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Jared Butler, Elijah Hughes, and more : A check in on the Salt Lake City Stars

Everything you need to know about the SLC Stars’ season, thus far

Santa Cruz Warriors vs Salt Lake City Stars Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

With a record of 1-4, the Salt Lake City Stars have had a tough start to their season. Struggles scoring the ball, getting stops late, and finishing games have led to multiple heartbreaking losses for the group.

With that said, there has been plenty to learn from the Utah Jazz’s G-League affiliate. Today, we’re going to check in on the SLC stars and answer some questions that you may have: How have the Utah Jazz’s youth in Jared Butler, Elijah Hughes, and Udoka Azubuike played? Have there been any surprises on the team? Has Zaire Wade shown promise? That and more, here:

How have Utah’s youth faired:

Entering this season, a combination of excitement, concern, and disappointment floated around Utah’s youth. Questions about Udoka Azubuike’s NBA readiness, Jared Butler’s promise, and Elijah Hughes NBA skill-set loomed large. Through the first five games of the SLC Stars G-League season, some of those have been put at rest, while others have become even more worrisome.

For one, Jared Butler has shown that, at least on the offensive end, he’s a stud. Through three games played, Butler has averaged 23.3 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.3 rebounds (albeit shooting 45.9% from the field and 29.4% from three). While his efficiency hasn’t been great, Butler’s ability to score and make plays off the dribble has been impressive. Just take a look at the highlights from his G-League debut, one which ended with him hitting a game winner:

At least on the offensive end, I think Butler is NBA ready. The shooting woes will pass and his ability to make things happen off the dribble is clearly elite. The questions, as have always been, are centered around his defense. Can he find a way to not get touched on that end of the court? If so, he’ll have a long NBA career.

With Elijah Hughes, many of the same sentiments are true. He too has had an impressive start to his season, averaging 23.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. He even put up this impressive performance a few nights ago:

Like Butler, most of Hughes’ question marks come from the defensive end. I think he’s got the offensive skillset to make an impact in the NBA, but he needs to continue to improve on defense. Over the course of the last year, he’s looked better, but he still has a lot more growth ahead of him before Quin Snyder trusts him with real minutes. With that said, I think he’s buying himself more time with the way he’s played in the G-League.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe Udoka Azubuike has done the same. While he’s averaged 9.2 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game, he hasn’t done anything to really impress me this season. He continues to, at times, look totally lost on the court. I’m genuinely beginning to worry that if he doesn’t show growth by the end of the season, he’ll end up turning into a loss for Utah. It feels unfair to continually compare Dok’ to the players that were drafted around him; the Jazz picked Azubuike where they did, he had nothing to do with it. Still, it’s hard to not look at players like Desmond Bane, who were clearly more NBA ready at the time, make such a significant impact on their team. Azubuike still has a load of untapped potential and I believe that he has a path to the NBA. I just wish that path was clearer than it is now.

Notes on the rest of the roster:

Malik Fitts, one of Utah’s two-way contract players, has played well in a pair of outings for the Stars. He’s averaged 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3 assists a game, all while shooting 51.9% from the field. The combination of Fitts’ shooting and size (6-5 with a 7 foot wingspan) gives him real promise as a 3-and-D wing.

MaCio Teague, a 24-year-old guard out of Butler, has averaged 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists on 47.1/29.4/80.0 percent shooting splits. Although he’s a fun player to watch, his inefficiency and inconsistent defense holds him back.

After a breakout first game where he scored 10 points on 4-7 shooting, Zaire Wade has faced some struggles in the G-League. For him, more than anyone else on the roster, per-game averages don’t matter. His purpose in the G-League is to learn and develop against fringe-NBA talent. The growing pains he’s experiencing now will serve him well in the future.

Derrick Alston Jr., a 23-year-old combo forward from Boise State, has shot abysmally from the field to start the season. Through five outings, he's averaged 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds, all while shooting 21.4% from the field and an almost comical 9.7% from three. He’s attempted 31 triples this season and only knocked down three of them. Alston Jr.’s efficiency differential stands at -55.4, only bested by B.J. Taylor’s eDiff of -90.8.

Brenden Bailey, an American Fork High School alumnus, has averaged 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per game.