Ochai Agbaji’s 10 fouls, Keyonte George’s highlights, and more notes and impressions from Jazz summer league Game 2

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Philadelphia 76ers guard Javonte Smart (39) tries to pressure Utah Jazz guard Ochai Agbaji (30) during an NBA Summer League basketball game Wednesday, July 5, 2023, at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

The Utah Jazz lost their second game of summer league to a relatively unknown Philadelphia 76ers squad. What can we learn from tonight?

• Ochai Agbaji fouled out of a summer league game. It takes 10 fouls to do that, and Agbaji did it in 27 minutes of play. That is, kindly, too many fouls. Half as many fouls would be too many fouls.

On one hand, the team has been asking Agbaji to take on a bigger role offensively and defensively; that means being aggressive outside of his comfort zone. So it’s understandable that this could result.

On the other hand... it’s educational that this was the result. This was not a particularly strong summer league team Agbaji played against tonight, either, with some second-round picks and some G-League guys. As a lottery selection at 23 years old, he should not have had 10 fouls, a 0/6 assist-to-turnover ratio, and shot 2-9 from inside the arc if this is a role that he’s going to be able to fill in the NBA.

So Agbaji’s not going to be a high-usage guy in the league. He’s going to have to make his impact primarily from outside the arc, and then pick his spots more judiciously to attack the rim. And he’s going to have to be a responsible defender, not a high-steal guy.

All that is okay! That can still be a tremendously valuable player. That can be Tim Hardaway Jr., or Kevin Huerter, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or Reggie Bullock, or whatever. But he probably can’t be, say, Zach LaVine or Desmond Bane or Dejounte Murray. In other words, he’s probably not a maximum contract guy — they just don’t have nights like tonight against summer league competition.

• Keyonte George was having a pretty strong night until he stepped on someone else’s foot, tweaking it and causing him to leave the game. While he tried to return, he wasn’t able to in the end. He also told media that he hopes to play Thursday — I’d bet against it, given how cautious the Jazz have been with injuries in this summer league.

That being said, I’m pretty impressed with his play so far. In particular: he’s reading the floor very nicely; he’s making way fewer shot selection mistakes than I expected. Stuff like this, I like a lot — he tells Colbey Ross to send the ball away from him... so he can beat his man on a cut and then beat him to the rim. That’s non-obvious scoring know-how.

His number one NBA skill is going to be the 3-point shot, though. This is so smooth to recognize the defender going under and/or the late switch and get the in-rhythm three up.

4 assists to 2 turnovers was once again strong. He’s good! Hope we get to see him back on the floor ASAP.

• Luka Samanic had a much better game on Wednesday than he did Monday. Obviously, the 3-ball going in is a major difference maker, and tonight he was 3-5 from deep.

But he also did a great job at attacking the Sixers’ defense when there were smaller players guarding him — and just as critically, making the right decision when he did so. You can see the balance between attacking and scoring here:

I noted that he looked tired on Monday, and I didn’t notice that today. Maybe it was an altitude adjustment thing? Regardless, much better from Samanic today.

• Vernon Carey looked much better too, shooting 6-7 from the field with six rebounds; in general, I thought he kept it much simpler on Wednesday vs. Monday.

I’ll be honest, I just didn’t know much about Carey’s game, given his limited NBA play so far — he’s played less than 200 minutes in his three year career. So I asked Jazz summer league coach Evan Bradds about his skillset:

“He’s got a wide array of skills. He can shoot a little bit, he can drive and pass. You saw (that) with some of our off ball stuff tonight, he made a couple of good passes. One of his biggest things I think is that his IQ is very high. Like, when he’s on the court, he plays well with the ball, he plays well without the ball, he’s got a little bit of everything.

“The one thing I’ve been most proud of him is (that) we’re asking him to switch a ton. He’s probably played drop a lot, he’s done a really good job (switching). He’s moved his feet, he’s big, he’s got long arms, he’s athletic, and he has responded very well to that. I think he’s just continuing to get better at all those things — his ball handling, playing through him, his pick and roll, his pick and pop. It’s just the little things.”

• The Jazz’s two-way contracts look out of their depth.

Johnny Juzang disappointed, shooting just 1-6 inside the arc while adding a couple of turnovers. He just can’t get any separation. Micah Potter struggled even more tonight, scoring just two points but picking up three turnovers. He went back out to the court to practice after the game ended, but it’s been really rough sledding for him. And Joey Hauser, the Jazz’s new two-way contract, has been the worst player in the league in his first two games. He at least has the benefit of the excuse of it being his first NBA experience — but he’s so far away from contributing right now.

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