Las Vegas • Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 97-93 win over the Portland Trail Blazers from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. The summer league Jazz have played together before, and it shows
That was the closest of the Jazz’s summer league games so far, but it was really a mismatch of styles. Portland’s summer league team featured a lot of NBA experience: Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons, Devin Robinson, Jarnell Stokes, Gian Clavell, Demetrius Jackson, and Isaiah Whitehead all have NBA games to their name. That’s pretty good on its own, but then adding in first-round pick Nassir Little should make them even better.
And then you have the Jazz’s summer league roster, which is a bunch of upstarts. Sure, Tony Bradley has some scant NBA experience, but only 12 games worth. Willie Reed has much more, but he didn’t play Tuesday. That’s it.
But the Jazz defeated their more talented competition through a greater understanding of how to play with each other. So many of Portland’s possessions ended up with one of their players trying to make something happen on their own. Meanwhile, the Jazz’s possessions looked much like the Jazz’s offense does: a lot of ball movement, pretty likely to end up in an open shot for somebody.
That’s because, of course, they have played together before. Among their starting five, only Miye Oni doesn’t have previous experience before this year playing for the Jazz summer league team or the SLC Stars in the G-League. Stanton Kidd has played with Jairus Lyles who has played with Tanner McGrew who has played with Bradley who has played with Isaiah Cousins.
So the Jazz had 27 assists to Portland’s 17. And they had plays like this, because the Cousins/Bradley pick and roll is something both players are familiar with:
This is probably good and bad. On one hand, it’s summer league, no one cares if you win it. Having better players for your actual NBA team is the goal. On the other hand, the players that you do end up transferring to the NBA team — like Bradley — are going to have a better idea of how to fit in the team construct and help right away.
2. Miye Oni’s game, and other notes
Miye Oni did not have an impressive box score game: he had four points, four assists, and four turnovers in his 28 minutes. But I thought his on-court play was actually pretty decent, making some right reads that changed things for the Jazz and showing more playmaking than he has to this point.
He’s not even trying to score inside the arc, though. Once again, all six of Oni’s shots took place from beyond 3-point land, this time, only one went in. For the summer league, he’s averaging about one shot inside the arc per game. He still boasts a 44% 3-point shooting percentage for summer league, that’s obviously good. But if he really isn’t able to score inside, he might have to be James Jones in order to make it in the NBA: an excellent shooter, a good enough defender (the Jazz think Oni can be a very good defender), and he might have to make a friendship with a superstar.
(Note to NBA players: make friends with a superstar. DeAndre Jordan isn’t really a guy worth a $10 million/year contract in 2019, but he earned one anyway because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant asked the Nets to get him one. James Jones lasted forever thanks to LeBron James, they played in seven consecutive NBA Finals together. Jarrett Jack played in the NBA for like three seasons too many due to his friendships. Being a brother of an NBA superstar — looking at you, Thanasis — is the best thing you can do, but being their close friend is No. 2.)
Bradley struggled a little bit with Portland’s bigs today. Devin Robinson was hoppy enough to bother him, and Jarnell Stokes was big enough to prevent him from getting a ton of boards. Bradley had a decent game anyway, with 17 points and seven rebounds, but those points came on 14 shots and that board total is far fewer than he’s been getting in recent games.
Stanton Kidd’s 3-point game winner was a difficult shot. To make it, he had to get his momentum in control and nail the shot on a 1-2 step.
He’s now 8-27 from 3 in combined summer league action, or about 29%. If he ever made 38%, he’s an NBA player, in my opinion.
Tanner McGrew probably isn’t an NBA player, but given that he can shoot a little and is a good ball-mover, he’s a nice player to have on your summer league or G-league roster.
3. Dennis Lindsey’s appearance on ESPN2
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey spoke to the ESPN2 broadcast as the game was occurring in the second quarter, and I thought he made some interesting, albeit very on-brand statements during his interview. Jazz writer Ben Dowsett compiled some quotes in this Twitter thread.
Two stood out. First, his quote on the timeline of his roster I thought was interesting.
That they feel Mitchell is good enough to compete right away is a big part of what they did this summer. If Donovan were a normal 22-year-old, it might take some time for him to grasp winning at an NBA level, but he’s contributing like a veteran now.
Then, there was this on Bogdanovic:
One common thread about the Jazz’s overtures to free agents is that when they have these initial conversations, the organization gives directives to the player, talking about what the player will have to do to fit in. I think a lot of people think of free agency as an old-school Olympics bidding process: do a lot of wining and dining, make it clear that they’ll do whatever possible to make the free agent feel good, and, of course, offer the most money.
But the Jazz have consistently told the players that they’re signing that they’re going to need to do certain things to fit in: play defense and pass the ball, primarily. For Bogdanovic, that’s not necessarily going to be difficult, as he was doing those things in Indiana. For someone like Emmanuel Mudiay — who I’m told received a similar directive — it’s going to be much more of an adaptation.