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When evaluating summer league NBA prospects, here’s what you should look for

Plus are teams around the NBA or elsewhere interested in Jimmer Fredette as a backup guard?

Utah Jazz White team’s Jahlil Tripp and Utah Jazz Blue team’sShaqquan Aaron face off in the summer league at Vivint Arena.
Utah Jazz White team forward Jahlil Tripp (56) puts in a shot ahead of Utah Jazz Blue team forward Shaqquan Aaron (60) as the Utah Jazz Blue and White teams play in summer league action at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. The White team won 83-65.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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The NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League is always a splashy event, and people come from all over to get a look at the top NBA prospects, fresh from the NBA draft.

But what about the players who aren’t top lottery picks, or players who have guaranteed spots on a roster?

Sometimes evaluating players during summer league is difficult because, like it or not, these teams are filled with players who are usually on the fringes of an NBA roster, a G League roster, or won’t be playing in the NBA at all in the upcoming season. It’s not the highest level of basketball you’ll ever see.

That makes it difficult to pick out the players who are worth taking a chance on. So what do you look for? And how do you know what’s real and can be replicated in an NBA game versus what a player is capable of against lesser talent in a summer league game?

The first thing to look for when evaluating talent in Vegas is tendencies rather than results. I’ll give you a couple examples from the Utah Jazz’s summer league squad. Dakota Mathias is clearly a gifted scorer. He has knocked down 3s, is good at hitting shots from different ranges off an offensive rebound and isn’t bad in the lane either.

But the scoring isn’t really the thing to watch with him. He often keeps the ball and throws up a shot, even when it’s not the best shot and when there is someone wide open for a better shot that he could have passed to. That’s the kind of tendency that scouts and coaches will look at.

On the flip side, a player like Juwan Morgan doesn’t produce at a high level, but he continually makes good reads and good decisions. He has good rebounding position despite being undersize compared to some of the competition and he makes really crisp and on-target passes. Those are not the dazzling type of plays that are going to make a highlight reel, but they are plays that could get a guy a G League deal or a shot elsewhere.

Other things to look at with developing players are their positioning, defensive instincts, what kind of fouls they’re committing and if they can easily be curbed, how much they’re talking and communicating on the court and how other players respond to them.

Not everything that you see in these summer showcases will be translated to an NBA game, but there are certain things that can be gleaned and valuable scouting information is on full display.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

The Utah Jazz’s Elijah Hughes hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation against the Dallas Mavericks to send the game into overtime on Wednesday. Then, in a second, sudden-death overtime, Trent Forrest hit a free throw that won the game for the Jazz. The two players combined for 26 points in the Jazz’s 81-80 win over the Mavs.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster). This week, they break down the Jazz’s draft pick (Jared Butler) and the moves made ahead of free agency.

New episodes come out every Wednesday. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

Special edition mailbag

Former BYU standout Jimmer Fredette recently tweeted this:

Q: Have you heard of any regained interest from teams around the NBA or elsewhere who have interest in Fredette as a backup guard? — Dustin

A: No. I’m sorry to say that if a guy has to do his own social media campaigning for a spot in a league, it means that there isn’t much interest.

Fredette last played for the Shanghai Sharks in the CBA but it’s very difficult for foreign players to play overseas right now with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. So Fredette came back to the States and was set to play with the Denver Nuggets summer league squad, but he withdrew because of a “last-minute issue.”

Here’s what is clear about Fredette: He was a great college player and has earned a lot of money playing overseas where he has thrived. He will likely get another international deal once things with COVID-19 calm a bit, but there doesn’t seem to be a place for him in the NBA.

From the archives

Extra points

  • Rudy Gay thinks he can fill in the blanks with the Jazz (The Athletic)
  • Hassan Whiteside has a simple reason for joining the Utah Jazz: Winning (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Is Utah becoming a free agent destination for players who want to win? (Deseret News)
  • Is the Rudy Gobert-Hassan Whiteside beef over now that they’re teammates? (Deseret News)

Around the league

The Los Angeles Clippers are giving Kawhi Leonard a max deal.

Dennis Schroder leaves Lakers for Celtics.

J.R. Smith wants to play collegiate golf.

Up next: NBA Summer League

Aug. 13 | 3 p.m. | Jazz vs. Miami Heat | ESPN U | Las Vegas Summer League

Aug. 15 | 3 p.m. | Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers | ESPN 2 | Las Vegas Summer League

*Summer League tournament games TBD