How 4 Jazz players hope to show off changes to their games in summer league

Walker Kessler, Keyonte George, Taylor Hendricks and Cody Williams are among the Utah players set to play.

It’s maybe the most talented roster in Jazz summer league history.

A whopping eight players on the team have NBA experience, highlighted by the Jazz’s three second-year players drafted in 2023: Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George, and Brice Sensabaugh. Third-year center Walker Kessler also will be playing, in an effort to show off his improvement. But the Jazz’s three rookies selected this year — Cody Williams, Isaiah Collier, and Kyle Filipowski — could draw the most eyeballs as the league figures out their place in the pecking order.

Leading all of that young talent in summer league is young assistant coach Sean Sheldon, who was promoted to the front of the bench this summer by head coach Will Hardy. He noted that the depth of the roster will mean that the team will rotate who plays on any given summer league night, with some players sitting significant time to give the others a chance.

The Jazz’s Salt Lake City Summer League tips off on Monday, with the Sixers, Thunder, and Grizzlies also participating. Then, the team will travel to Las Vegas for the NBA’s summer league, where all 30 NBA teams play; the first Jazz game of that league takes place on Saturday.

Here’s what to watch for from three key Jazzmen throughout July play.

Walker Kessler: dominant?

Some were surprised that third-year center Walker Kessler will participate in summer league. Typically, if players have established themselves as NBA contributors in their first two years, they skip the competition on year three.

But with Kessler’s overall downturn last year, both player and team wanted these games to reestablish and grow Kessler’s impact on both ends.

First, on offense, the team hopes to expand his role. Sheldon is adding multiple plays where Kessler is responsible for making plays out of the top of the key in “split action” — where multiple players will come together then split off into different directions. They’re testing Kessler’s ability to pass and make good decisions, in the mold of how the Jazz used Kelly Olynyk last season.

Kessler said the experience was new for him, but that he enjoyed the opportunity to add to his game.

On the defensive end, the Jazz are helping Kessler become stronger and more active. “He knows he’s a very good defender, but I try to remind him, and the staff tries to remind him, that you can do even more,” Sheldon said.

“I’m going against guys that are grown men that are 280 (pounds), that are very strong. I want to be able to stand up to those guys,” Kessler said. He said improving his body had been his No. 1 overall focus in the two months since the season ended.

“I’m going into it with the mentality of, ‘I’m gonna be dominant.’ I’m gonna show what I’ve been working on and I’m looking forward to it.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George (3) keeps an eye on target for a three point shot against the Warriors during an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Salt Lake City.

Keyonte George’s changing pace

Jazz point guard Keyonte George impressed in his rookie season with what he was capable of — but he was also prone to bunches of errors. As a result, his efficiency crumbled, as missed shots and turnovers piled up.

“A lot of times last year where coming off a pick and roll, (I was) going too fast,” George said.

So for George, he says the most critical aspect of his game is slowing down as he comes off the pick and roll, allowing reads to “develop,” and critically, avoiding those mistakes from his rookie season.

Sheldon, and others, have repeatedly shouted out George for staying in Utah for the vast majority of the spring and summer so far. George calls it “stacking days in the gym.” The work he’s done has given him a lot of confidence about what he’s going to accomplish in his second summer league.

“I’m looking forward to showing how slow the game is for me, how easy it’s gonna look,” he said.

(Utah Jazz) Cody Williams, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, is introduced by the Utah Jazz on July 2.

Taylor Hendricks and Cody Williams: elite defenders?

There are a fair amount of similarities between new draftee Cody Williams and second-year player Taylor Hendricks. Both are skinny but long wings who the Jazz hope can make a difference in the years to come — but much development will be needed to get there.

“Those guys have the bodies where they should be the elite NBA defenders,” Sheldon said.

The team’s emphasis for both players is to make more of a mark with those tools. Hendricks at times last season looked tentative on the defensive end, afraid to gamble for a steal or rotate quickly enough for the block. So when asked what his primary focus was for the summer league games to come, Hendricks said “his mindset.”

“Just to compete. Get after every possession, every game. Just play my hardest,” Hendricks said.

Williams, too, had the same struggles at the collegiate level — good intentions, but not enough impact.

“It’s not gonna be perfect, but if he can fly around and scramble and make up for it with his length and his effort, that’s what we want to see,” Sheldon said.

Salt Lake City Summer League schedule


Oklahoma City vs. Philadelphia, 5 p.m.

Utah vs. Memphis, 7 p.m.


Memphis vs. Philadelphia, 5 p.m.

Utah vs. Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.


Memphis vs. Oklahoma City, 5 p.m.

Utah vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

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