Three thoughts on the Jazz’s 133-81 win over the Adelaide 36ers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Who is a natural passer?
The level of competition hangs over actual, serious analysis of this game: breaking down a 50-point win over an Australian team probably is more likely to produce wrong conclusions than it is right ones. Remember last year’s 50-point win over Perth? Grayson Allen led the team in scoring, Alec Burks finished second with 18 points, and the Jazz used three-guard lineups with Allen, Burks, and Dante Exum. Want to know how much time those three players played together in the regular season? Ten minutes. All year long.
So given the massive caveat that Adelaide was tiny, undisciplined, and had holes in their defense throughout, what can you learn? For me, I was trying to see how quickly the Jazz could take advantage of those holes, given the emphasis Quin Snyder has put on “making the right play” this training camp.
There were a couple players who struggled a little bit at this: Ed Davis and Tony Bradley. Yes, those guys are centers, so it’s not like the Jazz are relying on them to be creators. But they are relying on them to make the right read, especially when receiving the ball in pick and roll. That’s something Derrick Favors got very adept at by his final season.
Here, Davis receives the ball with an obvious pass to make: Bojan Bogdanovic is open in the corner. But because he dribbles first with his head down, the Adelaide defense is able to rotate over to Bogdanovic. And yes, Bogey gets the shot off, but if the guy closing out on him wasn’t 5-9 Jerome Randle but a real NBA player, it might have been a different story.
Yes, this is as easy as it will get, but I don’t know that Davis is doomed or anything. He just hasn’t really been asked to make these kind of short-roll reads as much as he will be in Snyder’s system, and could improve.
Everyone else, though, did really well, I thought. Of course, we know Joe Ingles is great at this skill, and Bogdanovic showed it in Indiana as well, but it’s also nice to see this kind of delivery from Jeff Green out of the block:
And Royce O’Neale picked up six assists too, making quick decisions during the game that helped out the Jazz’s offense. All in all, eight different Jazzmen had at least three assists, which was nice to see.
2. The end of the bench
Coming into the season, I expected the Jazz’s back of the bench to be a weakness, at least relative to past years. And again, it’s Adelaide, so we shouldn’t project nice performances against them to future NBA competition.
But in this game I — and Snyder — was pretty happy with how they played. Here are some initial impressions of those players.
Rookie Miye Oni, to me, was the standout. He played with Ingles, O’Neale, Davis and Green and generally looked like he belonged. He made smart passes, attacked in transition, and used his athleticism effectively.
Nigel Williams-Goss struggled early in the game, seemingly having trouble getting the ball up at times against even NBL competition. But he settled into the game with his passing and especially his shooting, and ended up with 12 points. I’m still not sure what his NBA skill is.
Tony Bradley still looks goofy, off balance, and a beat late on his moves when compared to other NBA centers. And he still puts up crazy numbers, like 18 points and 10 rebounds in only 19 minutes of play. I’m curious how he’ll do against decent competition.
Justin Wright-Foreman had some nice passes, actually, perhaps showing off some improved court vision. This is good!
He’s also still small.
Jarrell Brantley didn’t get his chance until late, but he impressed with some very stylish passing himself: a no-look under the basket after an offensive rebound, a left-handed diagonal pass in transition, and a quick swing as the Jazz moved the ball around the arc. He’s so intriguing, but his NBA future probably depends on his ability to either become a lockdown defender or a good shooter, or enough of both.
Mike Conley mentioned Stanton Kidd as a player who surprised him in OTAs, thanks to his length and defensive presence. Kidd, today, went 3-6 from the field, including 0-3 from 3-point range. If he could shoot 35% from 3, he’d be an NBA player, but I’m not sure he can.
Kidd is in a battle with William Howard for the 15th spot. Howard did make all three of his threes, playing the entire fourth quarter. He can shoot and playmake, but can he defend at the level the Jazz want? Adelaide was not that test.
3. It’s a little weird that this game was played
Look, the Jazz rested Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Rudy Gobert for this game. To me, that does not seem like a game that Snyder thinks has much to offer for the Jazz’s best players. He rested them because playing them would, in his estimation, lower the Jazz’s chances of achieving the ultimate goal, winning an NBA championship.
Adelaide’s coach Joey Wright, though, perhaps was more excited. He talked about the experience after the game. “For (my players), it’s kind of a treat. When they get older, they can sit back and say they played against the Utah Jazz. ... If they were good enough to be in the NBA, they’d be in the NBA. That’s just the reality of it.”
So Adelaide should have been the ones who really wanted to play this game, but it was weird how they approached it, too: they only showed up to the arena at about 6 PM, an hour before tip. In the NBA, that’s unheard of, when players arrive anywhere from two to three hours before a game so they can warm up. Adelaide arrived much sooner last season.
And so they jogged through the game, making defensive efforts like this.
I’m not sure either team really wanted to be here, in other words. From a basketball point of view, I guess it’s a good opportunity for the Jazz’s young players to get a chance to run through sets early in training camp, but let’s be honest: a scrimmage would have accomplished that too. Other teams play only four preseason games, and the Jazz could be one of those teams.
This game is played, presumably, as an outreach effort to Australian basketball. I visited Australia this summer; it was a very cool country. Thanks to Joe Ingles and Dante Exum, the Jazz have a big following out there. But it can’t really be much fun for anyone there to watch Ingles walk through a 50-point blowouts against local competition. And for the local season ticket holders, it’s not great that they had to pay full price for this game in their packages.
Team USA’s visit was undoubtedly worthwhile, and they got great competition out of it. But to make an NBL team fly all this way to play an NBA preseason game seems like it would have diminishing returns at this point, after several consecutive years of these games. I vote (and note, I don’t have a vote) we try something else.