The Triple Team: What did we learn from the Jazz’s first summer league game? Lessons from Keyonte George, Isaiah Collier, and 7 more

The Jazz’s first summer league game of 2024 was a doozy — an overtime game with drama ‘til the end.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 97-95 summer league win over the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Keyonte George had a big points total, but had some big caveats

Clearly, Keyonte George came to summer league with a mission: to show he was too good for summer league.

Tonight, he ended up showing that he was way too good for summer league in some respects. In particular, he got to the free-throw line a whopping 19 times. His ability to trick the opposition into sending him into the line was world class, a fine bit of problem solving that reflects on his overall smarts for the game.

Everything else though was honestly a bit sloppy. He finished 5 for 21 from the field, and only 2 of 11 from inside the arc — while he got fouled frequently, he also simply drove into Zach Edey too often and hoped for the best. He had five turnovers, including some dribbling issues bringing the ball up the court. And too often, the defense was standstill, simply getting beaten too easily by a screen or even without one.

Perhaps the biggest concern was how the Jazz looked better at getting into their offense without the ball in his hands. It’s a tiny sample size, but the Jazz’s offense scored 106 points per possession with George off the floor, but only 92 with him on it.

I was surprised by that, because in the Jazz’s last summer league, probably the most impressive aspect of George’s performance was just how well he got the Jazz into offensive actions. This time, though, the lanky defenders of the Grizzlies really disrupted his flow.

It gets back to something Jazz CEO Danny Ainge said after the season ended: “I’m still not sure he’s a franchise point guard. I think he can play point guard, but I think that he can play with another guard and play the point, and he can play off the ball, too. He’s probably more comfortable with that at this moment in time.”

In the NBA, is George a point guard or a shooting guard? I think at his 6-4 but slight size, shooting guard will be tough for him, especially as a starter. Therefore, I’d rather he be able to play point guard. But tonight’s performance points more in the shooting guard direction. It’s just one game, though — George will have the rest of summer league to add to his overall resume.

2. Isaiah Collier’s first game

It was the first time we’ve seen Isaiah Collier in a Jazz uniform, and I was impressed with the overall package on display.

One big question mark from his time at USC was at the defensive end. Take what Sam Vecenie wrote about him in his indispensable NBA Draft guide from this year: “Collier’s defense was an issue for USC. Keeping him engaged on that end was a problem and he struggled in many ways. At the point of attack, Collier allowed straight line dribble drives from mid-major players that led to buckets. He didn’t show the necessary hip flexibility to drop his body and slide with ballhandlers. As a team and scramble defender, there were concerns.”

I thought Collier did a very good job of staying engaged throughout tonight in his first ever pro action. That was reflected on the box score, too, with three steals.

The best part of Collier’s game, though, was his passing and decision making. He did a great job of making the right decision when he got downhill.

This highlight video shows it nicely: when he was defended by someone smaller he could score over, he did. More frequently, though, there was help, and Collier found his teammates well for a team-high six assists.

It’s also good to see him getting six rebounds, despite standing at 6-2.

It’ll be interesting to see if Collier spends more time with the Jazz or the G League Salt Lake City Stars next year. On one hand, the No. 29 pick usually is a G Leaguer, full stop. On the other hand, the Jazz have lost significant players at the guard spots, with Talen Horton-Tucker and Kris Dunn departing the team. If Collier can give reasonable minutes, and the Jazz aren’t trying to excel anyway, he could play a role with the major league squad.

3. Seven extra points

Hey, we had an Elam ending tonight in overtime! The target score was seven points higher than the final tied score in regulation. In honor of that, let’s add seven quick takeaways from tonight’s action in this Triple Team point.

• Look, Taylor Hendricks just has to do more. He’s likely going to be a role player in the NBA, and that’s very okay — good role players in the NBA are incredibly valuable! I’d rather have, say, Aaron Gordon than Zach LaVine right now, even though the former scores fewer points.

But given that he’s a role player, he has to contribute more. He has to rebound like crazy. He has to get some steals and blocks. He has to make threes, and he has to pass the ball quickly. He has the potential to make an impact, not just be a minutes eater.

• The above is true for Cody Williams, too. Williams is a rookie, a lower draft pick, in a worse draft, and clearly has more room to go on his body, so I’m more forgiving. But I’m hoping to see more impact, more hustle, from both guys.

• Walker Kessler wasn’t fully as dominant in his first summer league game as hoped, but I thought he was actually pretty good. He had five blocks, including a couple on the giant Zach Edey. Just as importantly, he had two steals, keeping those hands low for deflections near the basket, too. Offensively, he didn’t do anything too new or interesting, but do think he set his best ever screen in the second quarter tonight. Him developing as a screener would be huge.

• Kyle Filipowski had zero points tonight, and he’s being roasted for that online. I don’t know, though, I thought he was decent in his minutes, just missed the open threes. That he can move that well at his size is promising; he, too, needs to get stronger but overall I don’t think he had a bad game.

• Kenneth Lofton Jr. remains very entertaining, especially in his point-forward ability. Summer league coach Sean Sheldon said that they hoped to play him more next game. Speaking of which, Sheldon also indicated that it was likely that the Jazz’s high-minute players will rest on Tuesday. George and Kessler were the players who played over 30 minutes, I expect those to be the two who sit.

• The Elam ending was fun, with both teams going back and forth with chances to win the game on the spot. I’d support that being used during NBA regular season overtimes, too. It is lame that the game ended on free throws, but truthfully, that happens frequently in regular timing, too — it just happens through the never-ending march to the line with intentional fouls.

• The wire camera used during tonight’s summer league game was distracting without adding anything new to the broadcast. It was pretty universally panned online. Overall, I’d keep the camera, but put it on the other side of the stadium for a reverse angle POV, and then only use it for replays rather than during live, in-game action.

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