SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 85-68 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jarrell Brantley does a variety of nice things in first game
This Triple Team is going to be all about what some statisticians call “thin slicing,” getting a very limited amount of information and drawing conclusions from it.
When you do that in basketball to evaluate a player, I think the best way to do it is look at some of the things that a player tries to do, regardless of whether or not they’re successful. The difference between a bad 30% 3-point shooter and a very good 40% 3-point shooter is about one made three every two or three games; there’s just not enough information to tell the difference.
But you can figure out what a player is comfortable doing, to some extent, by what they try to do. So take this three, made early in the game by Brantley:
It seems easy, but it’s actually kind of a tough look. The pass is to his left and high, so he has to move in order to catch the ball, and once he does, he only has a limited amount of time to get it off. But he shoots it quickly. This one he knocks down.
But I give him similar credit for one he took later in the half, a corner three he airballed, a shot where he sprinted down the court to the corner to be in the right spot. And ditto with a shot he took in transition as a trailer: a couple of feet behind the arc, he took it. It missed, but that he feels comfortable in taking that shot from deep NBA range says good things about how he might be able to fit in the NBA.
On the defensive end, Brantley showed aggression. Sometimes, that was bad: he was way too active with his hands, and ended up drawing eight fouls. Obviously, they won’t let you get away with that in the NBA. Eric Griffin was another four prospect who showed bouncy tools, but when he found himself with a G-League opportunity, he couldn’t defend without fouling. Brantley will need to find that line.
“I’ll continue to learn how to use my hands and feet better,” Brantley said. “This was a learning experience.”
On the positive end, that he was capable of this kind of play is a very good sign:
He also looked the part: he’s bigger than maybe he looks on film, and his movement certainly fit in at the level at this game was played at (not the highest, to be fair). He looked, in other words, like someone who might be an NBA player someday, at with pick No. 50, that’d be a big win.
2. Tony Bradley’s good and bad
If you give him minutes, Tony Bradley will reliably get you 15 point, 15 rebound games.
Is that enough?
Clearly, he’s an NBA rebounder. Tonight, those 15 rebounds came with eight of them on the offensive glass. Offensive rebounding is the skill Bradley was drafted for: it turns out that most young big men with gigantic offensive rebound numbers turn out to be pretty good NBA players. He can also hold his own on the defensive glass, too.
Those rebounds afford him plenty of putback opportunities, too, which get those point totals up. That’s a really important skill: turning a possession that would otherwise end with zero points into one that would end with two points is really valuable, it turns out.
He can roll to the rim and finish relatively well, though it’s best if he doesn’t have contact or traffic to deal with, obviously.
And tonight, he flashed something I’ve never seen him do before: get a rebound, and go coast to coast to finish a layup.
The downside: once again, the feel just isn’t there right now in a lot of different situations. The pick and roll defense was problematic for the Jazz tonight, and part of it is that Bradley just isn’t as adept at moving his feet on the defensive end as he should be. He’ll come up on plays and then get static, giving him no chance to recover if the offense makes a play.
He had a relatively tough matchup tonight in Ivan Rabb, who plays more like a power forward than a center. But Rabb took advantage of Bradley: either Bradley gave him too much space, allowing him to take open corner threes, or he didn’t, which Rabb could attack inside.
I think 5-10 years ago, Bradley would be a no-doubt NBA player: that rebounding and finishing skillset would have been enough to get him in a rotation. Now, though, you need either very good defense or a very good jumpshot in addition to stick, because there are just too many big men.
Bradley’s the youngest player on this summer league roster, he’s just 21. And of course, this is just Game 1. There’s so much room to improve. But I thought it did a good example of displaying his strengths and weaknesses.
3. JWF and Miye Oni struggle to find their roles
This is a problem for nearly every college player: they’re usually the best player on their college teams. How do they help a team without the ball in their hands all the time?
Justin Wright-Foreman and Miye Oni struggled with that tonight. JWF’s statline was ugly: 3-14 from the field, five turnovers next to only three assists, just one rebound. He took some really difficult shots that he’s probably used to making, but he didn’t at all tonight. Some of those will be eliminated as he figures out how to find his spots at the NBA level, and some of them will go in on another night, but he looked like he was really pressing on offense.
His defense, though, was pretty good. I thought he did a nice job of navigating screens and staying with his ballhandler on a few different occasions, and he ended up with three steals. He showed good fight.
(Some of the above is also due to his matchup for some of the game: Jevon Carter is a very good defensive point guard, but not a very good offensive one.)
Miye Oni only took three shots all game, all 3-point shots. He ended up with two points from the free-throw line, but a very ugly -32 on the night in his 26 minutes on the floor. Given that no other Jazzman finished with more than a -13, that’s hard to do. Oni was more of a physical specimen in the Ivy League, but at this level, he looked smaller than his Grizzlies counterparts. Obviously, he’ll do better to find a way to impact the game in future summer league performances — it’s hard to get be less impactful — and I’ll be curious to see if he can find his NBA skill to hang a hat on.