Utah Jazz: Lindsey sees progress all-around after summer league
By Tony Jones | The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jul 20 2014 12:28PM
Las Vegas • You could detect the hint of a smile on the face of Dennis Lindsey. No, Utah’s general manager wasn’t grinning profusely. But you could tell he was pleased by the Jazz summer league edition and some of the results this week.
Utah went 3-2 in Las Vegas, winning its last game on Friday night over Portland. The record is almost secondary to the progress made as the week continued. Rudy Gobert proved that he is indeed ready for rotation minutes, turning in a performance that was dominating at times.
Rodney Hood proved he was more than a shooter, displaying an all-around offensive package that culminated in a 29-point performance against Milwaukee on Monday night. Trey Burke played the role of true point guard. Malcolm Thomas looked every bit capable of playing in the NBA, and Dante Exum flashed his vast potential amid moments of inconsistency.
Lindsey believes his team still has to "embrace the process", and that the process could still take a few years. But there’s no question he believes his Utah Jazz are trending upward, even if tangible improvement in the ridiculously difficult western conference could be limited this year.
"We have a team that is young, but one that is talented," Lindsey said. "We did some good things this week and set some standards with our young guys. I think we got a lot of things accomplished. There were some good parts and bad parts, and now we just have to go back and look at the film."
Now, the Jazz go forward with the rest of the off-season. Lindsey said his team is in the market for another guard, and the Jazz know they could use another shooter on the wing. But the core of the team is in place.
Gordon Hayward is back, having signed his max deal with the team. Burke and Alec Burks will probably be the backcourt. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors will play up front. But the depth is the encouraging sign. Utah will certainly play Exum off the bench at both guard spots, and his size and athleticism for a point guard will cause matchup issues.
Hood looks like one of the most NBA ready rookies in the class, and his summer league performance in Las Vegas left many people wondering exactly how he lasted until the No. 23 pick of June’s draft.
Gobert is developing into a rim protector worthy of minutes. He also caught the ball in traffic, rebounded extremely well and became a fan favorite as the week progressed. Most importantly, maybe, the new Jazz offense looked good in spurts, and looks like it will benefit people like Hayward and Burks during the regular season.
"I think it’s been a good summer league for a lot of people," Jazz assistant Brad Jones said. "It’s been an important two weeks for the players and for the new staff as well. We treated this as a regular season for the staff, because we had so many things to implement in terms of the new system. It’s been a terrific week for Rudy, and a good week for Trey. I thought Rodney was pretty dang good, and I’m sure that he will go back and process things. But all in all, I thought it was a terrific week."
A big question will be the fate of several players who were on the summer league roster. Players like Ian Clark, Erik Murphy as well as Thomas have contracts that are non-guaranteed. Clark — who could be the third point guard — seems to have the best chance to make the team once the regular season starts. Murphy fits the Jazz description as a stretch power forward, but he had a rough week in all facets. Thomas was one of Utah’s best players consistently, but he may be victim to a numbers game, as Utah has four players at his position already.
Surprises include Brock Motum and Nick Covington, both of whom played well off the bench. Motum - formerly of Washington State - was extremely productive in reserve, as was Covington, who scored 12 points in the win over Portland on Friday.
"I thought we played hard this week," Snyder said. "I think we’ve seen growth and development. We’ve gotten a lot done, and the staff has done a great job. We just have to take that development and build on it."