Las Vegas • Like any basketball player selected in the 50s in the NBA Draft, the Jazz’s new trio of rookies have deficiencies to their games, and will go through major ups-and-downs as they attempt to acclimate to the league.
But whereas Jarrell Brantley has impressed with his physicality and edge-of-chaos point-forward skillset and Miye Oni has the looked the part of a potential 3-and-D specialist, Justin Wright-Foreman has mostly struggled by comparison.
In the four summer league games he’s played thus far, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard out of Hofstra has averaged 26.0 minutes, 11.8 points (on 33.3% shooting overall, and 23.5% from deep), 2.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.0 turnovers, and 2.0 steals.
He maintained that the process is more important than the numbers, though.
“I’m just learning. I’m playing a new position now, and it’s an adjustment,” Wright-Foreman said.
That much is true. At Hofstra, his scoring prowess made him something of a one-man show. Despite having point guard size, he ranked second in the NCAA with 27.1 points per game as a senior, while averaging just 2.9 assists.
Now, Utah’s coaching staff is doing what it can to get the No. 53 pick out of that constant score-first mentality and hone his playmaking skills.
“The biggest thing with Justin, he’s learning how to play with other guys,” said Jazz assistant and noted development guru Johnnie Bryant. “When he played at Hofstra, obviously, he scored the basketball; so right now, it’s just being able to recognize when to score, when to pass.”
For his part, Wright-Foreman is doing all he can to make the leap.
He’s making it a point to “be a sponge,” to hang out with the “oldheads” (a slang term for veterans), who have been “helping me, keeping me poised, keeping me focused on the goal here,” even to approach Bryant and fellow Jazz assistant Lamar Skeeter (who headed up Utah’s team in the SLC Summer League) to do extra film study.
“I just want to get better,” Wright-Foreman said. “I’m just gonna continue to do that, and just evaluate myself as well, and just continue to be the player I am, and just be better next game.”
Bryant said it’s important to remember that JWF is a 21-year-old second-round pick learning a new position on the fly in the best league in the world.
There will be highs (like the 20-point, four-assist, one-turnover effort vs. the Cavs) and lows (like the six-point 3-of-14 shooting, five-turnover effort vs. the Grizzlies), but the important thing is to ride it all out and continue to progress.
“It’s just a game-by-game basis. It’s a situation where some games he’ll be more comfortable. But the biggest thing is just continuing to stick through it,” Bryant said. “He has an opportunity to play through a couple bad possessions, but then you also can see him penetrating the lane and hit guys. It’s just gonna be a learning curve for him, and I think it’ll be fun.”
And make no mistake about it — Wright-Foreman is having fun.
He called the team’s week in Vegas “amazing.” He marveled at the chance to struggle one night and get right back at it the next. He sees his court vision improving, and while he acknowledged that his shot isn’t falling right now, he’s not about to get hesitant if he believes taking an open look is the right decision in any given moment.
“It’s going great. My teammates have been helping me, my coaches have been helping me a lot,” Wright Foreman said. “I have the utmost confidence in myself, and I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be better next game.”
FOREMAN’S CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
Justin Wright-Foreman, selected with the No. 53 pick in the draft, is a work in progress, as the team tries to help him transition from college gunner to NBA playmaker. Here’s what he’s done in the team’s six summer league games thus far:
July 1 vs. Grizzlies • In 26 minutes, he scored six points on 3-14 shooting (0-5 from deep); he totaled one rebound, three assists, five turnovers, and three steals.
July 2 vs. Cavaliers • In 27 minutes, he racked up 20 points on 8-13 shooting (2-4 from deep); he totaled one rebound, four assists, one turnover, and zero steals.
July 3 vs. Spurs • DNP-CD
July 6 vs. Thunder • In 28 minutes, he scored 14 points but shot just 3-14, and 1-5 from deep; he hit 7-8 free throws; he totaled six rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, and three steals.
July 7 vs. Heat • In 23 minutes, he scored seven points and shot 2-7 overall and 1-3 from deep, and totaled two rebounds, four assists, four turnovers and zero steals.
July 9 vs. Blazers • DNP (Right knee soreness/right hamstring tightness)