For Tony Bradley, playing for Utah’s summer league team is nothing new.
Ever since the Jazz acquired his draft rights back in 2017, Bradley has been a mainstay for the summer league roster. Over the three years he’s participated in the summer league, Bradley has been with a wide array of teammates. Donovan Mitchell, Dante Exum, Grayson Allen and Georges Niang were among the most notable ones.
Even while playing with some of the higher-profile players in Utah, Tony has found a way to stand out among his peers. His output during this past week’s summer league in Salt Lake City proved exactly that. In his two-game stint, Bradley dominated for the Jazz, averaging 20 points and 15.5 rebounds, both of which led the summer league, while shooting 60 percent from the field and averaging 2.5 blocks a game.
Following two consecutive brilliant performances in the summer league, Bradley was simple and direct when reflecting on his play.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling stronger and faster,” Bradley said. “I just wanted to play my hardest and trying to be in every play. I try to get the rebound both offensively and defensively.”
To be honest, Bradley is not a man of many words. During the summer league, he doesn’t have to be. He lets his play on the court do the talking, and he’s been doing plenty of talking during the summer league.
In previous summers, Bradley had been one of the summer league standouts both in Salt Lake and Las Vegas. Last summer, Bradley averaged 14.7 points, 12 rebounds and put up 2.4 blocks a game in the Jazz Summer League. Putting up a double-double in the summer league is a been there, done that for Bradley. Yet somehow, he feels that his physical improvements in the time between the last summer league and this one has made him a better player.
“I feel strong,” Bradley said. “I’ve lost some weight. I think I’m like 10 or 12 pounds lighter. I feel great. I feel like I can move quicker and faster… I have more energy, and that causes me to make more effort plays, rebound, run, etc… Making constant improvements to my body (is) the biggest thing to me.”
Because of his enhanced mobility, Bradley’s on-court production has looked as good as it’s ever been. While that is something he values, in this go-round, Tony also wanted to show that he can set an example for his younger teammates.
“I wanted to have double-double games, and I wanted to show leadership,” Bradley said.
His efforts as a leader have not gone unnoticed by his peers. Jazz assistant coach Lamar Skeeter praised Bradley for his leadership with his younger teammates.
“He’s a prideful kid,” Skeeter said. “He wants to play. He wants to win so our guys feed off of that. They see how hard he is playing. Whether if it’s him on defense and pick-and-roll, whether it’s him running in transition, whether if it’s him on the glass, it’s contagious. So, guys see him playing hard and competing, so it helps our other guys get to that level.”
Being a leader is not just about standing out among your peers. It’s also about striving to be better overall as a player. In Bradley’s case, he strives to improve himself in every way possible.
“I feel like I can improve with this team,” Bradley said. “I feel like I can take that next step into bettering myself and my game… Overall I feel a whole lot better. Just trying to make constant strides and improvements.”
The impressive results have kept on coming in Las Vegas. In the Jazz’s most recent exhibition against the Thunder, Bradley put up a solid 19/14 on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. Tony attributes the consistency he’s had in the summer league to the experience he’s had over the last three years.
“Experience definitely helps,” Bradley said. “Being here before and just knowing what to do. More reps. That definitely helps too.”
It’ll be a whole different ball game when this upcoming season arrives. Bradley will be the third center on the Jazz’s depth chart behind Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis, and he’s only played 65 combined minutes in the NBA. Expectations won’t be as high for him, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t try to continue to expand his game.
During his second game at the Jazz summer league, Bradley demonstrated that he wasn’t afraid to try new things. During the third quarter, he let one shot fly from distance. Even though Jazz fans collectively held their breath as the shot clanged off the rim, he had no regrets.
“I was confident in that shot,” Bradley said. “I’ve been working on threes all summer.”
If Bradley’s newfound enhanced mobility and potential floor-spacing abilities are fully realized, then he may not have to wait until Summer League again to show the NBA what he’s truly made out of.
And the Jazz may have found another piece to their championship dreams.
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