Things to Watch at Utah Jazz Summer League

July 5th, 2015 | by Ryan Hess
The Jazz are trying to speed things up, in more ways than one. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

Will we see glimpses of a major jump in Exum’s game during the Utah Jazz Summer League?. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

Back in 2006, Deron Williams completed what had been a bit of a rocky rookie season, in which Jerry Sloan played him behind a couple of point guards that probably did not belong in the NBA. Sloan eventually handed the starting reigns over to Deron as it became clear that he was far superior to Keith McCleod and Milt Palacio.  As per standard procedure for most players preparing for their second season, Deron was a part of the 2006 Utah Jazz summer league squad.  It only took a game or two to see that Deron outclassed every other player at the Rocky Mountain Revue.  He played so well, in fact, that after two or three games the coaches decided he would not play anymore.  His transition from young player to veteran took a mere few days in the 2006 Rocky Mountain Revue.

As we prepare for the 2015 summer leagues, starting with the Jazz’ very own Utah Jazz Summer League, one question to ponder is: will we witness another Deron-like transition from someone on the Jazz’ roster?  Will someone play so well that he is given the rest of the summer league off?  I doubt we will witness a repeat of Deron’s 2006 summer league performance, but it is something to ponder as we drive to Salt Lake, or turn on the TV or computer to watch some basketball in the middle of July.  Here are some things to watch for as you watch some (mostly poor) basketball instead of enjoying a beach somewhere.

Dante Exum’s play on offense

Dante Exum’s defensive play as his rookie season progressed has been well-documented.  Watching him stymie a drive or pick his opponent’s pocket will be fun, but not necessarily enlightening.  It’s on the other end of the court where we should really pay attention to his play.  Exum struggled offensively as a rookie despite his favorable length and speed, primarily due to lack of strength and confidence — the latter of which can be attributed to the former. Playing alongside grown men with the physique of Norse gods would shake the confidence of virtually any 19 year-old, let alone one whose primary previous basketball experience was against Australian high school competition.

Jody Genessy, Utah Jazz beat writer, recently reported that Exum has gained 10 pounds already this offseason.  The added weight should help him keep his balance as he drives among his opponents, which could in turn improve his confidence.  We should especially pay attention to Exum’s decisions in the pick-and-roll.  All too often last season, after a Jazz big would set a pick, Exum would back out and either pass out of the situation or shoot a jumper.  He has enough speed that he should be able to drive the lanes created by pick-and-roll action.  Will we see more of the same or a player that exploits an off-balance defense by driving the gaps?

Rodney Hood’s overall play

In a recent radio interview, Dennis Lindsey said, “I had a conversation with Rodney Hood yesterday.  We’ve tactically decided to stay out of the free agent wing market in a big way.”

It’s apparent from the full audio that Lindsey and his front office are supremely confident in their wings. He listed positives for each of Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Elijah Millsap, but saved his most specific remarks for Hood. To hear Lindsey speak, it was easier to understand the franchise’s choice to remain quiet on the wing market in free agency.

This week, we will get our first chance since the season ended to see what it is that Lindsey and Co. are seeing from Hood.  Most NBA players take a few weeks off immediately after the season ends to recharge their batteries, but Hood, who likely felt behind his development goals due to time lost because of injuries, began training right away.  He has put together three solid months of NBA-level training.  We should hope to see major strides in Hood’s game.

The Jazz hope that Rodney Hood will make them not regret pursuing free agent shooting guards. (Getty Images)

The Jazz hope that Rodney Hood will make them not regret pursuing free agent shooting guards. (Getty Images)

Trey Lyles

I am not quite sure what to put in this space. I considered a large question mark.  At time of publication, a reported contract dispute between Lyles’ and the Jazz is keeping him out of summer league play.  The situation is confusing and probably best left for another post.

If Lyles does end up playing, we should observe his overall game to get a better idea of the type of player he is.  Specifically, pay attention to his outside shooting.  The Jazz hope that Lyles can be a big that provides some floor spacing with his ball-handling skills and shot-making ability.  Also, pay attention to his rebounding.  Some argue that he is not a particularly strong rebounder, while others believe that he will be solid as long as he’s playing his natural position, which he didn’t play in college.

Snyder’s system: One year in

The Jazz’ summer league roster includes many players that played for the Jazz during the 2015-16 season: Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Bryce Cotton, Jack Cooley, and Chris Johnson.  These experienced players will help us see a better version of Snyder’s system than what we would see if no experienced players were on the roster.  While it doesn’t promise to be the most beautiful basketball, it will at least be less sloppy than what one could normally expect from NBA summer league play.

Look for ways in which the offense creates open shots, specifically corner 3s.  Will the players be able to use picks and movement to get the defense off-balance, leading to high percentage shots?  Also keep an eye on the team’s overall defense as they look to carry over extremely strong play from the end of the regular season.

The other guys

NBA summer league is a small part of the American dream for these NBA hopefuls.  It’s a chance for them to show that their hard work and dedication have resulted in them deserving a spot on an NBA roster.  While most of these players will not play in the NBA this season, it is always enjoyable to follow the career of the few that do prove themselves capable.  Wesley Matthews is our very own shining example of how hard work, dedication, and confidence can propel an NBA prospect from an unknown to a good NBA player.  Since Dennis Lindsey arrived in Salt Lake he has been looking to find Utah’s Danny Green1.  Could this be the summer that he finds him?

Ryan Hess

Ryan Hess

Ryan Hess was born a Jazz fan thanks to his mother, who comes from a big sports family. Some of his fondest memories are of curling up next to his mom on the couch while the Jazz game was on TV. He currently resides in Aurora, Colorado and works as a SharePoint consultant. While he enjoys writing code, the Utah Jazz are Ryan's true passion in life.
Ryan Hess
Ryan Hess

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