With a roster in flux and holes to fill, the Utah Jazz’s summer league activities may reach a higher level of importance than in most years.
With the 2019 NBA Draft officially on the books, free agency and summer league play are suddenly fast approaching. The former begins on June 30 at 4 PM MT; where the Utah Jazz are concerned, chances are we won’t be seeing any Day 1 fireworks with the team having already made the big move to bring in Mike Conley.
Summer league, on the other hand, could take on a whole new meaning for the Jazz band.
For the most part, summer play has essentially been little more than a chance for the team to get its handful of young guys in the gym for a couple of weeks mid-summer. Whatever went down largely had little bearing on the team’s main roster.
In the wake of the Conley deal, however, the Jazz currently find themselves with several open roster spots and not a lot of money to fill them.
Things get particularly interesting if the Jazz have designs on getting to the 15-man maximum ahead of opening night. Not counting Derrick Favors (non-guaranteed), but assuming low-cost vets Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang and Raul Neto all return, they only have nine players ready to roll for next season.
Sure, they’ll be aggressive on the open market beforehand. And there are even some pie in the sky scenarios where they delay closing out on the Conley deal or engage in some sign-and-trade shenanigans with someone on the market and ship out Favors post-guarantee date, so they can make a free agency splash within the rules of the CBA.
Barring exploitation of the soft cap, though, there’s a real possibility that multiple players donning Jazz jerseys this summer will be actually be duking it out with a real shot at playing in the Association on the line.
First and foremost, Jazz draftees Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman and Miye Oni will have the opportunity to join Utah’s long list of historical, second-round steals. After all, Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik didn’t pull off multiple trades to come away with three prospects at the tail end of the draft for kicks.
Jazz brass was looking for players — and all three of these guys have length and scoring ability that impressed at the collegiate level, even if they were balling out against lesser competition.
They’re not the only ones looking to make names for themselves, either.
Former first-round pick Tony Bradley should be part of the action, and we may just be approaching do or die time for his NBA career after he was unable to land a spot over his first two years in the league.
Meanwhile, Willie Reed could make a legitimate play to become Rudy Gobert‘s back-up. According to HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy, the former Salt Lake City Stars standout and No. 1 pick in the G-League draft will play.
On draft night, multiple other players were linked to the Jazz’s summer league outfit right out of the gate. Namely, Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (as reported by The Athletic’s Michael Scotto), Stanford big man Josh Sharma (Jeremy Woo/SI) and San Francisco point-man Frankie Ferarri (Jordan Schultz/ESPN).
The names will continue to come over the next handful of days, but regardless of who else joins the fold, summer league could be must-see TV thanks to the roster situation, even without a 2019 first-round pick on the Jazz squad.
At the least, the current landscape has added some intrigue to what is typically something of a ho-hum affair. Instead of the usual cavalcade of EuroLeague guys taking on future contractors, CPAs, Taco Bell shift managers, etc., we could have a situation featuring multiple roster spots on a possible title contender at stake.
The Salt Lake City Summer League tips off on July 1 and runs through July 3. The Jazz will resume summer play at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, which runs from July 6-15.