The Triple Team: Summer league Jazz overcome sloppy OKC team thanks to wild Tony Bradley and sharpshooting Miye Oni
Utah Jazz center Tony Bradley goes to the basket during the first half of an NBA Summer League basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Las Vegas • Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 78-66 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Does Tony Bradley know what he is?
Usually, I’m in favor of players using summer league as an opportunity to expand their games and see what they’re capable of. There’s no better time for that experimentation, right?
There are limits, though. On Saturday, Tony Bradley proved it: twice, he got a rebound and attempted to go coast-to-coast. Once, he drew a very obvious and predictable charge — I’m not sure if Bradley saw the small guy standing there ready to take the charge for what seemed like several minutes, but regardless, he was out of control. On the second time he attempted it, he literally just stumbled and bumbled out of bounds at the opposite baseline. It was rough.
This sounds limiting, and displays a fixed mindset, and all of that, but I truly feel that Bradley should never, ever do that in the NBA. He will never be a player that a coach will want to dribble the ball up the court, because there will be too many talented players around to steal the ball on defense, and there will be four faster, better shooters and playmakers around him to make those decisions on offense. He should run up the court and be ready to catch the ball and finish at the end of those plays, not the beginning.
The irony of this is that Bradley has legitimately gotten better at the things he actually will need to rely on to make it in the NBA. His body has improved, and he’s better at handling traffic. He’s moving more on the defensive end, and seems to understand the rhythms of screening, rolling, and dribble handoffs at a higher level than when he was a rookie. This is a nice read, for example:
His conditioning has definitely improved, which allows him to run up and down the floor and have an impact on more plays. It’s all good stuff.
On Saturday, he showed those things off, scoring 19 points and adding 14 rebounds. Once again, he was a force on the glass. Once again, he was excellent at finishing at the rim. There’s something there. I’m getting to the point where I think Bradley is a good choice to be given the third-center role, to see if he can bring his minor-league strengths to the NBA in limited minutes. If he can’t, the buyout market is always littered with centers.
It’s just that, to succeed in the NBA next year, he’ll need to know his role. He can’t turn the ball over five times in a 26 minute span, nor can he have five fouls in that time. He’ll need to walk before he can run.
After a 4-5 performance from deep today, and a 4-8 one in Game 3 of the SLC Summer League, Oni’s now shooting 8-16 overall, or 50%.
I don’t have to warn you all about the limits of small sample sizes; it doesn’t take a genius to realize that eight makes does not a threatening NBA shooter make. But I’ve liked that Oni’s been able to bring that, even as he’s been relatively unable to make an impact inside the arc, going just 2-6 from there so far.
I think he might need to be able to shoot really well to be an NBA player. He’s a smart defensive player, but maybe not quick enough right now: he seems to play a step further back off his man than most players would, perhaps because he’s afraid of getting blown by. He also doesn’t have good strength for an NBA wing right now.
He is vertically athletic, though. He surprised me by going between the legs in a warmup dunk, and of course, there was a nice block on Wednesday as well. It gives you some hope that he might be able to improve his horizontal movement, too.
As a collegian, Oni shot 35% overall from deep, 37% in his final season. He was a 79% free-throw shooter that year. Those aren’t numbers that usually translate to elite shooting, but it’s possible Oni can make himself into an outlier. We’ll learn more in a fuller schedule of games next season; I would expect him to spend next year in the G-League.
3. Brantley and JWF struggle
Jarrell Brantley had his worst game of the summer, going 3-12 from the field for only seven points — though he did add eight rebounds and two assists. Justin Wright-Foreman scored more, getting 14 points, but he shot just 3-14 overall and got most of his points at the free-throw line.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Brantley because he seems to be the closest of the three second round picks in terms of contributing at the NBA level. On Saturday, the shot selection wasn’t there, and when it was, the shotmaking wasn’t. There was one particularly ugly airball on an open three; the pass was low, so it was an awkward shot, but it still was something he should have done better with.
Defensively, it was up and down for Brantley. Sometimes, he’d be really engaged and communicative, sometimes he wasn’t. It honestly seemed like he was tired, which might be the result of summer league game and practice minutes, or might be the result of a Saturday noon game in Las Vegas.
For Wright-Foreman, he’s just really struggling to get off his shot without a defender altering how he takes it. That’s to be expected: we knew he was small, and we knew that NBA length had a chance to swallow him up. It’s going to be about whether or not he can adjust, and that’s an open question.
Remember, second round picks don’t pan out very often. Especially three picks in the 50s, it is far more likely that none of these guys are NBA players than even one of them making it into a rotation. It also takes time, of course, but make sure to keep your expectations reasonable.