NBA hoops are back!
Well, kind of.
The Salt Lake City Summer League hosted day 1 out of 3 today. The Summer League is always fun for basketball junkies to see how the young players or fringe NBA guys are looking. Jazz fans would get to see Udoka Azubuike, Elijah Hughes, Jarrell Brantley, Juwan Morgan, and Trent Forrest. New rookie Jared Butler is not technically a member of the Jazz yet, so he’ll have to wait for the Las Vegas Summer League before playing with the team.
The games began with the Memphis Grizzlies vs. the Utah Jazz Blue team. To have an even number of teams in attendance, the Jazz have created two teams. The White team is where you’ll find the players who have contracts in the NBA or have played in the league recently. The Blue team is full of those who are more hopeful. That was evident against Memphis. The Grizzlies have a stacked summer team. Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie, and John Konchar absolutely demolished the Blue team. The score was not close from start to finish, and it was very evident that there was a talent gap between NBA rotation players and summer league hopefuls.
Game two, against the San Antonio Spurs, offered more excitement for Jazz fans. With multiple players fighting for roster spots or meaningful minutes, there was a lot to watch for. The Jazz White team opened up an early lead and never looked back. San Antonio kept it close through most of the first three quarters, but a quick run opened it up for Utah at the end of the third.
Udoka Azubuike: Utah’s first-round pick from a year ago, Udoka Azubuike, put up 8 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 23 minutes. He was a massive threat rolling to the rim and tried to dunk everything. On defense, he did get lost a couple of times, but when he contests shots, his length is really intimidating. He ran hard up and down the court all night, and you could see him tiring, but his effort never dropped. He played well.
Trent Forrest: Forrest was the best player on the court. It was evident every time he touched the ball. While others were looking to make an impression, he was looking to control the offense. Forrest put up an impressive line of 19 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes. He was the player with the most meaningful NBA minutes, and it was very clear why that is the case.
Jarrell Brantley: Brantley shot 2-11 on his way to 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. As always seems to be the case, Brantley showed glimpses of being a do-it-all athletic forward who can really change a game. He also showed that his decision-making still leaves more to be desired. It felt like he passed when he should have shot, and shot when he should have passed. But he is still an intriguing prospect, full of energy, athleticism, and surprising skill.
Juwan Morgan: Morgan came off the bench and provided 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 three-pointers. Morgan is a solid player, who rarely seems to make mistakes. He can sometimes play quietly, but if he’s hitting threes like he did tonight, you can’t ignore him.
Elijah Hughes: Hughes had a rough night. He shot 3-13, scored 7 points, and grabbed 5 rebounds. At times, he seemed to be in his own head. Near the end of the game he looked to have found a rhythm, but overall, a very poor performance. Much has been said about Hughes’ potential role with this team, and a lot of eyes were on him tonight. He didn’t show well, but let’s hope he can prove himself in the next game.
The SLC Summer League continues tomorrow with the Spurs vs. Jazz Blue at 5 pm and the Grizzlies vs. Jazz White at 7 pm.