While we await roster changes for the big club, some guys wearing Las Vegas Suns uniforms are trying to make enough of an impression to earn a spot on an NBA roster, either the Phoenix Suns or another Franchise.
The Las Vegas Summer League is basically a 10-day controlled mini-camp for about 400 aspiring pro basketball players who want to start or continue a career as a player to earn a living.
Scouts from every professional basketball league in the world gather in Las Vegas every summer and try to improve the talent on their teams.
The NBA is of course the biggest prize and the center of the stage. Scouts from all 30 NBA teams are hoping to find a diamond in the rough who can build an NBA career down a meandering, long-trodden path of pro leagues around the world.
If you catch the eye of an NBA scout, you may soon be living your dream of making big bucks in the best basketball league in the world… and possibly in your home country at last.
Many of the prospects playing in the Summer League are young American players who have played in leagues around the world as they pray for a chance to one day get into the NBA.
The 15 players of the Suns Summer League team have played professional basketball in 15 different countries. Some have dipped their toe in the NBA pool, but none have built real NBA careers.
Ish Wainright, a former rising pro soccer player, used a good stint in the Summer League a year ago to land a $250,000 guaranteed contract with the Toronto Raptors. However, Ish did not survive the training camp and was released in early October. From there, the Suns signed a two-way contract for the remainder of the season.
A year later, he’s a free agent again and back in the Summer League looking for another NBA contract.
In a perfect world, he makes a career like former Suns guard PJ Tucker.
The 6ft 5in tall Tucker was eliminated from the NBA a year after being drafted in the second round. A big man in college, he just didn’t play a role in the NBA. So he went overseas and played in five different international leagues over the next five years before landing back in the Suns Summer League squad as a 27-year-old guard in 2012.
Over the years, PJ had found a perimeter game based around Tasmanian Devil defense and respectable offense, including a reliable catch-and-shoot three-point shot.
Tucker got a guaranteed season-long contract from the Suns right out of Summer League and has never looked back. Over the next 10 years, he won a championship, earned $60 million, and just signed a new $33 million contract for another three.
Ish Wainright, also 6’5”, also 27 and also a burly Big Man turning winger, can only hope to have even a fraction of PJ’s success.
Ish made the most of that two-way contract last year when he appeared in 45 games for the league-leading Suns, and while he didn’t impress with the stats (2.4 points per game on 39% shooting), was he important enough to make the 15-man playoff roster.
He became a free agent again on July 1 but is hoping for a full-time contract with the Suns summer roster for the 2022-23 season. The Suns have signed a couple of minimum-pay lads for the back end of the roster over the past week, but none fulfill Ish’s role as a backup swing-forward, defending big wings and taking a corner three.
Coupled with the chance of the Suns seeing some turnover on the wing this off-season, there’s a strong chance they’ll need Ish’s services this fall after all the changes have rolled out.
Right now, Wainright is headlining a Suns Summer team that has playing experience in 15 different countries, all desperate to get that NBA contract. He needs to prove he’s a dead-eye corner three-pointer and show some guts in one or two other areas (perimeter defense, rebounds, passing).
Let’s hope Ish can turn a good summer performance into a fully guaranteed NBA contract this fall. If not the Suns, there are 29 other NBA franchises looking for talent.