The Utah Summer League concluded Thursday, with the Boston Celtics topping the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime to go 3-0 on their home floor. Here are the studs and duds for the final day of the tournament.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics:
Smart returned with a vengeance Thursday after sitting out Tuesday night for rest. He was the best player on the floor by a Grand Canyon-sized margin, completely controlling the play on both ends of the floor. His final stat line was an impressive 22 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds along with 3 steals and a block on 9-14 shooting, and it’s possible this line actually understated his overall impact on the game.
What has to be encouraging for Celtics fans isn’t the value Smart is providing, but rather the ways in which he’s doing so. He’s appeared to significantly improve areas he struggled with in his rookie year, most notably his finishing around the basket and his ability to draw fouls. The Celtics have unleashed him as their lead ball-handler this summer and he’s responded about as positively as they could have hoped. He should go into Vegas summer league (if he plays) and even the NBA regular season with a ton of confidence.
Terry Rozier/R.J. Hunter, Boston Celtics:
It’s been an up and down week for Celtics guards on our studs and duds list, but they finished their time in Utah off on a very positive note. Rozier only finished 5-13 on the night, but flashed some of the first aggression and strong play we’ve seen from him since being drafted. He racked up seven dimes and went 2-3 from three-point range, plus sank all four of his free-throw attempts. More importantly, though, he looked much more in tune with the game than he had been in Boston’s first two contests.
Hunter entered Thursday with precisely zero points in his first two games combined, but quickly found his rhythm against San Antonio. He went an impressive 4-4 from deep and 6-6 from the free-throw line on his way to 18 points, and seemed comfortable for the first time all week. His defense was also noticeable on a couple occasions, including some excellent rotations and smart positioning away from the ball.
Chris Johnson, Utah Jazz
This is in part a cumulative mention, as Thursday may have actually been Johnson’s weakest statistical performance despite it still being a good showing. But as a guy who’s right on the fringe of making or not making Utah’s roster for the 15-16 regular season, Johnson has been very impressive during their three games so far this summer.
He’s active defensively, filling passing lanes with deceptive speed – he added three more steals against the 76ers tonight. He’s been able to create off the dribble more effectively with some good slashing, and most importantly has re-worked his shot over the offseason and looks far more confident and accurate from deep range. This was the primary concern with Johnson previously, and if the changes are sustainable long-term, he could be in the process of earning himself an NBA roster spot permanently.
Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs
Anderson has been completely all over the map here in Utah. He was on our duds list Monday after a lackluster performance against the 76ers, then did a 180 and found himself a stud after a dominating showing against the Jazz Tuesday night where he looked completely in control of the floor offensively.
It was back to the cellar for Anderson Thursday night in San Antonio’s loss to Boston. The Celtics clearly did their homework and wouldn’t bite on his array of fakes and jabs, instead daring him to fire away on longer jumpers that he didn’t seem comfortable taking. He finished an ugly 2-12 from the field with six turnovers to boot, looking visibly frustrated at times. He continues to be a really intriguing thought exercise as an NBA player, one it’s very tough to put a finger on at this point.
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers
Okafor begin Utah Summer League in strong fashion Monday, but has posted two generally lackluster performances since given his expectations and the level of competition. On Thursday he was thoroughly outworked by unheralded Utah hustle man Jack Cooley, who seemed to beat him to every loose ball or rebound and swiped a vital steal with seconds left in regulation of a tie game to send things to overtime.
That was Okafor’s fifth turnover of the game, and he’d finish with six. His stat line wasn’t horrible by any means, but for a player with his skill level, particularly against a Jazz team without a single player even close to his strength, he seemed pretty uninspiring. The Jazz were able to force the ball out of his hands frequently, and in many cases he made only a token effort to establish deep post position. Okafor is a supremely talented player, but he has a lot of work to do to become a consistent guy at this level of play.
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