On July 3rd, the Phoenix Suns announced on their official website that they signed 6’1 guard Mike James, who had last played with Panathinaikos of the EuroLeague. During that last season with Panathinaikos, James put up 13.1 points, 3 assists and .9 steals on 49% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc in only 22 minutes per game. Those numbers were enough to allow him to be the team’s leading scorer despite playing 5 to 6 minutes less than some of his teammates.
While James signing a two-way deal gives the allusion that he’ll be spending time in the G League with the Northern Arizona Suns, that’s likely not going to happen.
A source tells Ridiculous Upside that James will begin the first 45 days of the regular season with the Phoenix Suns where he could receive as much as $200,000, the maximum amount allowed for players under two-way deals that just spend time in the NBA. After those 45 days, the Suns will have an option to convert James to a standard NBA contract for the remainder of the season, otherwise he’ll become a free agent.
To provide more insight on James, Los Crossovers writer Austin Green was nice enough to write a little bit about the veteran guard and why he’s already qualified to be in an NBA rotation
The first thing you need to know about Mike James is that he's a grinder. Nothing has been given to him on his basketball journey. He went to junior college, then mid-major Lamar University, then bounced around small clubs in Israel, the Italian minor leagues and Greece before he landed a EuroLeague deal with Baskonia in northern Spain. Baskonia's financial situation was unstable and guys weren't getting paid on time.
However, James still needed to stay with the squad as he was under a team option for the 2015-16 season. However, he helped them to the EuroLeague Final 4, which earned him a big contract with Panathinaikos, one of two Greek powerhouses.
After another really strong EuroLeague season, he has more than earned this deal with the Suns. Due to that success, you’d think he’d be over-qualified for a two-way deal as comparable point guards are getting multi-million-dollar offers throughout Europe and China. Milos Teodosic got $6 million per year from the Clippers and I think there's a chance that James is a better fit for the NBA.
However, if he’s able to quickly prove himself at the NBA level during those initial 45 days and beyond, James will have the opportunity during the 2018 off-season to potentially get a bigger contract than Teodosic. James is definitely gambling on himself, and given his difficult path to get to this point, I wouldn't bet against him.
On court, James was the most explosive point guard in Europe the past few years. He's an aggressive, score-first PG. He's only 6'1, but he consistently blows past defenders and throw down big dunks.
His athleticism and hustle also lead to some crazy blocks.
With his speed, he loves to get out in transition and he constantly beats guys off the dribble in the halfcourt. When they give him too much space, he can pull up and hit 3s in their face. He needs to be a much more consistent 3-point shooter to succeed in the NBA (34% in EuroLeague this year), but he is a gunner at heart. Sometimes this leads to bad shot selection and turnovers, but he brings more to the table than he takes off of it.
Quite simply, James was one of the most entertaining players in Europe and Suns fans are lucky to have him. The team is young and could struggle in an improved Western Conference, so they might as well be fun. James is certainly that.
Although we’re still more than four months away from the start of the regular season, it already seems like the Suns’ risk might be paying off. During his Summer League debut on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings, James put up 12 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals in 35 minutes. While James shot an inefficient 36% from the field, he was still able to shine as a great facilitator that can also work in the passing lanes.
Stay tuned tuned to Ridiculous Upside for the remainder of Vegas Summer League as we’ll give expansive coverage of Mike James and a plethora of other prospects.