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What improvements can we look for in the Jazz second year players?

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The Utah Jazz are developing a lot of young talent

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Last year, in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz made the unusual move of moving into the second round twice, picking up three late second rounders (picks #50, 53, and 58), who ended up being Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman, and Miye Oni, respectively. Nigel Williams-Goss, despite being drafted in 2017, played two years in Europe, then was signed last summer. Juwan Morgan was signed in November and Rayjon Tucker signed after the Jazz waived Stanton Kidd and Jeff Green, respectively, after standout performances in the G League.

While obviously some of these players are no longer on the team, this group of players had a surprising impact given their relatively low draft status. Morgan even started two games against the Nuggets in the playoffs. With newcomers like Shaquille Harrison, Elijah Hughes, and Udoka Azubuike, and old faces like Derrick Favors joining the team, what kind of development and contributions can we look for from our second year players? We break down Nigel Williams-Goss, Jarrell Brantley, Miye Oni, and Juwan Morgan.

Statistics

While all players played in the playoffs, only Morgan played significant minutes.

Analysis

Let’s be pretty clear - with the signing of Shaquille Harrison, Nigel Williams-Goss is highly likely to be cut, given their overlapping positions and Williams-Goss’ non-guaranteed contract. Justin Wright-Foreman, despite a G-League All-Star award, was not offered another two-way contract, so he may or may not choose to stay in the Jazz organization given the glut of players ahead of him. And, Rayjon Tucker was traded to the Cavs, who waived him; he’ll see action as part of the Clippers.

Harrison also eats into Miye Oni’s playing time. Oni has been mentioned as a potential contributor as a perimeter defender, with a dangerous enough outside shot, which also happened to be Harrison’s role on the Bulls the last two years. While Oni hasn’t been able to really show his abilities at the NBA level, he did beat out all of the other draftees for the final roster spot last year, and has shown that he can play as a ball-handler in the Jazz system in the G-League, with excellent shooting, rebounds, and assists.

Juwan Morgan and Jarrell Brantley both fulfill the-end-of-bench four-spot role. Behind Bojan Bogdanovic, Georges Niang, and the occasional minutes Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, and Derrick Favors will play at the spot, it’s unlikely that Morgan or Brantley will have much of a direct impact. However, it is worth mentioning that the Jazz looked particularly stable in the playoffs with Morgan starting, losing Game 1 in overtime and absolutely blowing out the Nuggets in Game 2 (small sample size, I know, I know). His Game 1 plus minus was a team +17; Niang was the next highest at +3 (though single-game plus-minus statistics should always be taken with a huge grain of salt). But with no one on the team able to truly match up with the forward mismatches along the likes of Lebron, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard, we may see Morgan play crucial minutes to reduce the workload that rests upon Royce and to a lesser extent Bojan and Jingles - Coach Quin clearly trusted him enough to start him and double his role in the playoffs.

Brantley is also a candidate for a bigger role. Brantley’s G-League numbers smell a little bit like Draymond Green’s, and with similar physical profiles, it would be excellent for him to gain experience at a higher level to develop into a Draymond-like player. It’s clear he dominates at a lower level, also having been selected as a G-League All-Star this past season, but NBA level performance can only come with experience and exposure. It is notable that Brantley is still on a two-way contract, so his time with the main team is still limited only 45 days across the season. With a more compressed season, his number may be called more often.


All in all, the 2020-21 season looks to be a challenging one for all NBA teams, much less second year players fighting for playing time on a playoff-bound squad. With a tighter schedule, look for looser rotations and opportunities for development as the team looks to “manage loads”. Predictions: barring major flashes of improvement or injuries, minutes per game and games played for each second year player retained (Oni, Morgan, Brantley) remain about the same; Morgan may get more playing time and games.