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NBA Summer League 2014: Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert are bright spots in Game 1 for Utah JAzz

What went right? What wrong?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Summer League 2014:

Tournament Preview - Roster - Schedule

What to watch - Gobert's defense - Clark's reminder - Rookie's first steps - Burke's team


Okay, so in the Vegas summer league the Jazz lost their first game in the prelim stage. It's not the end of the world, but the world is a lot more difficult now for the team going forward. (Need to get caught up? Game Thread -- Quick Recap -- Prodigal Punk's notes from the game) What went right, and what did not go right?

I think the team has a number of good parts that did not exactly have their best games last night, in the same game. That's rare, and statistically not something to jump off a tall building about. It just wasn't successful basketball. The game was very fun to watch and there were a number of individual performances to highlight. But first, what does the box score tell us?

Team Play:

If you watched the game this is how the flow went:

  • 1st Quarter (18-24): playing catch up and making silly mistakes
  • 2nd Quarter (18-15): executing on offense, finding the open man and hustling
  • 3rd Quarter (16-9): I love basketball, and everything in the world is perfect!
  • 4th Quarter (18-26): how to lose a game in 3 minutes

For most of the game the Jazz couldn't buy a bucket (shot 26/72, 36.1%), and were horrible from both the line (3/30, 10.0%) and the stripe (15/26, 57.7%). So how does a team win when shooting this poorly? Well, you have to play defense on the other end, and hit the glass / cause turn overs. Philly didn't shoot that much better, but they did get to the line more (30 FTA vs 26 FTA), and they made 73.3 ft% for the game. That's part of it. They also shot poorly from the floor (34.3%) and the Jazz kept them off of their glass for the most part (11 offensive rebounds for Philly, 29 defensive rebounds for the Jazz) . . .. but the fact that they actually capitalized on their threes, often at critical times, was a difference maker.

Sure, they only made 6 threes themselves (6/17, or 35.3%), but compared to the masonry exhibition on the other side of the floor, it was enough to make a difference. Two of those threes were ones you could blame on Dante Exum a bit. I know, he was awesome. But he just isn't at that NBA level for his defensive IQ just yet. He has great instincts. But twice he got burned by being out of position on his man (who had spot up), and one time he had a poor close out. Both times the threes went down. Now, I remember these acutely because they happened at key points in the game. And the randomness of the universe makes them stick out. Had Dante's man missed both of those threes then I probably would be singling out some other player in this paragraph. I have hopes that Exum will be very good at closing out in the future. He's long. He can jump. And he's quick. He was gassed for most of the game, though. He can't do EVERYTHING.

Beyond poor shooting and poor three point discipline, I think a huge factor was that the Jazz did not capitalize on their size advantage. Utah had 15 offensive rebounds (29 defensive rebounds for Philly), but they did not score 15 second chance points. They didn't even score 10. (That means scoring on 5 of the 15 offensive rebound possessions) That's not good enough. On a night when your team goes .361 .100 .577 you have to make up the difference somewhere. And on the offensive glass is one of those areas.

The turn overs were not something I was very fond of. And duh, no one is. And in their first summer league game in a big gym (all the Jazz games in the prelim round are in the Thomas and Mack arena, none in the more intimate Cox Pavilion), that is understandable. Trey Burke had 3 turns overs in, essentially 10 minutes of action. I don't know what the turn over per minute ratio for a point guard should be, but I think that's fine. Dante Exum had a 3 assist to 1 turn over ratio for the game. Both guys did a lot of the heavy lifting on offense. What isn't cool are all the turn overs by Rodney Hood (3), Rudy Gobert (3), and the Murphies (Erik Murphy, Niels Giffey, and Brock Motum combined for 7 turn overs).

Over all the offense needs to click a little better. And I suspect that it will. Really, you can't expect the team to miss 27 threes in a game again, ever again, in any game ever again ever. Again. NO AND THEN!

Individual stats:


Okay, there's some good news and some bad news.

  • Trey Burke didn't take over, and while his shot selection has improved, his shot making has not. Part of this is not getting the type of screens he will get at the NBA level, but he's just gotta start being that guy that he was at Michigan at some point. He had a few turn overs when he got stuck in traffic, and tried to focus on himself a little bit. He was taking on that leadership mantle by communicating on the court and expressing his dislike for the shot selection of some of his team mates. That's normal. Get used to it. He's fire. Fire burns.
  • Rodney Hood found a way to be useful when his shot was not falling. Somewhat marginalized to being a spot up shooter he was not equal to the task (1/10 from downtown by himself, not forcing threes either, he was open and spot up). He did get it together to rebound the ball well, and try to set guys up a bit. He wasn't involved in any post ups though.  He did shoot quite a bit, the most on the team. But that's a product of the floor spacing and the offense. His 9 and 8 game with an assist and steal is a solid opener. He just needs to make his threes.
  • Dante Exum stole the show with his all-around game. Really he did look like Penny Hardaway out there with his passing, speed, ability to break down opponents off the dribble, acceptable three point shot, and ability to throw down alley-oops off the ball. Out of the entire team he was one of three players to finish with a positive value for +/-, and led the team with +9. Does that mean anything? I don't know.
  • Malcolm Thomas has an opportunity to really show up here as there is so much attention elsewhere. If he makes the team he'll be going into his fourth year in the NBA. Furthermore, he has played A LOT of summer league before. He's the most vet guy out there, and needs to display more than just potential at this point. The other guys can ride a bit on that. He can't. He has to purchase his ticket to training camp with production. For the most part he did, with 13 points (led the team) and 8 rebounds.He made half of his shots, and got to the FT line 7 times (making only 3). He has not shown an ability to be that stretch four he was at the NBA D-League level just yet. He was active inside and scored around the rim. He was one of the few finishers out there (Trey and Dante would have had more assists if more guys were finishing).
  • Rudy Gobert is a man-mountain. He went 4/5 from the floor, and got to the line 9 times (making only 3), on his way to an 11 / 9 / 2 / 1 / 1 game. He has a chance to be the best center in summer league if he keeps his minutes up and his production where it is. Which is what he should be.
  • Ian Clark did not have the best game of his life. I think he's pressing a bit because Vegas is where it all started for him. He was the MVP of this entire show last season. And this season he's coming off the bench in Summer league. He went 2/7 from the field and 0/2 from downtown. He did a few things out there on the court, but needs to tighten it up (like most everyone else on the team).
  • The Murphies -- as a group they accounted for a number of moving screens, went 0/8 from downtown, added up to 8 fouls, 7 turn overs, and shot a collective 4 / 15 from the floor. And we still almost won. Brock and Niels had nice finishes inside. Brock off offensive rebounds. Niels once took his man off the dribble, and another time finished a pick and pop. Erik, Murphy Prime, is horrible. He did stop a 3 on 1 fastbreak by collecting a charge. But we do not have enough evidence to know if that was deliberate or not.

What went right:

At times the offense looked crisp, and guys were making the extra pass. The Jazz are one of the most individually talented teams on the court, and have fewer rookies than other teams. They also have the home court advantage in all of these games. Gobert was big, and Exum was fast.

What went wrong:

Can't make a shot, turn the ball over too much. And, well, most have no concept of defense.

What is likely to be fixed:

The team can't miss all of their threes again. Defense will be an issue for all teams this summer league, so I don't expect much to change there. But if the Jazz are going to beat the Milwaukee Bucks they are going to need more than just three guys showing up.