As discussed earlier on this site, the Utah Jazz have brought back their own summer league. While it can't be called the "Rocky Mountain Revue" anymore, it's just going to be easier to use "USL" instead of the full name. (Which I think also mentions Gordon Hayward in there as the King of the Andals) The games start July 6th, and go on until the 9th. There are four teams taking part in it: the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and the host Utah Jazz. It's going to be on KJZZ 14 (TV), and NBA TV. You can also catch it on the radio (1280 AM / 97.5 FM), or you know, actually go to the games themselves. You can get all of the info here; however, #spoilers the Jazz play at 7 pm on the three nights there are games (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday). And they'll be tipping off at the ESA against Boston (Mon), San Antone (Tue), and Philly (Thurs) before heading off for the Las Vegas Summer League. It's awesome to have the USL, but even better that the Jazz will continue taking part in the LVSL as well.
In preparation the Jazz added Igor Kokoskov as an assistant coach (like what they did with Roy Rana last summer league). Coach Koko previously worked under Quin Snyder at Missouri and has worked quite a bit in the NBA since then. There was a need on the bench because just like last season Quin isn't going to be the head coach of the summer league team. That's normal protocol for most teams in the NBA, I have no idea why Tyrone Corbin insisted on being the head coach for the summer league team all those years. Anyway, the Jazz have quite a roster. It's going to be fun to see if they can a) make the LVSL playoffs, and b) advance in it. But before we get there we have to get to the USL. And before that starts the Jazz need to finalize their roster.
Before that happens they will hold a mini-camp. And this is the roster for it. Of course, expect changes. Before we had Jeremy Evans sneak into a few games when he wasn't on the original roster. And we've also seen Raul Neto step in after sitting out because of FIBA bylaws. We are probably going to see more of Tibor Pleiss this off-season than ever before. And we may see him join this team for practices, if not the games. (Hence, the massive size hole on the official roster as it stands right now.)
Basic Player Data:
Eight of these guys are Jazz guys, even if Olivier Hanlan doesn't have a contract for next season yet as a 2nd round draft pick, and guys like Chris Johnson, Jack Cooley, and Bryce Cotton have non-guaranteed deals. A lot of these guys are first rounders as well (more on that later), so this should be one of the better teams out there. Rodney Hood is a big time scorer in this type of show, and Dante Exum really needs to dominate. I said it. Kid has to dominate. He's a #5 draft pick going into his second year in the NBA.
Nick Wiggins is the brother of Andrew Wiggins, and another Canadian. Our normative rookies Trey Lyles and Olivier Hanlan will be joined by Jesse Morgan, Wesley Saunders, and J.J. O'Brien. Those guys are undrafted rookies.
Tempering some of the youth, we have JaJuan Johnson, Jared Cunningham bringing some actual NBA experience to the table. Sure, both have played in summer league and preseason before -- but they've also both played in regular season games. And I guess we'll test the theory: are NBA garbage time minutes more important than playing pro in some other league?
In a world where we can't get the rights to play Tibor in this, we'll be missing not just his 7'2 size, but also his 9 years of professional experience. There are more wings on this roster than anything else, and that makes sense. Utah didn't go for one in the draft, and are always looking to add more shooters. One or two of these guys could work their way into a training camp invite where they'll square off against Johnson and Elijah Millsap. You never know!
Not everyone joining our team was invited to the NBA Draft combine or something like the Portsmouth tournament. As a consequence, not everyone has a lot of data here. Also, some of this is invalidated by the change in players bodies over time, and things like P3. Dante Exum, who was already taller in socks than Chris Johnson, is supposed to be even taller now. The Jazz brain trust have questioned Trey Lyles' body fat % as when they checked him out in Utah his value was much lower. So, numbers are imperfect.
But they do help us understand why some of these guys were asked to come here. For example, Wesley Saunders is really, really quick from the data we have. He's not the best athlete out there, but his speed was off the charts.
Jack Cooley is a throwback player, and it was nice to see him get to 18 reps on the bench press when he was tested.
Grant Jerrett, whom we know so little about, is a few inches away from the 12' club in max reach. That is very impressive.
Of course, these aren't the only things that matter when the team looks to fill out their roster. The journey is always important.
This group has a bunch of people from all over on it. Five people from California. Three Canadians. Two people from Australia. Three guys from the Midwest. A departure from most Jazz teams of late, only one guy from the South. It's also important to note that all three Canadians went to college in America, as did one of the Aussies. Anyway, five of these cats transferred in University: Rodney Hood, Nick Wiggins, Nick Russell, Jesse Morgan, and J.J. O'Brien -- who went one year in Utah. It's a small world.
Only five of them are underclassmen, and three of the true rookies on the squad went the distance and played four years of college ball.
I don't know if there is any specific affinity between any of these player groups, but a lot of these guys have at least known of one another for a while. Either from playing on the same team, or playing in the same AAU leagues or whatever.
This one probably matters a lot more than you think. These are the guys who have at least made it to the show and gotten on the floor. Beyond "our guys" Exum, Hood, Cooley, Cotton, and Johnson . . . there isn't much here. Brock has played in summer league before, Jerry Evans made it to training camp before. JaJuan Johnson and Jared Cunningham have played, but haven't played a lot. But it should give them a leg up on some of the competition.
Players in Focus:
- Dante Exum, he's our #5 draft pick from last season. You should know a little about him by now. If not, here's a refresher.
- Rodney Hood is our #23 draft pick from last season, you should be somewhat familiar with him as well
- Grant Jerrett is really the only thing we've gotten from the Enes Kanter trade that has shown up so far. He didn't get to play much for the Jazz, or the Stampede, but he could be a stretch big in the NBA. He's really raw and needs a lot of work on the court. I hope he gets it starting next week. He really wasn't on the Jazz radar because they worked out 91 players from his draft class, and he wasn't one of them.
- Jack Cooley, the bigman from ND is going to grab a lot of boards and get some put back layups for our summer league teams. We've seen him quite a bit. He was in two pre-draft workouts in 2013, was a part of our free-agent mini-camp in 2014, made it to training camp in 2014, and signed on with our NBADL team. Then during the 2014-15 season he was called up twice on 10 day contracts and finished the season with the squad . . . and with a non-guaranteed contract for 2015-16. He's "only 6'9" and is small for a center. He's a back to the basket big, but his true calling could be power forward. Alas, he doesn't fit the skill set of what today's NBA power forward is. So that sucks for him.
- Bryce Cotton, is an athletic point guard who finished the season with the Jazz last year. We all remember him for his huge dunk, but he's more than just one moment in time. The Jazz worked him out in 2014 predraft, then kept an eye on him and added him to the team after saying goodbye to Ian Clark. Cotton is fighting for his place in the Jazz PG stable, currently placed somewhere between Trey Burke and Olivier Hanlan. He could rise or fall. It will be interested to see what he brings to this team.
- Chris Johnson had a positive exit interview with the braintrust, and may be someone we see for a while. The Jazz have seen just a small bit of who he is (they haven't been seeing him in person over six different events of three seasons like Cooley). He played for the Bucks for a bit last season as well, and has the potential to be a good shooter at the NBA level. I don't know what else he brings to the table though.
- Trey Lyles is our new lotto pick, and hopefully our last one for a while. He's a bigman who played out of position last season at Kentucky. I guess that means he can guard small forwards, but time will tell. Lindsey was happy with his defense, but from what I've seen he's much more of an offensive player. He can pass. He is a team player. And he can score with his back to the basket, and by facing up. He doesn't have killer range, but we'll get to see what he can do. He could be a good personality Carlos Boozer!
- Olivier Hanlan is the third point guard in this bullet list, but he appears to be the most traditionally skilled. Last season Exum looked to be too much of a pass first guy, and in limited minutes Bryce was shooting the ball more frequently than Trey Burke did. Hanlan plays a bit like Kevin Johnson, he can drive, has an intermediate scoring game, but is still a point guard through and though. I don't know anything about how challenged he was on defense, but he did play in the ACC for many years. He could be one of those rare 2nd rounders who makes a Lindsey team.
- Nick Wiggins isn't new. The Jazz worked him out in 2014, brought him in for the free agent mini-camp in 2015, and he's now on the summer league team. He has good genes, is an athlete, but isn't a good as his brother Andrew is. (Clearly) He may have something to show our coaches, or the other coaches out there.
- JaJuan Johnson was another guy from the 2015 free agent mini-camp. He's spent a lot of time with the Boston Celtics, and is a bigman -- though I wouldn't not call him versatile or anything.
- Jared Cunningham is versatile as a combo guard, and he was also a member of that 2015 free agent mini-camp. The question will be the consistency of his shot here. Even a guy like Dante Exum was dropping threes at the NBA level, and he was regarded as one of the worst starters in the NBA. In College he shot .344 from downtown, but followed that up with .310 in the NBADL, .235 in Summer League, .286 in Preseason, and .304 in the regular season. He's bounced around through the Mavericks, Kings, Hawks, and Clippers franchises. If he's going to be an NBA player he is going to have to show it at some point. I believe in him though. Go Jared!
- Brock Motum, he was one of the Murphies last season. The Aussie bigman has outside shooting ability, and hustles and dives on the floor. I'd love to see him in Idaho this season. We previously saw him at the 2014 Free Agent mini-camp, the 2014 Summer League, the 2013 Training Camp, the 2015 Free Agent mini-camp, and now 2015 Summer League. He should just live in Utah full time to make it easier on himself during the off-season when his number is called by the Jazz franchise.
- Nick Russell and Jerry Evans are both guys, they don't have any NBA experience, and played in Cyprus and Poland respectively last season. At 24 years old they are both older than a lot of guys on our team. We haven't seen Russell before, but Evans had a predraft workout (2014), was on the summer league team last year (2014) and is on this one too (2015)!
- Jesse Morgan, Wesley Saunders, and J.J. O'Brien are all four year college guys. Morgan went to UMASS and Temple. Saunders went to Harvard. And O'Brien went to Utah and San Diego State. There's a joke in here, like maybe they walk into a bar or something. These true rookies were all worked out predraft by the Jazz. Out of the 101 guys who were worked out predraft, they are among the five who got a call back for summer league.
- I have a hunch that Tibor may get cleared to play (which explains why the Jazz are holding off on the final roster announcement). He's a big guy who needs to play better basketball.
Anyway, this is an interesting group. There's youth. There's talent. And there's the home team advantage.