The Triple Team: Jazz lose to Heat, but Miye Oni gets chance against NBA-level competition

Las Vegas • Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 93-81 loss to the Miami Heat from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Miye Oni gets a chance against Tyler Herro

For the first time, the Jazz got the chance to play against a lottery pick in this summer league: No. 13 pick Tyler Herro. And against presumably NBA competition, the Jazz’s Miye Oni did relatively well in his own right.

Herro finished with 16 points on 7-18 FG, adding five assists and six rebounds. Oni had only 11 points, on 3-5 shooting, all threes, adding three assists and two rebounds.

At first, Herro had the clear advantage: nine of those points came in the first quarter, and he found himself getting some separation as Oni tried to get through screens. But then Oni found more success in stopping Herro, and the latter ended up with more points than shots. It was encouraging to see.

And then Oni also did what he apparently does best: knock down open threes. Going 3-5 is another excellent game from deep, with a pretty quick shooting form.

He’s become a bigger and bigger influence in these games as summer league has continued, another good sign. I’m relatively encouraged, and hope to see him more next season, perhaps ideally as a two-way roster spot user.

2. Has Willie Reed lost the third-center battle?

I think he probably has. Willie had a decent enough game Sunday: 14 points on 5-11 FG, adding 12 rebounds and two blocks. But after both players had a chance to play major center minutes in back-to-back contests, the decision seems to tilt ever so slightly in one direction.

Here are Reed’s strengths: he moves better on the defensive end, rotating a little more quickly and doing a good job of staying vertical. He probably has a little bit more in his offensive finishing toolbox: he’s more likely to make mid-rangey shots and hooks. And he has NBA experience, 152 games worth.

But Tony Bradley is on the roster, so you don’t have to waive him and pay his contract if he’s the third center. He’s 21. So far, he’s also besting Reed production-wise so far in this summer league, scoring more and getting more rebounds. He’s flashing improved court skills in terms of screening and dribbling.

Right now, Reed sometimes seems to float in and out of these games: he’s now 29 and isn’t really dominating these games in the way that you would think a player with his level of experience should. And there are a surprising number of mental errors, like when he gave up an and-one on a last-second inbounds play, or hanging out in no man’s land here:

Reed had the better G-League production, to be sure, and maybe it’s wise to prioritize dozens of those games over just a few summer league ones. But it’s also been months since we’ve seen Reed and Bradley play; Bradley seems to have legitimately improved since then.

Of course, this battle is just a presumptive one anyway. The Jazz could still very well sign another center to be their third guy, even though Ekpe Udoh signed today with the Beijing Ducks. Things could change. But for now, I lean Bradley.

3. I’m worried about Justin Wright-Foreman

The shot’s not falling for JWF, that’s one thing. He shot just 2-7 again today, so he’s now down to 19-62 for summer league. That’s not great, but just like I don’t think Miye Oni is the world’s greatest 3-point shooter right now, I also don’t think Wright-Foreman is the worst. They both have significant college careers in which we have a better idea of their true 3-point shooting abilities.

But right now, he’s even struggling to get the ball up the floor: Miami’s Kendrick Nunn pressured him 94 feet with some significant success a couple of times, including a backcourt turnover. That’s not great. And then while running the pick and roll, he doesn’t really have much feel right now.

Part of the problem is that he’s used to scoring off of screens by turning a corner and being able to get all the way to the rim. Right now, he can’t get around that corner due to the NBA length, and so he looks to pass it, but everyone is covered. Wright-Foreman had four turnovers tonight in those 23 minutes; the second-most on the team. (Frankie Ferrari had five in 16 minutes. As much as JWF has struggled, Ferrari has been worse: pretty clearly too small for this level and out of his depth entirely.)

He’s learning a new position, essentially, at point guard, being asked to facilitate for teammates. He may figure it out, but it’ll take some time, and he looks pretty far away right now.

The good news is that when we talked to him, he had what I’d consider to be the right attitude. Some players who struggle say something along the lines of “I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.” JWF knows he has to change: he’s grabbed his summer league coaches, asking to watch film. I asked him what he sees on that film.

“I see a changing person. I see somebody who’s going to learn everyday," Wright-Foreman said. "My job is just to be a sponge, and to do whatever they need me to do.” With that growth in mind, he may have a chance.