There were not too many highlights in the Utah Jazz’s first round loss to the Houston Rockets. But one bright spot was certainly the play of swing-man Royce O’Neale.
The gritty, ever hustling O’Neale was arguably the most consistent Jazzman in those five games. Besides giving reigning MVP James Harden all he could handle defensively, he chipped in a stout stat line of 10.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.6 APG. It was a great growing experience for the young player, and seems to set the table for him to perhaps take an even more prominent role for Utah this upcoming season.
O’Neale is one of the reasons the Jazz are once again holding their annual free agent mini camp this week. Just a few summers ago, the Baylor alum participated in such a camp and now could be a prominent part of the Jazz’s now and future. Few teams are as exhaustive in their efforts to leave no stone unturned. For Jazz vice president Dennis Lindsey, general manager Justin Zanik and company, it seems like their quest is to continually find the hidden gems players (O’Neale, Joe Ingles, perhaps Georges Niang). When Lindsey arrived in town, he started this now annual mini camp tradition. Several past attendees have gone on to make impacts in the NBA — Jonathon Simmons, Danuel House and Alex Caruso, among others.
The Jazz announced 30 NBA hopefuls who will be in Salt Lake City for two days.
Jazz to Host Mini-Camp at Zions Bank Basketball Campus pic.twitter.com/nqNilIbVXp
— Utah Jazz PR (@UtahJazzPR) June 4, 2019
While many of the players are those less known to the common basketball fan, there are some familiar names. There are several former first round picks, as well as many who have NBA experience. There are even a handful that have had previous experience with the Jazz or the Salt Lake City Stars. Here are a few notes about some of the notable attendees:
Lucas Nogueira, center, 7-0, 241 lb, 26 years old, 4 years of NBA experience
“Bebe” might be the most intriguing name at this year’s camp. As the 2013 first-round pick, the Brazilian big man never lived up to expectations. In his four seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Nogueira only appeared in 141 games, posting modest 3.2 PPG and 2.8 RPG averages. When injuries opened up some playing time in the 2016-17 campaign, he did show signs of life — 4.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 1.6 BPG in 19.1 MPG. After no one picked him up after his rookie pact with Toronto expired, he signed on in Spain. He is limited offensively, but showed some good defensive instincts (3.0 blks, 1.8 stls/36 for his career). He is long and athletic and could easily find himself back in the NBA. His struggles with depression have helped shine light on a very important topic.
Thomas Robinson, forward, 6-10, 237 lb, 28 years old, 5 years of NBA experience
Robinson is the most experience, most touted player in the camp. The 5th pick in 2012, he has fallen well short of what many anticipated from him. Robinson has played for six different NBA franchises over five seasons and has spent the last two years in Russia and China. It’s a path not too many #5 picks have traveled. He has proven to be an adequate fourth or fifth big, can rebound (12.9 per 36) and brings physicality (having once been suspended for elbowing former Jazzman Jonas Jerebko). But his offense is below average, his shooting range limited and his initial upside has definitely dissipated.
Justin Patton, center, 7-0, 241 lb, 21 years old, 2 years of NBA experience
Leading into the 2017 Draft, few players were as talented as Patton. He showed quickness and athleticism at Creighton, good enough to be plucked with the 16th pick. But broken feet — yes, plural — have derailed his professional career thus far. He has only played in four games in two seasons. Ironically enough, his NBA debut was against the Jazz. He was part of the Jimmy Butler trade and spent last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. They waived him in April. It make or break time for Patton. He has an NBA ability and will hopefully have another chance to display that.
Cameron Payne, guard, 6-3, 190 lb, 24 years old, 4 years of NBA experience
When the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Payne out of Murray State, they were hoping he could serve as Russell Westbrook’s back-up. He was serviceable, but ultimately replaceable. Midway into his sophomore season, he was shipped to the Chicago Bulls, where he spent parts of the past three seasons. Payne, too, has had foot pain (pun intended) that has limited his effectiveness. He has had his moments, such as the 2017-18 season where he contributed 8.8 PPG and 4.5 APG for the Bulls. He can create for teammates, but his subpar shooting (39.7 FG% and 33.1 3% for his career) has been a deterrent. He last played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in January, tallying 8.2 PPG and 2.6 APG in 9 games.
Willie Reed, center, 6-10, 220 lb, 29 years old, 3 years of NBA experience
Reed is a familiar face, having been a standout (20.0 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 66 FG%, 1.7 BPG) for the Salt Lake City Stars this past season. After going undrafted in 2011, he took the long road to the NBA. He spent time in the Spain, toiled in the D-League and did not make his NBA debut until 2015 (He actually was on the regular season rosters with the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings, but never appeared in a game). He has since played for the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons, showing he can be a decent back-up big.
Kobi Simmons, guard, 6-5, 166 lb, 21 years old, 2 years of NBA experience
The former Arizona guard made history by agreeing to the NBA’s first two-way contract in 2017 with Memphis. He acquitted himself fairly well, putting up 6.1 PPG and 2.1 APG in 20.1 MPG over 32 games (12 starts). He spent a 10-day contract with Cleveland last season, but spent most of his time in the G-League. Simmons can finish inside, but is a poor perimeter marksman.
Myke Henry, guard/forward, 6-6, 238 lb, 26 years old, 1 year of NBA experience
In 2017-18, Henry was a two-way player for Memphis, appearing in 20 games for the Grizzlies (5.3 PPG, 1.5 SPG)
London Perrantes, guard, 6-2, 200 lb, 24 years old, 1 year of NBA experience
Perrantes was also a two-way player in 2017-18, playing with LeBron James for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played in 14 games (0.5 PPG, 0.4 APG).
Jairus Lyles, guard, 6-2, 175 lb, 23 years old, rookie
Lyles led the historic the UMBC upset of top-seeded Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, scoring 28 points. He also caught the Jazz’s eye last year, playing in the summer league (6.7 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG) and experiencing training camp and preseason with Utah. He spent the whole season with the Stars, posting 12.9 PPG (40 3%), 4.1 APG and 3,7 RPG. Lyles can distribute the ball and plays with a lot of heart.
Isaac Haas, center, 7-2, 295 lb, 23 years old, rookie
The hulking Haas is a physical specimen. As a 2018 Jazz training camp participant, he gave Rudy Gobert someone his own size to go against. Haas was a four-year player at Purdue and played for the Stars last year, bringing 9.9 PPG and 4.9 RPG to the table. He is a strong player who possesses a soft touch.
Tanner McGrew, forward, 6-8, 250 lb, 26 years old, rookie
McGrew’s story is a fun one, as he parlayed a trombone scholarship at West Virginia Wesleyan College into a walk-on basketball opportunity. He led the NCAA Division II in rebounding with 12.4 boards an outing. He, too, played for the Stars last season (7.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG).
Stanton Kidd, forward, 6-8, 215 lb, 27 years old, rookie
Kidd has had a nomadic basketball career, spending time in three college programs and playing professionally in Belgium, Germany and Turkey. He was impressive on the Jazz summer league squads, showing the ability to run the floor and shoot. He played the regular season in Turkey.
Kelan Martin, forward, 6-7, 220 lb, 23 years old, rookie
Martin was a four-year player at Butler. After going undrafted, he did well for the Jazz’s summer league team last year, averaging 6.8 PPG and 4.2 RPG. He ultimately signed to play in Germany.
It would not be surprising to see some of these players be invited to join Utah’s summer league squads in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas next month. There may even be a few who make it to training camp. Like the high number of pre-Draft workouts the Jazz are running, this is one more example of an investment they are making. They are doing their homework, knowing they keep tabs on hundreds of individuals worldwide. It exposes them further to players they may like, guys who could eventually make a name for himself in the Association.
Guys like Royce O’Neale.
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