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Summer League: What To Look For

Well, the summer league (Orlando-style) kicks off tomorrow. The Jazz get the first game, facing the Bobcats at 11 AM MST. Back when the RMR existed and I had my own Jazz blog (so like 2 years ago), I went team by team and mentioned the names you might've heard of and what-not. Obviously, I don't have time to do that now. (Plus, the RMR doesn't exist, so its not as cool.)

That said, the Jazz are still playing. It might be a bunch of guys that will never make the team, but whatever. Basketball is basketball (and it gets us away from the never-ending free agency rumor-mill). So, as Jazz fans, what should you be looking for? (If you're watching the games, obviously... it's only found on NBAtv or whatever its called.)

Now obviously not all the players are going to make the Jazz roster... or even an NBA squad (at least not this year). Everyone will be trying their hardest. That said, some players might deserve some extra attention, because they're more likely to be on the Jazz next year...

Before I start though, go read the Ridiculous Upside breakdown of the "other guys" (longer shots to make the roster), and no worries... I'll wait for you to get back before going on.


Back? Good. First, a look at the actual roster. Now on to what to look for.

Sundiata Gaines, PG: Gaines enters the summer league on a non-guaranteed contract (like Matthews had to start last season). The Jazz have until January or so to decide whether they're going to keep him around or not. Pretty much, I think Ross Siler (@tribjazz) pretty much summed it up last week...

  1. @UtesFan89 They want to evaluate him at PG since he's under contract (non-guaranteed) for next season.
    @UtesFan89 KOC said last week that Jazz were going to give Gaines the ball in summer league and let him play until his tongue was dragging.

So what're we watching for? Simple... can he play the PG spot as Sloan would like? Can he be a distributor? Find his open teammates and get the ball to them? Obviously his time was limited last season, but while his assist:turnover ratio wasn't bad (3:1), his shooting stats were kinda sobering (especially from the line and downtown). It'll be interesting to watch, though I don't think shooting is the primary concern for the Jazz. As I mentioned, his ball-handling and passing will be key. Also... does he attack the hoop if a play breaks down? Or does he settle for jumpers, as we're used to seeing from our back-ups? If he struggles, keep an eye on Dominic Waters/Tyrese Rice, one of them could get a spot out of camp. Reading over at RU, seems like Rice isn't much of a role player, which might not go over well. Waters can shoot from downtown.

Othyus Jeffers, SG: Like Sunny D, Jeffers is on a non-guaranteed contract. He's also someone who didn't get many minutes in his short stint with the Jazz last year. Pretty much worth seeing what he's got. Assuming Matthews is back, Jeffers probably won't be overflowing in time (Matthews, Miles, Hayward?, Price), but if he impresses, you never know. According to this RU scouting report, defense is his calling card. That'll be worth keeping an eye on... that got Matthews his playing time. He's good attacking the hoop, lets see if he keeps that up. And it seems his jumper needs work... it'll be interesting to see how that looks (or if he just avoids it as much as possible). The Jazz don't need more wings that can't shoot... we've had plenty of those. Has Jeffers learned that though?

Jermareo Davidson, PF: He's 6'10. He's a shot blocker, had a solid career at Alabama (like ex-Jazzster Mo Williams), and has some NBA experience (admittedly, its with the Warriors). He's bounced around a bit, but it sounds like he put up some impressive numbers over in Europe. If he's not "too soft" to play in the league anymore, he could try to sneak in as a big-man for the Jazz (depending on Boozer and Fesenko). It'll be interesting to watch him on the defensive end... does he intimidate guys that drive in, or does he just roll over and play dead? How's his help D? And offensively... what sort of skill-set does he bring?

Tadija Dragicevic, PF: He'll be over in Europe this season, but it'll be interesting to see what he has. Would he bring anything if he came over? He's 6'9, 222 according to the Jazz website, which puts him right around AK range (6'9, 225). He's hit well from downtown 2 years ago, then regressed last season. Pretty much, he's an unknown to all of us. It'll be interesting to see what his skill-set is like... what he plays like. And if he does anything to make the Jazz want to bring him over anytime in the near future...

Gordon Hayward, SF: This one should be obvious to all of us. He's our first rounder, he could be replacing Korver, and on and on (he could also spend all season in the NBDL, but whatever). First things first... his outside shot. It suffered a 14% drop between his first and second season... which one can we expect this season? Not that the summer league will determine it, but it might show us which one is more likely, at least early in the season. Second, all the talk of becoming a better passer and all... Amar has shown us that it didn't really happen. His assist numbers are amongst the worst when compared to our recent wings (using college numbers), and his assist:turnover ratio is right in the middle. He's not going to be completely dependent on this, but is he actually able to find open teammates? And then, how does he do off the curl. The Jazz seem to run that a lot for their wings (especially Harpring, but also Brewer, CJ & Korver at times)... can he consistently knock down the catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper? And the questions about his defense... can he hang with the 2-guards? Does he require help D to stop his guy? If teams run isolation plays against him, can he hold his own?

Jeremy Evans, PF: Man, this guy is even skinnier than AK. And he's a PF. ... Well, shot-blocking, he does. Can he keep that up against the taller guys that are common-place in the NBA? Can he hold his own when guys are calling for the ball down low? And what sort of offensive game does he have? Based solely on the 6'9, 196, it seems like other guys would dominate him in the paint, so he might have to depend on a mid-range game, or constant cutting to the hoop & relying on put-backs. Can he thrive on that in the summer league (if not, no way it works in the NBA, right?)? Or does he have the low-post game, and just needs to add some muscle/strength?

Rod Benson, C: RU has this covered, many times over. Pretty much, he's good offensively. He's good defensively. Will the Jazz finally be the team that gives him his NBA break? He's a shot blocker. He shoots at a high clip. He gets rebounds. He forces bad shots, no matter where he is on the court. Given the injury to Okur and the uncertainty about the future of Koufosenko with the Jazz, this could be the perfect situation for him should he impress in the summer league. I'm assuming he knows that. Keep an eye on him. Another thing to watch is how he plays when he has the ball. Is he going to turn into a black hole, a la Okur (or even Boozer sometimes)? Does he recognize the double-team and find the open guy? ... Also worth keeping an eye on... does he have a post game that will lessen the blow of losing Boozer?

Kosta Koufos, C: He hasn't shown much in 2 seasons with the Jazz. He spent most of last season wasting away on the bench... not playing for the Jazz, but also not getting time in the D-League. One thing the became clear last season in his limited time was how weakly he went up to the hoop after getting the ball down low. That has to stop. He needs to realize that he's 7'1, and go up as such. Go up with power. Dunk the ball. Draw fouls. Defensively, he needs to keep his guy from getting into the paint too easily. He might not be a shot-blocker, but if he can keep his guy from getting easy dunks/lay-ups, it helps the Jazz (even if just a little). Plus, then you can have AK or Evans or Boom Tho or Millsap come in and swat shots away. And as I mentioned under Benson, with Okur out, Koufos is going to have a chance to impress. If he wants the minutes though, this is where he's going to have to start earning them.

These aren't the only guys on the roster, obviously, but I'm not thinking its very likely any of the other guys make it barring a very surprising showing. The 2 other PGs are completely dependent on Sunny D struggling (and they themselves impressing). The wings will find it very hard, given the presence of CJ, Matthews (most likely), Hayward and AK (at the least). That said, keep an eye on Paul Harris too... he was the last guy the Jazz cut last season.

Did I miss anyone? Thoughts? (And BBJ has confirmed that there will be open threads for the games, so post your observations there if you're able to watch.)