Rob Soni & Mark Wahlen
Rob & Mark are contributors to The Five By 5.
Jaren Jackson Jr
The fourth overall pick in this years rookie draft played in all 3 games here in Utah and showed well. Averaging 25.7 minutes a game (summer league games out here are only 40 minute games) Jackson showed to be the best prospect out here by a significant margin. He opened up summer league with a blistering start on July by scoring 29 points on 8-13 shooting from the three. However his offense tailed the rest of his time out here by combining for 18 points in his last two games, mostly due to lack of action being ran for the young big. However, for the still 18 year old it was his defense that stuck out, he was an absolute monster on all levels. He averaged 2.3 blocks per contest. Although, according to my notes he altered at least 5 shot attempts at the rim per game. One particular possession that stands out is vs. the home team Jazz. Georges Niang (who also played really well out here) drove to the hoop on Jackson in the open floor, this resulted in Jackson not only disturbing Niang on the gather, but ultimately blocking his shot. It was an incredible display of athleticism and defensive fundamentals. Going into Vegas keep a keen eye on his match up vs. another lottery pick, Mo Bomba.
The third year guard out of Kansas showed to be the most polished player in the Utah Summer League. He was just playing at a level higher than his peers as he tied Derrick White with the top scoring average out here with 23 ppg. Selden continuously got anywhere he wanted on the court and was a knock down three point shooter shooting 8-13 from behind the arch in his 2 games played. He played with great effort and leverage on defense and kept his hands active. Expect him to be a quality 3rd to 4th guard off a limited Memphis bench this season.
The 32nd overall pick out of West Virginia had the kind of output I expected. With his advance body Carter was able to defend at an above average rate, and was extremely difficult for his opponents to move. He slipped screens well and showed to be an above average, but not elite defender, think Jameer Nelso with a little more size. Offensively he struggled to separate on a consistent basis, and his lack of separation limited his playmaking ability. He was picked up at full court on a handful of occasions, in which he showed the necessary handle to beat the pressure. His handle is good enough to get by, but his limited explosion and shooting thus far might limit him to a very niche defender (slight of height at 6’ 2’’).
The former Arizona shooting guard and recently turned 21 year old showed well as he goes into his second year. His size and athleticism showed well as he was seemingly able to pick his spots and always be involved on both sides. He showed burst on offense and showed flashes on being an back end of the rotation guard. His biggest issue that could keep that ceiling from being locked is his lack of 3 points shooting, he shot 28% during his rookie season and only 3-8 out here. If the 3 point shot doesn’t come around look for a team to sign him to a two-way contract.
San Antonio Spurs
This 6’ 10’’ athletic rim running bing showed to have plenty of potential in Utah. Picked 49th overall by the Spurs out of USC, Metu is still incredibly raw but showed plenty of flashes of athleticism and prowess on the defensive side. He will take time to develop, but the tools seemed there to develop as a rotational to even a potential starter in high highest of outcomes. Metu was often times active and engaged on both sides, he set solid screens (could get more physical there) and wasn’t afraid to shoot outside the paint. He was 1-3 from 3 in SLC, however, watching his jumper in warm-ups and during the game, his feet never seem to land in the same spot. Typically you want the same footwork every time you land on your jumper, his foot placement are consistent for the most part off the jump, but I worry they get a little dancy once in the air making it difficult to get consistent results.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker played Monday and Thursday and sat out Tuesday out here in SLC. He showed elite bounce and athleticism in both warm-ups and in game play. Still raw (although not nearly as raw as Metu) Walker showed real flashes as a transition player and on the defensive end. He could very well be an excellent defender early within his career with his ability to move laterally and jump out of the gym. Offensively he is still finding himself, and didn’t seem totally comfortable on that end, however, his teammate Derrick White was able to create some good looks for him. His shot looks fluid and I can for sure seen an outcome were he is an above average to good shooter. I like his mechanics and looks for him to show even more growth in Vegas.
If you want to make a name for yourself this time of year do what Derrick White did in SLC, which is everything. White averaged 23 points 7 assists and a hair under 7 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep during his time out here. He controlled the game and looked way beyond the talent, similar to Wayne Selden. Given his good height at 6’ 5’’ he looks to be a guy that might be able to push Patty Mills for the 3rd guard minutes. HIs feel was excellent and his defensive recognition allowed him to not get caught in many top of the key screens. He is still slight of built, and could benefit from adding a few more lbs. Overall though great showing by him.
Collins was arguably the 2nd most impressive player in the Utah summer league behind Jaren Jackson, showcasing a wide range of skills that he’s already proven to have (rebounding, finishing at the rim, etc.) and some skills that he’s more recently added to his game. One of those new skills is his ability to handle the ball and make plays off the dribble. Collins has clearly improved his overall ball handling, tightening up his handle to a degree that’s seen more from wings, not a big, and looked to be confident going either to his left or right. He was also very strong in making plays off the dribble both in attacking his man or when acting as the ball handler in the pick and roll. The best example of this was when Collins gave Jaren Jackson Jr. the business when attacking him off the dribble. When they matched up against each other, Collins was able to effectively use his quickness and improved ball handling to gain a step advantage, but was also able to his strength to overpower Jacksons’ length at the rim, resulting in several “and-1” attempts for Collins. However, perhaps even more impressive, was when Collins was asked to bring the ball up the floor and initiate the offense with a high middle pick & roll with Omari Spellman. Collins and Spellman were able to execute these high middle P&R’s with great effectiveness due to Spellmans’ great screen setting, but also due to Collins’ ability to handle the ability and make great passes to Spellman on the roll or slip. This often resulted in Spellman getting open dunks at the rim, or open shots on the perimeter. This newly developed ball handling skill has really opened up Collins’ game and makes him a very intriguing young big that has the potential to become a playmaking 4 or 5 in the league. Combine that with his improved shooting stroke (which he also showcased during the Utah summer league) and Collins looks to be posed for a breakout season.
Easily the most disappointing high-level prospect in the Utah summer league, Trae Young had more than his share of struggles throughout the week. The biggest concern with Trae’s Utah summer league performance was his complete inability to create separation from other players. In college, Trae was able to create separation off the dribble almost at will, allowing him to get into the paint where he could make plays or to create enough space to get off his jumper. That simply didn’t happen in Utah. Even smaller, less athletic defenders gave him immense trouble (Javon Carter, etc), and longer, bigger and more athletic defenders (Grayson Allen, Kobi Simmons, etc) almost entirely locked him up. This combined with his extremely poor 3 point shooting and total inability to finish in the paint should be extremely concerning for the Hawks. He also looked like he was in his own head, often thinking too much rather than just playing. For a player that thrived on quick, almost thoughtless actions in college, it wasn’t a good thing to see. Maybe it was the 2 air ball 3’s he started his summer league off with, or maybe it was the fact that the game is much faster and the players are much bigger, longer, athletic and stronger than they are in college, but regardless, Trae has to find a way to get his swag back. He looked more like the Trae that ended the college season than the one during the beginning. Additionally, Trae wasn’t good on defense, whether it was off ball or on ball. He certainly looked better defensively than he did in college, so that’s promising to a certain extent, but he’s still a massive defensive liability and was often targeted by opposing teams, especially down the stretch. Those things being said, Trae did showcase great vision and passing throughout the week, especially when making cross-court passes to open weak side shooters when the D had over-rotated. And while his passes out of the pick and roll were largely limited due to his inability to turn the corner on his man or get around the hedging big to create the correct passing lane, he did show some promising flashes there. Overall, Trae has a lot of work to do before he can even be considered for a starting guard spot on an NBA team. If nothing else, he has the figure out his shot.
Spellman had a very nice week in Utah, showcasing why many teams and draft outlets should’ve had him ranked much higher on their big board. He proved, as he did in college this past season, that he’s an energy big that’s willing to do the small things to help a team win but also that he’s a capable rebounder, shot blocker and shooter for a big man. In regards to the small things that Spellman does: his screen setting and passing were things that really stood out. As mentioned in the John Collins section, he can set some pretty effective screens with his wide body, and he has surprisingly nimble feet for a guy his size that allows him to quickly roll and open himself up for passes, or to slip or pop out for an outside shoot with his feet set. Spellmans’ passing was also high level for a young big man, often making the correct passes on the perimeter when the defense was rotating or making good reads when catching the ball on short rolls. His rebounding and rim protection were surprisingly good as well, showcasing good explosiveness, hands and motor when chasing down blocks and rebounds alike. Lastly, his shooting, while not super great in terms of %’s, was also on display, as he looked comfortable shooting from NBA 3 range, especially in the corners. His shooting has always been the most intriguing skill set for NBA teams, but overall, Spellman proved to be a much more complete player than many people expected.
Dorsey certainly doesn’t lack in the self-confidence department and was someone that throughout the week was constantly looking to put pressure on the rim with attacks off the dribble or looking to take his shot when the ball ended up in his hands. He did this to a fault at times, often forcing the issue or taking bad shots, but Dorsey proved to be the Hawks best scoring option off the dribble with Trae Young being MIA. He has the size, athleticism and decent enough skill-set to become an end of the bench guard for a team, but his decision-making and ability to move the ball still needs to come along in a big way.
There’s not a lot to comment on in regards to Zach Smith other than he’s very, very athletic. He had a really impressive dunk coming down the lane and was able to high point some rebounds throughout the week with his impressive explosiveness. He didn’t produce at a high level, the game looked too fast for him and his IQ is shaky at best, but because of his combination of size, length and athleticism, he’s someone to keep an eye on.
Despite everyone’s major overreaction to his scuffle with Trae Young, Grayson had himself a very nice Utah summer league, nearly averaging a triple double for the week. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but he did just about everything else at a high level. His vision, passing and basketball IQ were on full display throughout the week, even starting as the Jazz’s point guard on Thursday night after proving to be a more than capable ball handler, offensive initiator and pick and roll ball handler. And while Allen only played 2 of the 3 games due to an adductor strain that he suffered during the pre-draft process, he notched 7 assists in the first game (2 turnovers) and 8 assists in his other game (3 turnovers). In those two games, Allen made a lot of nice reads and passes out of the pick and roll, showing that he’s capable of hitting the roll man or getting the ball back out to the open shooter when the defensive collapses. However, his passing wasn’t the only impressive thing. His defense was also better than expected, showing a lot of toughness and peskiness (which caused the scuffle with Trae Young). His tough D was a nice surprise that went against the stereotypical and incorrect label of “white guy who can shoot but can’t play D” that he’s often given. However, it should be noted that he struggled at times to stay in front of quick, shifty guards in isolation. It will be interesting to see how he handles being isolated. Graysons’ elite athleticism was also on display throughout the week as he corralled a high number of rebounds for a guard (8 total against the Spurs and 6 against the Hawks) and made some impressive plays around the rim when he had space. However, Grayson did struggle to finish in the paint and through contact at times, and it’s something he’ll need to continue to work on. His shot also wasn’t falling for him, only shooting 4 of 16 from the field (2 of 6 from 3) in his first game and 2 of 13 (0 for 2 from 3) in his other game. His shot mechanics, footwork, etc. all looked great, but the results weren’t there. Grayson was a hot/cold type shooter throughout his collegiate career, so this will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Overall, Grayson had a nice week that he should be able to build on moving forward.
Having not seen much action this past season outside of the G-league, Niang clearly put in a lot of work this offseason to try and better himself to the point of contending for a full-time NBA roster spot. While still not very big, long or athletic for an NBA wing/guard combo, Niang looked to be more conditioned and has improved his overall skillset. Throughout the week, he showcased good shooting and scoring throughout the week, scoring 17 points against the Spurs (5 of 9 from the field, 3 of 4 from 3), 18 points against the Grizzlies (7 of 12 from the field, 2 of 6 from 3) and 15 points against the Hawks (5 of 13 from the field, 3 of 5 from 3). As you can see, he shot the ball well from 3, most of them coming as spot-up attempts, but he also showed a good ability to knock down step back midrange jumpers and at times, an ability to finish around the basket. He also played surprisingly well defensively despite his physical and athletic limitations, and was even charged with guarding Jaren Jackson Jr. for a large portion of the Memphis game, and was able to more than hold his own. Similarly to Grayson Allen, Niang is a pesky defender but rather than Allen, he relies more on basketball IQ and strong anticipation instincts than athleticism. Niang looks like he should be able to check some 3’s in the league, but projects more realistically as a somewhat switchy defender that’s most natural defending small ball 4’s. Additionally, Niang made good passes and did a good job of playing within the team system throughout the Utah summer league, and it’s easy to see how he could fit into an NBA teams offensive and defensive schemes. It’s unclear if Niang has the physical tools and athleticism to ever be an impact player in the league, but he’s certainly helped himself in earning a shot at a full-time roster spot with his play in Utah.
Having been named as one of the Utah summer league standout players of the week, Tony Bradley had himself a very productive start to his summer league stint this year. And while his athletic limitations were still on full display, he did showcase a nice overall skill level and good progress in his basketball IQ. And that’s really the story with Bradley so far: he finds a way to be productive but looks awful while doing it. He still can’t jump over the lines on the court with his nearly non-existent vertical, and it really limits his ability to finish around the basket, rebound and protect the rim. But despite his vertical limitations, Bradleys’ positioning, basketball IQ, screen setting, etc. allows him to put up very productive numbers across the board. In Utah, he averaged 14.6 PPG, 12.3 RPG and 2 BLK’s per game, but while watching the games; you would never guess that he was producing at that high of a level. If Bradley could improve his vertical athleticism, he’d bump all those numbers up significantly. There were a lot of times when he caught the ball deep in the paint but just couldn’t get up enough to get off a clean shot, even against smaller opponents. Same thing on defense, where he was often in great position to black a shot, but just couldn’t elevate to get to it. He could also work on his jump shot, especially if he wants to earn himself playing time in the NBA and his ability to pass the ball within an offense (he had no assists during the Utah summer league). But overall, Bradley is still just 20 years old, and is a legit 6’11.5” with a massive 7’6” wingspan and good foot mobility for a guy his size, so there’s still hope that he can continue to develop and mature more physically and athletically.
Similar to Niang, Mitrou-Long is a guy that’s clearly put in a lot of work in the offseason and is hopeful to make an NBA teams’ full-time roster. During the Utah summer league, he averaged 10.6 PPG on 12 of 18 shooting, 5 RPG, 4.6 APG (2.6 TOV’s) and 1.6 STL’s per game. And as his numbers suggest, he did a little bit of everything. He’s more of a guard than a wing, but his ability to handle the ball and run the offense is impressive for a guy in his position (as the 4.6 APG suggest). However, he can get a little wild at times and force the issue, especially when driving into the paint (2.6 TOV’s). He’s also a pesky defender, which uses his quick hands and feet to stay in front of and bother opponents as well as play passing lanes with some effectiveness. His ability to make shots was also impressive, as his 12 of 18 shooting suggests, both off the ball as a spot-up shooter and off the dribble. He’ll need to continue to work on his ability to finish at the rim, but he’s more athletic than a guy like Niang, so there’s more potential for him to improve there. Overall, he looked like a very solid end of the bench guard that you could rely on to make some shots, play pesky D and even use as a secondary or tertiary ball handler if you needed one in a pinch. Look for him to be a strong two-way contract option for the Jazz or another NBA team.
One of the most surprising performers of the Utah summer league, Stanton Kidd stood out during the week with his shooting, defense and overall size and athleticism for a wing/guard combo. For the week in Utah, he averaged a productive 14 PPG on 11 of 19 shooting and 4 RPG. His shooting was a bit inconsistent, making 3 of 4 three’s during game 1 against the Spurs but only 1 or 5 against the Hawks, but his mechanics and footwork looked solid enough that it seems like he’ll likely be a decent shooter than not. His defense was also impressive, as he’s able to move his feet well to stay in front of guys on the perimeter, even in isolation and is strong enough to take fight through screens and defend in the post a bit. He also made an impressive block in which he snatched the ball out of the air with both hands, showing that he has some underrated bounce and athleticism to his game. However, he didn’t record any assists during the two games he played and averaged more than 2 turnovers per game, so there’s some left to be desired in his passing and playmaking for others. But he’s certainly an interesting player to keep an eye on as the Vegas summer league progresses as he could work himself into a two-way contract.
Coming into the Utah summer league as an undrafted free agent, Kelan Martin had a solid outing in Utah where he showcased his good and versatile defense, positional rebounding and shot making abilities. For the week, he averaged 9.3 PPG on 11 of 23 shooting, 4.1 RPG, 2 STL’s and 3 BLK’s per game. His defense was perhaps the most intriguing part of his game, with his size, length and athleticism allowing him to guard guys like Lonnie Walker or Jaren Jackson Jr. equally well. He was also very good as an on-ball defender, even in space, and often forced opposing players into difficult shots with strong contests. If Kelan can start shooting the ball better from 3, he’d make for an interesting two-way contract player that’s capable of defending 2 through 4 and making spot-up 3’s. He could also work on his playmaking for others, as he failed to record an assist during the week.
Being one of our favorite players to watch during the Utah summer league, Ray is a very thin but athletic and tough guard that’s going to put the defensive pressure on his man full-court. And that’s where he was most impressive, especially in his full-court defense against Trae Young, who he guarded very effectively during their matchup. He’s also capable of beating his man off the dribble with his quickness, and showed decent shot making throughout the week. Although, he could work on his ability to play-make for others and could use an improvement in shot selection in decision-making too. But he’s a fun summer league guard that should be fun to watch as the Jazz move to Vegas.