The Triple Team: Tony Bradley, Justin Wright-Foreman play well against a undermanned Cavs squad
Utah Jazz guard Justin Wright-Forman (3) moves with the ball during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 86-71 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Tony Bradley’s tall night on a short defense
Tony Bradley is a tall person. He was measured at 6-foot-10.75 at the NBA combine when he was 19, with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and a 9-foot-4 standing reach.
The Cavs’ lineup on Tuesday did not feature tall people, at least, not from a basketball sense. Their starting center, Marques Bolden, only played seven minutes, so most of the time, he was matched up against the 6-foot-9 Dylan Osetkowski. Everyone else on the Cavs’ roster is 6-foot-8 or below.
Bradley is very good at taking advantage of his height on the offensive end: his best trait is his ability to rebound on both ends of the floor, and we saw that Tuesday night with 16 rebounds. His second best trait is his ability to keep the ball high while he finishes, a tactic that is especially effective against short people. That led to nine baskets and 10 free-throw attempts (short people often resort to fouling when encountering a tall person who is about to score), of which Bradley made eight. Overall, he had 26 points, which is nice.
Where short people can have an advantage on Bradley is in their ability to move quickly, but I thought he did some nice things in his rotations on the defensive end. The first play in the video above is a good read, and it was important that he get over and help in that situation. There are still times when he can let himself linger outside of the play, letting himself get beaten too easily, and that will need to improve for him to be a rotation NBA player.
Still, this was a pretty good performance, even if it was against a limited level of competition.
2. Justin Wright-Foreman slows down, in a good way
I thought Justin Wright-Foreman had an interesting point in his post game press conference.
“In college I was seeing a lot more double teams, and now it’s a lot more length that I have to go up against, especially making passes and shooting over. It’s an adjustment.”
Wright-Foreman was probably the second best scorer in college basketball last year, at least without adjusting for level of competition. That meant that he was the No. 1 guy on every opposing team’s scouting report, and it shows in the video when you watch him: teams sell out to stop him. What was kind of brilliant about Wright-Foreman in college was that he was able to score anyway, keeping teams on their heels with his speed and shooting ability.
Against NBA length — or even short-of-NBA length, as the Cavs featured tonight — things become a lot harder. Those layups have to be released earlier, or they’ll be blocked. Those passes have to be more pinpoint, and with more accurate timing, in order to sneak through.
On Tuesday night, JWF was able to get to his spots, scoring 20 points on 8-13 FG, adding four assists. Nearly all of those points came from the jumpshot, either from 3-point range or mid-range. Without putting his head down and forcing himself to the rim, he was able to find open spaces on the floor and knock down shots. As he put it, he was “being more patient.”
That’s a good epiphany to have, especially by only Game 2. I’m very curious if he’ll be able to keep it going through the rest of summer league.
3. Missing first-round picks
I still love summer league: it’s very cheap basketball for the fans, for one. It’s where the up-and-comers can face the weren’t-good-enoughers, and it makes stars out of goofy players like Jeff Ledbetter, Anthony Morrow, and Von Wafer.
But this summer league is a little rough in the star department. No. 2 pick Ja Morant isn’t playing due to a knee injury. No. 5 pick Darius Garland isn’t playing as he recovers from a torn meniscus. No. 21 pick Brandon Clarke isn’t playing because Memphis hasn’t completed the trade used to draft him. No. 30 pick Kevin Porter Jr isn’t playing due to a hip flexor injury.
That’s left only No. 19 Luka Samanic and No. 29 Keldon Johnson selected in this year’s first round, both for the Spurs. I’m not sure there’s a lot of intrigue around either player, though maybe that’s just because I’m not looking at it from a San Antonio perspective. (For what it’s worth, Samanic has looked iffy, while Johnson had a very nice 29-point performance in a big San Antonio win over the Grizzlies.)
In SLC Summer Leagues in previous years, that hasn’t been the case. Since the renewal of the competition four years ago, we’ve had Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jaylen Brown, Trae Young, John Collins, Derrick White, Grayson Allen, Wayne Selden, Georges Niang, Dante Exum, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, Dejounte Murray, Abdel Nader, Kyle Anderson, Trey Lyles, Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons, Terry Rozier, Richaun Holmes, Jahlil Okafor, T.J. McConnell, Jerami Grant, Rodney Hood, Treveon Graham, and Marcus Smart play. For a four-team summer league over the course of four years, that’s a lot of NBA talent! That’s even a lot of star talent!
This year, so far, I’ve seen probably four players that I’m pretty confident could be NBA rotation players: Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, Dylan Windler, and Ivan Rabb. After that, it’s a lot of players I’m questionable about: Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman, Miye Oni, and Tony Bradley for the Jazz; Naz Mitrou-Long for the Cavs; Luka Samanic, Thomas Robinson and Quinndary Weatherspoon for the Spurs; and Jevon Carter, Julian Washburn, and Yuta Watanabe for the Grizzlies.
It’s just kind of a small bummer, one that should be mostly rectified by NBA Summer League in Vegas. But I wonder if the NBA could mitigate some of the absences by pushing summer league back a week, so trades that depend on cap space have a chance to complete before play begins.