Keyonte George’s next step? Step up the defense.

The rookie guard had another explosive performance in Monday night’s win over the Wolves, but his summer league coach acknowledged that he’s got some work to do against physical opposition.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Keyonte George, the No. 16 Utah Jazz NBA draft pick, addresses members of the media at the Utah Jazz Basketball Center, June 26, 2023.

Las VegasKeyonte George has already shown he can score on anyone in summer league play.

He followed up his spectacular 33-point night on Saturday with a less-incendiary but still-impressive 26-point outing in Monday’s 108-96 victory over the Timberwolves at Cox Arena, shooting 9 of 15 from the floor, 5 for 10 from deep, and adding seven assists against four turnovers.

The much-hyped rookie has a well-earned cult following already on account of his offensive exploits.

On the other side of the ball, however, he remains very much a work in progress.

When asked where George still has the most distance to cover in order to be ready for full-fledged NBA competition, Jazz summer league coach Evan Bradds was straightforward about it.

“Defensively,” Bradds said. “He’s 6-4, long arms, he’s skinny, he’s 19 years old — so the more he plays, the more he’ll get comfortable with the physicality.”

Throughout the Salt Lake City Summer League and the first two games in Vegas, George has been repeatedly praised for at least making an effort on that side of the ball, if not always being especially effective at it.

On Monday, the effort there waned a bit early, as Minnesota players took advantage of a few lapses in a row. When the Wolves extended a possession by grabbing an offensive rebound, he failed to get cross-matched with anyone in the scramble. The next time Minnesota went on the attack, he simply got blown by off the ball in transition.

Bradds noted that the defense wasn’t really where it needed to be from anyone on the team early in the game.

Fair enough. But no one else who was out there has the ceiling that George does, the capacity to be a difference-maker as early as this coming regular season.

So even if the standards aren’t higher for the No. 16 pick, the expectations are.

Two-way signee Johnny Juzang, who also lit up the Wolves with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, noted that much of what can make a rookie effective defensively simply boils down to being prepared and trying hard.

“Yeah, just making the effort and focusing on it. You’ve got to be super dialed in,” said Juzang. “I mean, he’s a smart guy, he’s a great player, so [it’s about] just continuing to learn how to play the game and talking to the older guys. He’s gonna be fine.”

George, for his part, remains ebullient about petty much everything.

He clearly is relishing every moment he steps out on to the court, and he happily detailed all the well-wishes he received from friends and extended family following his breakout performance at the Thomas & Mack Center vs. the Clippers on Saturday.

So, when asked to assess his own defense Monday, he naturally approached it from a positive perspective, acknowledging the components that will push him forward in the future while mentioning the areas where he feels he’s been on point.

“I think I’m doing well,” George said. “After this, I just gotta get stronger — guys are gonna bump you to get to their spots when we get in the regular season. But I feel like I’m doing a great job. I’m trying to stay locked in on that side of the ball, using my voice, being in the same spot, trying to get back on defense. But through film, everything will come together.”