Keyonte George and Taylor Hendricks shine in Utah Jazz’s Summer League victory

Keyonte George and Taylor Hendricks shine in Utah Jazz’s Summer League victory

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 93-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Summer League from Jazz sportswriter Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune.

1. Great signs for those who matter most

This was a significantly better performance from two second-year Jazz players: Keyonte George and Taylor Hendricks.

George simply had much better control of the offense than he did on Monday. While his decisions weren’t perfect, he did a much better job of avoiding the low-scoring layups that cost him his shooting percentage in the first game and seemed to make others easier.

And at this level in particular, the combination of shooting and free throw is just too good. His control of his footwork to put the defense in difficult situations that he can exploit is already pretty elite – there were many moments on Wednesday where he cleverly used a dribbling sequence to keep a defender off balance and gain an advantage.

I think there’s a chance the Jazz will lock him up for the Vegas Summer League…but I hope they don’t because I think he can still work on the turnovers and defensive aspects of his game.

Meanwhile, Taylor Hendricks had a much more consistent impact in Game 2 after a fairly unremarkable Game 1. Offensively, the 3-point shot worked, which is always good to see. Everything else on offense is somewhere between “work in progress” and “probably permanently nonexistent.” For example, there were a couple of times where Hendricks tried to drive and had limited success unless he was fouled.

That’s OK: We know Hendricks is going to be a big player on offense in the NBA, and it’s just a matter of making the right decisions and capitalizing on those opportunities. That’s what he did tonight.

Defensively, Hendricks had many excellent possessions – and then a few where he left a lot to be desired. The three blocks were bright spots, and he generally did a good job of keeping attackers in front of him whenever he transitioned, which was often. The downside was some screen navigation issues and then the all-too-familiar sight of Hendricks shutting off his motor, especially in transition.

Hendricks’ improvement has to be mostly mental. He’s still a shy 20-year-old and plays like one on the court at times. If he uses his amazing skills around the basket and on defense more often, he’ll be a far better player.

These two players had the highest expectations coming into Summer League and will likely play the most important roles for the Jazz next season, so it’s great to see them playing well.

2. Kyle Filipowski’s limited contributions

After the draft, I think there was some reasonable hope that Kyle Filipowski could be ready to play in the NBA right away. After all, he has a year more college basketball experience than most other rookies and played at the highest level at Duke. He also has a very mature game: he makes a lot of good shots, sets up his teammates well, and generally knows his defensive skills well to stay up front.

Actually, all of this could still be seen in the summer league.

What wasn’t there were good results. The shots just weren’t hitting, the defense wasn’t able to stop the faster and longer NBA players, and Filipowski’s knowledge of the offense and his teammates’ execution wasn’t enough to give the big man a supporting role. Tonight he scored just two points on 1 of 6 shooting and had three turnovers.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Kyle Filipowski (22) shoots a three-point basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the game at the Delta Center during the Salt Lake City Summer League in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Of course, it’s only been three games – plenty of time to at least change the shot variance. I have a feeling the other stuff won’t be quite at NBA level by the time the regular season starts, and it might be best for Filipowski to get used to the speed of the G-League game.

The other interesting question is whether he’s a four or a five NBA player. The truth is ideally “both,” just like Kelly Olynyk can play both. But he’ll have to shoot better to be a four player and defend better to be a five player long-term.

For his part, Filipowski expressed optimism after struggling in the last three games. He believes his shot is fine, he just misses and he is confident he can play anywhere. Confidence is good and we will see if the performance can match up.

3. The All-Salt Lake City Summer League Team

Nobody is forcing me to put this team together every year, and the fact that I do it anyway probably indicates that there is something wrong with me. But I don’t know, I think it makes sense to summarize what we’ve seen over the last three days, and identifying some standout players is a good way to do that.

So here is my All-Salt Lake City Summer League Team for 2024:

• Keyonte George, Jazz

• Scottie Pippen Jr., Grizzlies

• Jeff Dowtin, 76ers

• Dillon Jones, Thunder

• Ricky Council IV, 76ers

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George (3) dribbles around the defense of Philadelphia 76ers guard Judah Mintz (52) during play at the Delta Center during the Salt Lake City Summer League in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

George was an easy choice; he was the league’s leading scorer and made up for the inefficiency in Game 1 with a great performance on Wednesday. Scottie Pippen, Jr. was a threat on defense but also showed some scoring and playmaking skills. Jeff Dowtin and Ricky Council consistently scored well and minimized turnovers and missed shots.

I want to dedicate a paragraph to Weber State’s Dillon Jones, who looks like a really good connecting player for the Thunder. He was the best rebounder of any player except Kessler and Edey, dished out six assists per game, and played effective defense. He didn’t score well on Wednesday, but he did in the first two games.

Among those who didn’t make the cut: Walker Kessler wasn’t good enough offensively and Zach Edey played just one game. The other big men were, frankly, disappointing. Ousmane Dieng, Brice Sensabaugh and GG Jackson scored points but took a lot of shots and caused a lot of turnovers.

Yes, overall the entry list is probably not that strong this year. Off to Vegas.

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