5 takeaways from watching the Utah Jazz play Summer League
Jared Butler, Johnny Juzang, Leandro Bolmaro, Tacko Fall and Jarrell Brantley were notable as the Jazz played in NBA Summer League in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
The NBA’s summer schedule, whether it be the Salt Lake City Summer League, Las Vegas Summer League, the California Classic or, in the past, the Orlando Pro Summer League, always highlights the best of the newest NBA prospects and is rife with overreactions and assumptions made much too fast.
It’s true that there are just some players who stand out in the crowd and are clearly better than the competition, and it’s true that most of the players on summer rosters will never play an NBA game, either fading into obscurity or taking their talents overseas.
But there’s a lot more middle ground and gray area than we usually give credit to, and that seems to be where the Utah Jazz spent most of the summer schedule.
Below are my five main takeaways from the 2022 summer slate:
The Jazz’s 2021 draft pick is still a bit of a mystery for me and for many Jazz fans. We all know what he was able to do at Baylor (he won a national championship, shot the lights out and was exceptional in everything that was asked of him), but what he is capable of in the NBA is not as clear.
Butler didn’t play in Summer League his rookie year, played in a couple preseason games, then appeared in just 42 games for the Jazz last season (mostly in garbage minutes).
He played with the SLC Stars a little bit, but most of his time was spent behind the scenes playing 3-on-3 with the other developing players on the Jazz roster in the morning on game days or on off-days when the Jazz were at home.
So even if we want to pretend like we know what kind of player Butler will be in the NBA, we don’t have the right kind of sample size to accurately say for certain.
That makes this year’s Summer League difficult to evaluate for Butler. On one hand, I feel like maybe he should have had the chops to play better against some of the other players on summer rosters. On the other hand, he doesn’t have to play for his life like a lot of the guys he was going against in the Salt Lake and Vegas exhibitions.
Butler has a contract and, on top of that, he spent the last year in a pretty rigid system that was about playmaking and vision and multiple actions.
At these summer showcases, most players are just trying to make a big enough splash to get noticed. They don’t have a lot of time to learn a system and frankly that’s not the most important thing to them.
So for a player like Butler, who is always trying to do the right thing rather than the selfish thing, he’s not going to stand out.
All that being said, Butler’s shooting during summer league was concerning. He shot 17.1% from 3-point range.
Even if he isn’t getting the same quality of shots and even if he is creating his own chances in different situations, he should still be able to eclipse 30%.
On the positive side of things, Butler’s defense and his playmaking were impressive, and you can see that there’s been work and improvement in those areas.
As we move forward, hopefully to a time when Butler gets more of an opportunity for real playing time, we’ll be able to more accurately decide what type of player he can be and if his shot has truly regressed.
The Jazz’s latest two-way signing is a really intriguing prospect. He’s got raw talent, can probably be molded to fit any system and he’s enthusiastic about working with the Jazz to improve his game.
As I was watching him, the player that kept coming to mind as a comp is Atlanta Hawks forward/guard Bogdan Bogdanovic.
The long-term hope is that Juzang will develop into a prototypical three-and-D player. With a 6-foot-6 frame and 6-11 wingspan, it’s everybody’s wish that he’ll be a switchy and versatile defender, but even if he just develops an average defensive game, his natural abilities on offense will give him life in the NBA.
His scoring is impressive, and I’m not just talking about his ability to knock down a 3, which he absolutely can do. He is really savvy when it comes to turning down bad shots and his shooting form doesn’t waver.
He has the same kind of fluid shot when he drives in and takes a midrange jumper as he does when he sidesteps to take a corner 3.
To top it all off he’s athletic, has a nice touch around the rim, and makes quick cuts.
With the right amount of playing time and reps, Juzang could easily become a role player that most teams would be happy to have.
The 21-year-old from Argentina played just 35 games for the Timberwolves last season, but he plays like he has a few more years under his belt and that’s probably because he played professionally for Barcelona and for his national team in the Olympics.
Bolmaro is mature with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t play without a backup plan and has no problem dribbling out of a concerning situation, and that’s something that often takes young players a long time to learn.
You’d still want to see some more consistency in his shot, but his playmaking abilities make him a really promising young player.
I don’t really understand why fans are so obsessed with Tacko Fall. I guess that I can understand that it’s fun and interesting to watch a 7-foot-6 person do anything, but if I’m being completely honest, I just don’t think Fall is going to have an NBA career that’s substantial.
He has the height and strength that could make him an absolute unstoppable force at the rim, but he lacks awareness and timing.
He brings the ball down way too often, has it knocked out of his hands, fouls players on drives, doesn’t know where defenders are, doesn’t know where his teammates are, and never really commits to just dunking down opponents’ throats, as he should.
The one-time Jazz prospect has been around the world since leaving Salt Lake City last September and popped up once again on the Los Angeles Clippers summer roster.
He played significant minutes for the Clippers summer squad, starting and closing games and getting really in-depth feedback and input from the coaching staff.
One NBA scout told me that the trust the Clippers staff had in him just during the Vegas run this summer has not gone unnoticed.
I caught up with Brantley after the Clippers played the Jazz in Las Vegas and he talked about what he’s learned over the last year after playing in Russia and then most recently in Puerto Rico.
The biggest difference in Brantley’s game is that he feels like he’s playing with more freedom and he’s playing to improve rather than to show off.
He feels like that freedom is why the Clippers were willing to give him so much time on the floor this summer.
The Clippers probably aren’t going to be the team that gives Brantley a shot — the roster doesn’t really have room for him — but there’s still a chance the 26-year-old could land a two-way spot or an end-of-bench contract with another team.