Two days ago we broke down the Utah Jazz roster for the Vegas Summer league 2014. (If you missed it, check it here.) If you are a fan of the NBA draft you will be a fan of the Jazz roster which boasts four 1st rounders in Dante Exum (2014 #5), Trey Burke (2013 #9), Rodney Hood (2014 #23), and Rudy Gobert. If you love seeing showmen then you'll love seeing Ian Clark , the MVP of the 2013 Vegas Summer League, in his element. It would just be too easy to say "hey, watch these guys" and call it a post. But this is SLC Dunk -- your home for actual Utah Jazz news, analysis, and commentary. So we're going to go just barely deeper with this post, ha ha.
Here are Five things Utah Jazz fans should look out for in Vegas:
1. It's not the whole, it's the absolute value of just some of the parts
In the Summer League you have teams filled with a rogue's gallery of players. Some guys are lottery picks, some are second rounders, and yet countless others are NBA Developmental league players, or from other nations. Last season the Jazz had the National College player of the year in Trey Burke, trying to get cohesion with Rudy Gobert, a tall man from France playing on a foot that would need surgery, while there was a dude from Brazil who was playing in Spain who wasn't even allowed to participate in practices until FIBA said it was okay.
Routinely I fall for some crazy guy with a crazy name that has no shot to make the league. These are the guys I root for in summer league. But if you are looking at this in terms of what the Jazz can get out of these guys, then don't bother.
The players under contract are there for a reason. We live in a time of absolute 24 hour scouting. The guy who won awards and is in TV commercials? He's the guy to watch. The dude you never heard about with the hair cut that is either retro or from a nation that is 20 years behind pop culture? Not so much.
Personally I am going to watch Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy with some passing interest, because their main value at this stage is to be able to get rebounds and make open shots. They both have non-guaranteed contracts for 2014-15, and I need to know if they could one day be as good as Jeremy Evans is right now. And the one thing they may have on him is a better face up game. So they need to show that.
Fans want to see the team play well and win the games. In this tournament the more you win the more you play, so this will be a departure from Orlando. But for the head coaches it's more about evaluating all the guys they bring in, so you're going to see the Jazz do what they always do -- bring in a whole gang of guys and no one really gets dominate a game.
So we have to enjoy the discrete sequences where our players can do their thing, and not worry about the team coming together and going on some huge run of wins. At least, that's not how I see the Jazz running things this summer league.
2. Who is going to be handling the ball?
Right off the bat four guys want the ball in their hands. Trey Burke is the incumbent starting point guard for the team, so he should have it in his hands. Dante Exum, the hot new rookie, and probably #1 point guard in the draft, has a very strong claim to the throne as well. Unlike the first two guys, Diante Garrett has a non-guaranteed contract for next year, and needs to show his stuff -- if not for the Jazz then for another team. And lastly, Ian Clark isn't on the books either, and he ran the show for the Golden State Warriors last year in Vegas -- and led them towards winning the entire Vegas tournament.
You can argue amongst yourselves about who is which character of Game of Thrones (DANTE EXUM! THE KING DOWN UNDER!), but I do get this Tyrion Lannister feeling for Clark. He's always overlooked, but ran the show when the show needed to be run (Vegas 2013), but few remember.
I guess under Quin Snyder the answer is going to be "everyone". I wouldn't be surprised to see the ball in Clark's hands for more reps in the summer league than he had under Tyrone Corbin all last season. Furthermore, Garrett has shown his ability to play the two guard a bit with his size (6'5). I figure that right now the whole idea that is troubling the Jazz in the Xs and Os department is to try to get Burke and Exum to get on the same page of sharing the ball.
Burke had to share the ball last season with Gordon Hayward , and the Michigan point god was treated as an after thought at times when setting up the offense. He's going to have to be sold on sharing the ball again. He's a good soldier though, so I don't think he'll complain. After all, each player is going to give Quin their ear right now.
Exum, who explains in his Footlocker ads that he is a point guard, has always been a point guard. He put the fear of God into the Americans when he play against them for Australia. I am not convinced that his quickness is best suited to playing off the ball just yet. And it's going to be a struggle for him. Trey Burke was never asked to play shooting guard as a rookie. Exum is going to be asked to do just that. (The last guy who did that was Deron Williams )
If there is one guy who is handling the ball for the majority of the time that will be news in of itself. Personally, I think there's no better, risk free, time to be inventive than now. So use it.
3. Are we going to see a 'natural' out there?
Last season the Jazz were eventually allowed to play Raul Neto in a few games. And frankly, he just looked like a 'natural' on the court. He had not even practiced with these guys yet, but knew how to run the team, knew about floor space, moved on defense to help guys out, and found a number of ways to penetrate the defense to create a good shot for himself or his teammates. He was a basketball player, and the fluidity of his game made him easy to root for. If you looked at his metrics you wouldn't be impressed. He gets average stats in Europe, is of average height, and has average athleticism. But he knew how to play, and did play above expectation.
Will we see another guy who just 'gets it' from second one on the court? Burke has to be better, last summer league he was a train wreck. Clark should be better, but I don't think he improved at all in 365 days. Furthermore, I'm not sold on his basketball IQ.
Dante is all speed, and grace on the court, and is a great interview off the court. I really haven't seen him PLAY basketball a lot though. Anyone who says they have, and doesn't live in Australia, is a liar. He could be "that guy" who just looks like a basketball player out there, but we do not know.
My money, and let's be honest -- I don't have much, is probably on Rodney Hood. It's going to be harder for him to influence the flow of a game like a pass first point guard like Neto, but I think we're going to see him do fundamentally sound things on the court, and basically fit in with the structure of what the team is doing or should be doing. He's a Duke product, and at Duke he ran some of the stuff that Snyder developed back when he was the lead assistant to Coach K. Snyder is most likely going to continue running some of those things now as a pro coach. And Hood has a leg up on everyone else in the Jazz camp by being a Dukie, and having play in part of Snyder's system before, even if Snyder wasn't there.
He's tall, lanky, and can get burned on defense. I do expect him to know when to cut, when to fade, when to move without the ball, and when the set up good passing angles (to make passes, and to receive them). I will be surprised to see him prove me wrong.
4. Rudy Gobert is just going to own, right?
Gobert has been self tanking for the first part of his NBA career. He took part on the combine while playing with a foot injury that no one knew about. Then he played in summer league with a foot injury that only the Jazz knew about. And then he had foot surgery, and then was buried on the bench. When he was sent to the NBA D-League he dominated it like no other Jazz player in history had ever done so before. Then he was brought back to the team and kept on the bench. He barely played more minutes last season than Brandon Rush did. People call Exum a mystery. But Gobert is top secret.
And in Vegas (if he's cleared to play, he just had his appendix removed weeks ago) he should just dominate right? Or will the Jazz hide him again, while giving scrub bigmen token minutes?
Gobert is essentially the monster in some movie that you hear about, that you never really get to see much of. We're waiting for the big reveal in Act III, I guess. Hopefully we see it in Vegas. Dude is huge, improved, in better shape, hopefully healthy for once, and playing with two great drive and dish guards.
He should be the Shaquille O'Neal of Vegas, if Shaq was on some French vegan diet.
5. An actual offense will be played
I would have made fun of the Tyrone Corbin offense more if it, by itself, wasn't such a huge joke. This year we're going to see the first remnants of Jazz basketball in years, and it'll be in small gyms in Nevada played by a bunch of rookies and 2nd year players. And it's going to look sloppy and ineffectual at times, but at other times it's going to make you crave the season more and more and more.
Personally, I really want to see how the Jazz adapt to two point guard sets. I also like the idea that there's going to be cross matching on offense and defense with different roles. On some plays Dante will get the ball off of a cut in the half court, and then be the point guard -- while Trey Burke runs off of screens and people forget all about Rudy under the basket. I didn't like the dumbed down offense we played.
I am ready for some chaos / three dimensional chess.
I am ready for some crazy offense that's a mix of the Utah Jazz / San Antonio Spurs / Duke Basketball playbook. And we have players that are smart enough to take advantage of it now.
And the beginnings of it start in Vegas this summer. And you can be there when it all happens.
Summer league is struggle basketball at times. But we've had four years of struggle. This will make you smile at times. And that's something Jazz fans deserve. Peter and Prodigal Punk will be there covering the events with press credentials -- SO YOU FANS have more content. Many of you will drive down to watch some games. Others already live in that area.
Let's try to meet up.
That's the 6th thing Jazz fans should be looking out for in Las Vegas this summer: each other.