Day two of the Utah Summer League took place in Salt Lake City on Tuesday afternoon, with the San Antonio Spurs defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 95-91 before the Boston Celtics defeated the Utah Jazz 89-82. A look at a few storylines from the doubleheader:
Minus studs, Christian Wood shows out: Multiple teams rested a few key guys on the short turnaround back-to-back, most notably the 76ers. Already without star Ben Simmons as a precaution for cramps Monday, Philly also went without starters Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and TJ McConnell. All the absences in the frontcourt gave way to a starting nod and nearly 20 minutes for former UNLV standout Christian Wood, and for the second consecutive day his play stood out.
At 6-foot-10 with long limbs and athletic, Wood bounced between the NBA and the D-League last year after going undrafted and being signed by the 76ers. He was a potential first-round pick on some boards who reportedly fell for character-related reasons, and he’s showcasing the skill that had him on many teams’ radar a year ago. Wood poured in 19 points and seven boards on just eight field-goal attempts, draining two triples and drawing 11 attempts at the line. He was loud and active defensively from the back line, altering several plays with his length and strong timing on help defense.
Wood isn’t currently claimed by an NBA team, but don’t be surprised if that changes in the near future. Wood simply has too many skills for no one to take a flier on him – he has shooting range all over the floor, shot-blocking skill at the rim and has clearly put in work improving his strength and conditioning in the past year. He can over-extend himself at times on the floor, but a smart organization with good player development could fix that in a hurry. Wood looks every bit like an NBA rotation player early on this summer.
Forbes eyeing wealth: Mostly an afterthought after going undrafted as a senior out of Michigan State, Spurs guard Bryn Forbes has been the most impressive under-the-radar player in Salt Lake City through two days. He’s canned six of his 10 attempts from deep and 14 of 19 overall, working well both as a spot-up option away from the ball and as a pick-and-roll initiator.
Whether Forbes has enough supplementary skills to catch on somewhere is another question, but his shooting will translate at any level. He shot over 48 percent from three in his senior year at MSU, leading the nation. Forbes might lack the size to be anything more than a bit player at the full-time NBA level – he’s listed 6-foot-3, but that seems generous to the eye – but he’s quick moving from side to side and appears to have good hands. He’s another to look for on an NBA roster before long.
Trade! It’s not often a notable trade takes place between two of the four teams at a small tournament like this, and even less common for a player on a summer league roster to be included in the deal, but that’s what happened Tuesday. The Jazz and Spurs reportedly consummated a deal to send Boris Diaw to Utah in exchange for the rights to 2015 Jazz second-round draftee Olivier Hanlan, who was slated to play in the Jazz’s second game just an hour or two after the news broke. The Spurs were already in action as the news flew in, but regardless, the move ended Hanlan’s play in this tournament.
For Utah, the trade is another great move by GM Dennis Lindsey in what’s been a quietly productive summer. Additions George Hill (via reported trade, not official until post-moratorium), Joe Johnson and now Diaw all fill specific needs while bringing depth, experience and leadership into the fold for a team that needed all three.
Ref experiment: The NBA will often test out potential rules or regulations during D-League play or Summer League, and we saw an intriguing example Tuesday: For the second game of the day between Utah and Boston, four referees were on the court instead of the typical three. The league stationed the extra official on the wing, meaning one ref was located on each sideline to help avoid weak side mistakes while the other two remained in the usual positions (one on the baseline, the other behind the play near halfcourt).
It’s obviously impossible to tell after one game whether the results were positive, and it will be interesting to see what the league’s assessment of the alteration is. The major risk in such a situation would appear to be an overabundance of calls with an extra whistle on the floor, and the NBA would need to be careful to accurately separate duties for each of the four on the floor so there’s no confusion and overlap. If they could manage to keep the volume from getting out of control, though, the change would seem mostly positive elsewhere – more eyes mean fewer blind spots, better angles and another collaborating voice while reviewing tough plays. We’ll see if this one gains any traction after a year in which referees were under the microscope in the NBA.
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