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The Triple Team: What did we learn in this year’s summer league action for the Jazz?

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz White guard/forward Elijah Hughes (33) as Utah Jazz Blue faces Utah Jazz White in the Salt Lake City Summer League in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 103-98 summer league loss to the Philadelphia 76ers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Jarell Martin as benchmark

Udoka Azubuike, Jarrell Brantley, Trent Forrest, Juwan Morgan, Nate Sestina, and Kyle Fogg all didn’t play in this summer league game, leaving them only seven available players. Then, Paul White went down with a bad knee injury early in the game, so they only had six.

That left opportunities for the other guys, including former first round draft pick Jarell Martin, to show what he can do. And Martin did the things: 23 points on 8-13 shooting, 12 rebounds, four assists, four steals. That means Martin set the scoring and rebounding high in a game among Jazz players in summer league this year.

Martin’s 27, so on one hand, it might be reasonable to expect him to outperform younger players. On the other hand, he played in Australia last year, so, if you think those players are ready to play NBA minutes next year, it’s discouraging that they couldn’t beat the highs set by an overseas pro. Of course, it was just one game: Martin looked much more out of place as a role player in the other contests.

Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in between. Are Azubuike, Forrest, Brantley, and Hughes doomed because Martin scored more points than they did? Of course not! But that they didn’t score or rebound to that level does imply, somewhat, that they’re not NBA playoff rotation players yet. NBA playoff rotation players step into summer league games and would run the show. Azubuike and Forrest showed flashes of that but inconsistency, too.

2. On Dakota Mathias

Here’s the most startling fact about Dakota Mathias: he was on Team USA’s Select Team — that is, the team that practices against the USA Men before they go to the Olympics. Miles Bridges, Anthony Edwards, Tyler Herro, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Patrick Williams are on that team. Generally, young lottery picks.

Somehow, Mathias made it also. It would be easy for me to insert a joke here about that explaining why Team USA lost to Australia and France and Nigeria this summer — all they needed was some real competition to warm up!

Anyway, he had a relatively rough summer league in shooting the ball, shooting 31% from the field and 27% from three coming into this afternoon’s game. But he salvaged it somewhat with a 22 point, 7-13 FG, 4-9 3P performance against the Sixers on Tuesday.

I will say that I appreciated Mathias’ quick trigger in summer league, compared to the wealth of players who pass up open looks for wild driving attempts. But he does have to make them to be effective. Other than that, I thought his defense was good but not great, and didn’t show much playmaking.

I’m curious if he chooses to go to training camp with the Jazz or another team. Remember, he actually played in eight games for the Sixers last year, starting two of them, so he’s closer to the league than most of the other players in summer league. To me, he’s probably just below the two-way contract line out of the gate, though.

3. Reviewing summer league

Summer league is over! We saw three summer league games in Salt Lake City, and five in Vegas. What did we learn?

• Trent Forrest looks to have taken a leap with his shot form, and his playmaking is exceptional in the summer league context. His NBA future looks brighter as a result of his play here. To have team control of him on just a two-way contract is a boon for the Jazz.

• Udoka Azubuike is just a presence inside: opponents are scared to shoot around the rim with him in the game, and is one of the best big-man dunkers we’ve ever seen. But rebounding, footwork, screening, and conditioning all need work. Still, a valuable summer league for ‘Dok.

• Gosh, Elijah Hughes was just pretty disappointing. Just struggled to positively impact the game. Shot the ball reasonably well from deep, but didn’t show much finesse or power around the hoop. I was impressed with his playmaking last preseason, but didn’t see it here. There was a report that the Jazz were considering him as a rotation option next season, but... I don’t think that report was accurate. I think he’s probably at the end of the roster at the moment, and needs to work hard to get an NBA contract next year. (His defense was fine, though, so there’s that.)

• Jarrell Brantley was pretty disappointing, too. Just was out of control on so many possessions, looked even overmatched sometimes around the hoop. The shot form looks fine, but he’s not going to make enough of those to get on the court. Defensively was up and down: sometimes ferocious, sometimes wildly inaccurate. Currently has a roster spot, but given the only $84K guarantee, I think he’s skippable.

• Juwan Morgan got hurt midway through Vegas, but wasn’t playing extremely well before that. Is he a four or a five? If he’s a four, he has to shoot better and move his feet more quickly. If he’s a five, well, right now, he’s struggling to make an impact as a rebounder and a rim protector. I wanted Morgan to work out badly, but there just aren’t a lot of reasons to make sure he’s on the floor right now.

• MaCio Teague intrigued as essentially a poor-man’s version of Royce O’Neale. Both stand at 6-4, Teague’s got a longer wingspan than O’Neale, but Teague doesn’t shoot it quite as well, doesn’t pass as well or as quickly. O’Neale’s an awesome rebounder, Teague isn’t. But you could imagine an O’Neale-esque path to contribution for Teague — maybe also along the lines of someone like E’Twaun Moore.

• D.J. Funderburk was fun due to his size and mobility, not sure if he has enough game to be more, but maybe!

• Paul White was fine in a role-playing spot, but his knee injury today looked awful. He was in a wheelchair afterwards, it could be serious. I don’t really see his NBA path either way though.

• Nate Sestina and Matt Mooney: reasonable G-League guys. Kyle Fogg: actually great defender, seems very lost offensively sometimes, is 31 years old. Malachi Richardson: unbelievably bad.

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