Viva Las Vegas: NBA Summer League roster has international feel for Phoenix Suns

Ish Wainwright is the lone player from last season’s active roster who will play for the Phoenix Suns in the Las Vegas Summer League. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The NBA 2K23 Summer League in Vegas is set to begin Thursday, two days after the Phoenix Suns concluded their minicamp. Phoenix will play its first of four scheduled games against the Lakers at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Suns invited 18 players to the minicamp, including Ish Wainwright, the lone player from last season’s active roster. Wainright signed a two-way contract to start the 2021-22 NBA season, but his contract was converted to a standard NBA deal midway through the season. Wainwright isn’t under contract for 2022-23, but his experience with the group over 45 games last season is expected to serve as a propellant to summer league success.

A particularly interesting wrinkle regarding this summer’s roster is the international representation on the roster. Of the 18 players on the minicamp roster, 15 were born or have played overseas.

“We were just talking about that in the locker room actually,” point guard McKinley Wright IV said Tuesday after minicamp closed. “About playing in China, Germany, Russia, we got players from all over. So it’s kind of crazy, to have so many different views of the game of basketball and how it’s played.”

Former Grand Canyon University center Asbjørn Midtgaard is among the 15, but he did not make the final summer league roster. The Denmark native averaged 14.2 ppg and 9.7 boards for the Antelopes.

Suns assistant Steve Scalzi will coach the summer Suns. With a background as an assistant and player development coach, Scalzi believes he’s uniquely equipped for this role. But he also spoke about the learning curve of transitioning from an assistant to a head coach.

“I find myself leaning on my player development background and then on each of our guys who are filling out the coaching staff; they also have the development mindset,” Scalzi said. “We split up the guys on the roster to be more or less assigned to a coach. It’s not positional and about the right fit, personality, and other things.

“So I find myself when I’m watching the film to think about my individual conversations with each guy and then flipping that script to see what am I saying to the full group?”

As is the case every year during summer league, many players are looking to make a name for themselves to crack an NBA roster. Most opportunities fall to first-year rookies, undrafted free agents, and G League affiliate team members. After practice Tuesday, Louis King spoke to the “next up” mentality as it relates to earning a roster spot.

“I’ve been a grinder all my life,” King said. “I’ve been grinding since I got into the league. I’ve been doing this day in and day out. The approach is nothing new to me now. I feel like everyone has a journey and a path they take to get to where they deserve, so I just feel like mine hasn’t come yet, and I think the grind and work will always pay off.”

Outside of summer league, the Suns have had a very active offseason since NBA free agency started June 30, which refueled the Deandre Ayton trade rumors. Devin Booker also just inked a hefty five-year super-max extension worth $224 million.

Aside from securing their franchise player, the Suns have made moves around the margin, re-signing last year’s center, Bismack Biyombo, and signing Damion Lee, who last season was on Golden State’s championship team, and free agent Josh Okogie. The Suns also lost their main backup center in JaVale McGee after he secured a three-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks.

Two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant’s bombshell trade request was announced shortly before the free agency period started. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported that the Suns and the Miami Heat are the preferred destinations for Durant, who has four more years on his contract and averaged 29.9 ppg, 7.4 boards and 6.8 assists with the Brooklyn Nets last season.

Taylor Corlew(he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Taylor Corlew expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Corlew has interned as a freelancer at The Arizona Informant in Phoenix.