The Utah Jazz have *never* advanced in the Las Vegas Summer League after years of being in it. Will today be the first year they do? If they are going to they're going to have to step it up and beat the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers won in sudden death overtime in their last meeting (after a great Lyles tip-in off the missed free throw by Butterfield as the buzzer expired). They're going to have to win today. Period.
Because it's the Summer League and we have no clue who is going to start on any given night, I'm not even going to bother trying to try.
Portland has six guys who were drafted on their team, and they are playing major minutes to Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh, Pierre Jackson, and Luis Montero. Those guys get some help from Cliff Alexander, Russ Smith, and Shabazz Napier. One thing really sticks out when you see their team -- they don't really have very balanced rebounding beyond Vonleh. He, a lotto pick, is getting it done by averaging 13 and 11. While the team isn't getting a lot of rebounds we have to admit that the Blazers are get at it on defense, getting steals, blocks, and stops.
C.J. Fair is coming off the bench and making shots, as well. Also, I like Canadian bigman Jordan Bachynski -- if would totally push around TIbor if they match-up against one another. But I don't know if he's going to get to play. In their last game the Blazers started Vonleh at center, and his entire game is too robust for Tibor to handle right now.
If they can hit some open shots then their team sharing offense could be trouble for the Jazz, who honestly have not looked good on defense at all.
The Alpha and the Omega of our squad right now is Trey Lyles. He's leading Vegas in scoring with 29.0 ppg, and he's nearly perfect from the line in Nevada. For the full-summer he's still a handful. He'll get his shots, and one of the nifty things we're seeing now is him bring the ball up the court, flip it to a guard (likely Aaron Craft), who passes it back and allows Lyles to just take an unmolested three. It's working, as Lyles is now drilling them from outside at at 46% rate.
The Jazz as a whole really are making their threes, with Spencer Butterfield, Quincy Ford, Tibor Pleiss, Marcus Paige, and even Shonn Miller all shooting well from outside. Beyond dunks and power layups there hasn't been a lot of scoring elsewhere. The Blazers have around five guys scoring in double digits, the Jazz only have three. Part of that could just be the talent level. As the Blazers have six drafted players on the team the Jazz only have five -- three of which are within the last six picks in the NBA Draft.
Of the Jazz 2016 picks, Marcus Paige and Tyrone Wallace are coming along; but we know they are limited players who may not last long in training camp, if they get an invite. Joel Bolomboy hasn't shot well or played very much. I say "release the Kraken" tonight. After all, it's not like Tibor Pleiss is going to win you any games right now.
If Utah still had Olivier Hanlan and J.J. O'Brien I think this could be a closer game. But instead the Jazz are just going to have to really rely on the Maple Mamba to do his stuff on offense to keep the team in it.
I really want to win this game. I hope our coaches do as well.