Young Utah Jazz show strengths in NBA Summer League run
Orlando, Fla. • Backpack on, about to exit Amway Center and leave behind the Jazz's five-game Summer League run, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin stole a quick glance at a high-definition television screen filled with rows of statistics.
Second-year Utah center Enes Kanter: 15 points and eight rebounds. Third-year forward Jeremy Evans: 11 points, six boards (three offensive), four blocks. Second-round pick Kevin Murphy: 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including two made 3-pointers.
Even an off game by second-year guard Alec Burks eight points on 3-of-13 shooting was buffered by his team-leading 17.2-point average.
Corbin and the Jazz (3-2) got exactly what they wanted out of another mid-July summer swing through Orlando. Development. Progress. A promising glimpse at the future bordered by clear reminders of what young players such as Burks, Kanter, Evans and Murphy still must improve on.
Utah's a small-market organization attempting to win now while still developing raw talent. A successful 2011-12 season proved the challenging dual approach is possible. A strong 2012 Summer League showed the Jazz's youth is on the verge of taking the next step.
"The summer is the greatest time of year for players to improve, and young players have got to embrace the education of learning where they can get better," said assistant coach Scott Layden, who guided a Utah team that fell 89-75 to Oklahoma City on Friday in the Jazz's Summer League finale. "Our guys have a good knowledge and perspective of who they are, so they can improve in those areas. They're bright, intelligent guys, and they're getting all of the tools to improve. You can see the steps they're making to get better, and that's what's so encouraging."
Burks was Utah's Summer League star. The 20-year-old slasher showed off an improved outside jump shot, while his relentless off-the-dribble attack has only accelerated. The No. 12 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft also displayed an added swagger with the ball in his hands. He occasionally ran the Jazz's offense, and was the focus for the majority of Utah's sets.
Burks' defense has also intensified. Building on a strong finish to the 2011-12 season, the former Colorado standout is learning how to turn his long, steady frame into an off-the-ball advantage, and he didn't hesitate to play tight man-to-man along the perimeter.
"Coming into the league last year, people didn't think I could play defense, especially at this level," said Burks, who added 3.4 average rebounds in a team-high 26.8 minutes. "I'm trying to show people I'm quick enough and I've got long arms I can play defense as good as anybody if I put my mind to it."
An always-on mental attack is crucial to Kanter's development, and he showed improved focus and intensity during games 2-5, after being bullied by Detroit rookie Andre Drummond on Monday. The No. 3 overall pick in 2011 recorded double digits in scoring during each of his final four games, and he walked off the Amway Center practice court Friday leading the Orlando Summer League in average rebounds (8.8). Kanter was the best offensive low-post player in competition, constantly turning powerful spin moves and putbacks into points.
"Last year, I didn't have that confidence because I didn't play that much time," said Kanter, who averaged 26 minutes and shot 52 percent from the field. "In Summer League play, my coaches said, 'You're going to get a lot of minutes.' â¦ Now, I'm just getting used to that."
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor, Utah's scouting department, and Corbin watched it all. They saw Burks excel, Kanter step forward, Evans leap higher and Murphy find his rhythm after a shaky start.
For the first time in two years, Utah has a real offseason. A quiet draft was instantly replaced by a hectic free-agency period, which saw the Jazz answer overpriced signings with well-executed trades. Utah's Summer League was strong. Now, training camp for an intriguing 2012-13 campaign awaits.
"[Our young] guys had some bright moments in this camp. â¦ You learn about things that you can't replicate playing in your gymnasium at home, like playing in unusual situations, four games in five nights, back-to-back games, or games at 8 in the morning," Layden said. "And so it's an opportunity to learn and deal with the conditions of the NBA, which are tough."
Notes • Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll (sprained left ankle) sat out Friday's game and was limited throughout Summer League. The fourth-year veteran averaged just 3.7 points and shot only 29.4 percent from the floor in three contests after injuring his ankle during practice last week. Carroll's injury isn't a concern, though, and he'll soon resume workouts in Los Angeles.
Summer League stats
Player Gms Pts Reb Ast FG% 3pt% FT% Min
Alec Burks 5 17.2 3.4 2.0 45.0 14.3 88.6 26.8
Enes Kanter 5 10.4 8.8 1.4 52.0 0.0 66.7 26.0
Jeremy Evans 3 10.3 7.3 1.0 52.0 0.0 62.5 23.3
Kevin Murphy 5 8.6 2.4 1.0 42.5 25.0 87.5 22.6
DeMarre Carroll 3 3.7 1.7 1.3 29.4 0.0 100.0 15.3
R The Jazz fall 89-75 to the Thunder in their Summer League finale. Utah finishes 3-2.
• Enes Kanter leads Utah with 15 points and eight rebounds, averaging 8.8 boards in five games.
• Oklahoma City outscores the Jazz 29-10 during the fourth quarter, with Marquez Haynes and Garrett Temple combining for 16 points.
Burks makes all-summer league team
Alec Burks' name continues to grow.
The second-year Jazz guard was named Friday to the Summer League first team, joining Detroit's Austin Daye, Orlando's Andrew Nicholson, and Indiana's Lance Stephenson and Miles Plumlee.
The 20-year-old Burks ranked second among all scorers in average points (17.2) and 12th in minutes (26.8), adding 3.4 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the field in five starts.
Burks guided Utah to a 3-2 record. He poured in a game-high 31 points on 10-of-14 shooting Tuesday during the Jazz's 84-80 win against Philadelphia.
Utah's Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans earned honorable mention Summer League selections.