The Utah Jazz Summer League opened up Monday with two games: San Antonio took on Philadelphia in the opener and Utah faced Boston in the nightcap, with the Spurs and Jazz coming out victorious. Here are the notable studs and duds from day one of the competition.
Cady Lalanne and Livio Jean-Charles, San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio’s starting frontcourt certainly came into summer play with far less hype than their opposition on Monday, with Jahlil Okafor and Furkan Aldemir receiving a ton of attention. However, Lalanne and Jean-Charles held their own and then some. Lalanne began on Okafor and frustrated the third overall pick down low early, using every inch of his 7’5 wingspan to disrupt Okafor in the post and force some tough shots.
Jean-Charles is similarly long, and finished with six blocks for the game (the two players combined for eight rejections). He and Lalanne were only 8-25 from the field, but dominated the interior for the first half and made a few big plays down the stretch, including a huge block from Jean-Charles in the final minute to keep the Spurs in the lead.
Okafor figured some things out in the second half and got his points eventually, but both Spurs starters will be guys to keep a close eye on for training camp invites down the line.
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz
This summer, all eyes are on Exum. Utah’s fifth overall selection in the 2014 draft will be expected to generally dominate play as a second-year lottery pick at summer league – and he didn’t disappoint Monday night. Exum took a few minutes to get going, but was a force once he found his rhythm. He showed an aggressive nature seen rarely, if ever, in his rookie season, getting to the hoop at will (past fellow 2014 lottery pick Marcus Smart on several occasions). He shot 10 free-throws, nearly a third of his cumulative total for the entire 82-game season last year.
Exum has put on bulk over the offseason and it showed Monday night. Guys were bouncing off him rather than the other way around, and he was challenging bigger players at the rim in a way not really seen thus far in his NBA career. The night ended for Exum on somewhat of a panicked note as he went down in considerable pain near the end of the fourth quarter, though the injury was reported as simply a sprain and is hopefully not too severe. It may put the remainder of his summer league in jeopardy, though, at least the Utah portion.
Dairis Bertans, San Antonio Spurs
Bertans, a Latvian-born player currently in the ACB in Spain, was the opening game’s most polished offensive player from the jump. He finished 5-8 from three-point range and 6-10 overall for 19 points in just over 25 minutes, plus three assists. He seems to the naked eye like the prototypical Spurs organization guy, perhaps a replacement for recently-departed Marco Belinelli with a high on-court IQ and an excellent shooting stroke.
Bertans is 25 years old already, but is looking to prove his worth on North American soil. If he makes enough of an impression here, he could find his way to the D-League and perhaps even up to the NBA.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Smart didn’t have the best night shooting the ball, with just a 6-20 night from the field, but was clearly on a different talent level from the majority of other guys in Boston’s opener against the Jazz. His level of physicality was unmatched, and he was a big part of the Celtics’ early lead with fantastic perimeter defense.
In particular, Smart got a chance to take on full lead ball-handling duties while on the floor, something he didn’t do much of in his rookie season. He seemed up to the task, dishing out eight dimes on the night and playing well in the pick-and-roll with various partners. He needs to get his driving game a bit more under control, but the summer league is the perfect time for such improvements. Look for him to continue as one of the standouts in the tournament, and in the Vegas league also, if he continues to get big minutes and isn’t shut down at any point.
Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs
As perhaps the highlight attraction for a Spurs franchise that rarely brings too many high-profile guys to summer league competitions, Anderson was disappointing to open play in Utah. He shot just 2-9 despite several open looks, and struggled badly to create separation even against supposedly inferior athletes. He did finish with nine boards – several due to a size advantage at his position.
Games like these make one wonder whether Anderson has the chops to make an NBA rotation. He’s simply too slow and plodding to create separation against any reasonable defender, and his history as a shooter is patchy. He looks to be a potential defensive liability against quicker guys at a higher level, and may need to be hidden in many cases. It’s still early, but if the jumper never comes along for him to some degree, he may be the rare Spurs pick who doesn’t amount to much at the NBA level.
Grant Jerrett, Utah Jazz
Jerrett, who came to Utah as an attachment to the Enes Kanter trade last season with Oklahoma City, entered the summer looking to make an impression and secure a long-term spot on the roster. Things didn’t go well early, as he shot just 2-8, including several wide open misses, and seemed uncomfortable within the flow offense.
But his situation went from bad to worse early in the third quarter, when he came up clutching his shoulder after a collision and went straight back to the Jazz locker room. His injury was confirmed as a shoulder dislocation by the Jazz training staff shortly after.
The full severity and recovery time of the injury is yet to be seen, but it could be a major letdown for Jerrett if he’s done any sort of longer-term damage, especially in his first action of the entire summer.
R.J. Hunter, Boston Celtics
It’ll take some time for Hunter to adjust to the level of play on display here in the summer league after his time at Georgia State, but even by these standards he was pretty bad to open his NBA career. Hunter was 0-5 from the field and looked outclassed by fellow Boston guards Smart and Terry Rozier, finishing a minus-17 while on the floor for the night.
The game appeared a bit fast for him at times, which is to be expected coming from the level of play he was accustomed to and leaping into summer league games that are typically played at a high pace. Plenty have had unbecoming summer league showings and gone on to be perfectly good or even great NBA players, but the Celtics will nonetheless hope to see more from Hunter the rest of the way once he finds his sea legs.
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