under new coach Terry Porter, and areas that all three still need to work on.
Lopez drew plenty of raves during his four games, averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds. He missed Sunday’s game after being picked to join the U.S. Olympic Select team that will scrimmage this week against the U.S. Olympic team headed to Beijing.
“Robin showed a lot of the strengths we knew he had from an energy and toughness standpoint, but he also showed some great power post moves that had people in the crowd in awe during the week,” Kerr said. “He also showed some good moves with the left hand.”
Stamina was a problem for Lopez, who would follow five super-charged minutes with five at a much lower tempo.
“A lot of the top draft picks tapered down their workouts before and after the draft and it took a toll on their wind,” Kerr said. “Every time Robin came back in off the bench, the activity and pace returned and that’s something he’ll be able to maintain longer when he’s in optimum condition.”
Tucker ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 21.6 points per game, trailing only Sacramento’s Quincy Douby (22.3), Houston’s Donte Green (22.6) and Portland’s Jerryd Bayless (29.8), who was named the top rookie of the league. Tucker led the league in shooting percentage (.571) and showed some defensive strides.
“Alando just has a knack for scoring in many different ways,” Kerr said. “We asked him to focus on defense in this league and we still need him to improve his outside shooting. He is very adept at scoring off post-up moves, but we have Shaq (O’Neal) and Amaré (Stoudemire) and I don’t know how many of those opportunities there will be for him. But his scoring talent is there and it’s something any team can enjoy.”
Strawberry also put up the points — 18 a game — while running the team from the point guard position. He shot just 38 percent from the field and averaged only three assists a game, showing his point skills need work. He did a better job attacking the rim, but seemed to have trouble creating late in the shot clock, often resorting to off-balance shots.
“D.J. is a combo guard, and that’s probably not going to change,” Kerr said. “But his defensive abilities will allow him to guard points, shooting guards and even some small forwards.”
Kerr said the Suns will likely take as many as 16 players to training camp in Tucson. Iowa State forward/center Jiri Hubalek has a chance to be one of those extra players.