Utah Summer League: Day 3 Roundup
Ben Dowsett offers some observations from the final day of the Utah Summer League.
The third and final day of Utah Jazz Summer League took place Thursday, with the Boston Celtics defeating the San Antonio Spurs 87-86 before the the Philadelphia 76ers downed the host Utah Jazz 86-75. Some notes from the final day of action in Salt Lake City:
The Spurs lost at Summer League? It feels like it’s been a long time since this last happened, and indeed it’s been the better part of a year. The champions in Vegas last year looked similarly unstoppable through the first two games in Utah led by Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons, two of the five best players in the tournament.
It would have been easy to assume more of the same after they erased a double-digit first half deficit and had the game tied headed into crunch time, but a Celtics team missing a couple key pieces had other ideas. Strong team defense stymied Anderson late, and a number of timely three-pointers kept them in it – until the timeliest possible three-pointer won it for them. Terry Rozier went up for the game-winning triple down two with just seconds left, making it despite a foul and lifting the Celtics to the unofficial Jazz Summer League title.
Dejounte Murray’s arrival: The Spurs finally went down despite a strong performance from Murray in his first game in uniform. Dejounte started the game and was a bit shaky in his opening NBA action, but settled in and the No. 29 pick in this year’s first round quickly looked like an early steal candidate.
“I caught my wind the first three or four minutes and got tired real quick,” Murray said after the game. “Coach [Will Hardy] brought me out and let me catch my second wind. After that, I was ready to go for the rest of the game.”
He finished 8-12 from the field and drew seven free-throw attempts, showcasing excellent ball skills on the perimeter to go along with a lightning first step and good length. Murray struggled at the rim in college, which was a bit of concern to many scouts, but looked explosive and capable of finishing through contact in this one.
Whether he becomes another Spurs steal later in the draft will likely depend in large part on how he develops as a shooter; Murray was just a 29 percent three-point shooter at the NCAA and couldn’t find the range on his jumper Thursday. Still 19 years old and with a good physical profile for his position, though, Murray has a lot of room to grow and a fantastic staff to do it under.
Simmons simmers down: After sitting Tuesday following a dominant showing in his first NBA action Monday night, Ben Simmons returned to the court Thursday and was unable to find the same easy success against Utah. He seemed to be hunting highlights early, particularly with the pass (an issue that a few scouts noted in his pre-draft assessment). Simmons didn’t make his first field goal until midway through the third quarter and finished with just six points on 2-for-8 shooting, struggling with timing and bits of contact in the lane.
A big part of slowing down the top overall pick was Utah’s Trey Lyles. Doing double duty as Utah’s offensive captain while checking Simmons every time they shared the floor, Lyles was stronger and more effective against the Aussie than third overall pick Jaylen Brown on Monday night. Lyles’ performance suffered on the other end – he forced the issue amid potential fatigue to finish just 4-for-17 on the night – but he did the strongest work on Simmons we’ve seen in major competition to this point. Lyles finished the Utah portion of the tournament as the wide leader in minutes and rebounds, and while the Jazz badly over-extended his offensive role as the team’s de facto alpha, he made real strides in several areas of his game.
There are no real concerns for Simmons after just two games in a 76ers uniform, but those charged with his development will want to keep a careful eye on games like this one, particularly the beginning when Simmons seemed almost comically obsessed with passing up shots to find fancy passes, and was a bit lax defensively. Whispers of an aloof nature were some of his only major scout-identified warts beyond jump-shooting, and keeping him grounded will be important. We’re speaking relatively with a player this talented, of course, but Simmons is graded on a different curve than most. It’s likely these aren’t major issues in the near future, but they’re worth keeping a small eye on regardless.
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