Just over a year ago, undrafted University of Arizona forward Allonzo Trier signed a two-way contract with the New York Knicks. Just a few months after that, Trier parlayed a strong showing in the Las Vegas Summer League into an opportunity to play in the NBA. And his continued strong play in the big time led New York to convert his deal into a two-year, $6.93M regular contract by last December — the second year of which was picked up last month.
His experience going through that situation led to an insightful statement on Twitter on Saturday night that got an endorsement from no less than Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell: “The amount of draft picks that didn’t play and sat out summer league is some scary stuff,” Trier wrote. “If you ain’t ready for SL bump then good luck when that real association starts lol it’ll be a spooky start for many!”
Mitchell was quick to agree, replying, “Said the same thing brotha.”
That’s key to remember — because for all the complaints about how difficult summer league ball can be to watch (and that’s an inevitability given that rosters are populated by youngsters, hangers-on, and not-quite-theres who’ve had only a few days of practice together), it nevertheless provides an invaluable learning experience.
So then, with the Jazz having wrapped up summer league play, let’s take a look at what we have learned about them over these past few weeks.
• The competition to be the third center wasn’t all that competitive.
There was some thought that with Tony Bradley having been relegated to the G League for the majority of his first two professional seasons, that Utah may have simply whiffed in selecting him, and that Willie Reed — an athletic rim-runner with more than 150 games of NBA experience — might emerge as the guy to replace Ekpe Udoh as Utah’s third-string center.
Nope. While Reed had his moments, Bradley pretty clearly outplayed him. The North Carolina product will still be the youngest player on the Jazz this season, but he clearly put a lot of effort into making his body stronger, quicker and more durable. He was pretty obviously the best player in the SLC Summer League, and he had a lot of good moments in Vegas, too. None of which means you should necessarily expect huge leaps vs. NBA competition, but at the very least, he’s earned the right to be on the main roster.
• Jarrell Brantley has been the most intriguing of the second-round trio.
Of course, that’s partly because he remains a little more of an enigma than fellow late draftees Justin Wright-Foreman and Miye Oni, considering he sat out all of the last three games in Vegas and most of the game before that after tweaking his hamstring on July 7 vs. Miami.
What we have seen, though, has been compelling. For starters, he is a physical presence at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds (even if there is a feeling in the organization that he could stand to be 240). Further, he’s got a lot of tools in his toolbox — stepback 3s, crossovers, leading fast breaks, late-game isos. He doesn’t fully know how to use all of them yet (his 3-point shooting, in particular, is an adventure), but there’s a fair amount of potential there for a guy drafted No. 50 overall.
Meanwhile, Oni has had his moments as a 3-and-D wing. The organization believes his body has the capacity to absorb contact without being knocked off-base. And he’s got deep-shooting potential, as he demonstrated early in Vegas (though he tailed off badly the past few games). His biggest drawback for now is that his court vision lags behind, leading to excessive turnovers.
As for Wright-Foreman, he was a big-time gunner at Hofstra. Clearly, he can’t be that in the NBA. So the Jazz are getting him on the ball and trying to coax out his playmaking skills and the ability to set up teammates. Given that this is mostly stuff he wasn’t doing in college, it’s not a surprise that he’s lagging behind a bit.
• Stanton Kidd maybe earned himself a look, and Isaiah Cousins maybe wasted a chance.
The former is the very definition of a basketball journeyman. The 6-8, 215-pound native of Baltimore played college ball at South Plains College … and then North Carolina Central … and then Colorado State. Since then, the 27-year-old has played professionally in Belgium … and Germany … and Turkey. The thing is, he showed in both SLC and LV that he can defend NBA players, and do it well. Problem is, he also showed he can’t really make shots with any consistency.
Against the Hornets, he was 4 for 15 overall, 2 of 9 from deep. Against the Rockets, 4 of 12 and 1 of 7. Then vs. the Blazers, a more respectable 4 of 9 (and 3 of 8); in a limited effort against the Heat, he actually shot 3 for 3 (2 of 2 from deep); but against the Thunder, he was 1 of 9 overall, 1 of 5 on 3s. There is something there, maybe enough to get a training camp invite. But unless he can get more of his shots to go in, he’s not going to become the next Royce O’Neale.
As for Cousins, there was some thought that after a standout season for the Stars in the G League (in which he averaged 14.9 points, 5.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds, while shooting 44.0% from the field and 39.5% from deep), he might be in line to become the Jazz’s third-string point guard, given the departure of Raul Neto.
He didn’t really do a whole lot in Vegas to distinguish himself, however. He started off well with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in the opener vs. OKC, but everything after that (5p/1a vs. Miami; 9p/8a vs. Portland; 4p/5a/5TO vs. Houston) was up and down and not terribly memorable. Given that the Jazz went out and agreed to a deal with Emmanuel Mudiay but now also Nigel Williams-Goss, it seems safe to say that if Cousins has an NBA future, it probably won’t be with Utah.