5 Things For Jazz Fans To Watch At Vegas Summer League

Jul 8, 2022, 2:05 PM
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler blocks a shot at Auburn (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
(Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz wrapped up the Salt Lake City Summer League Thursday night, and as usual, it served as the appetizer for the annual 10-day, 30-team Las Vegas Summer League super event.

While the summer league in Salt Lake gives fans a taste of offseason basketball, Las Vegas offers a bigger and busier product.

With that in mind, here are five things Jazz fans need to watch as the team travels to Las Vegas.

Jared Butler’s Growth

After a mediocre performance in game one of the Salt Lake City Summer League, Jared Butler proved to be the best player on the floor in the Jazz’s game three loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.

Butler didn’t shoot the ball terrifically well, but he scored 22 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out seven assists in just under 29 minutes of play.

Second-year players should dominate the lesser competition of the summer league, and Butler did just in his second appearance for the Jazz. Seeing more of the same in Las Vegas would be a welcome sign for his NBA future.

Bolmaro And Kessler Watch

Outside of Butler, the Jazz summer league roster lacked young talent that fans should expect to see during the regular season, but that all changed once the team dealt Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves last Friday.

In addition to the slew of future first-round picks the Jazz are getting for Gobert, they also added rookie center Walker Kessler and second-year forward Leandro Bolmaro.

Coming out of Auburn, Kessler was the 22nd in June’s NBA Draft, while Bolmaro was the 23rd pick in 2020, but spent one additional season in Europe before making the jump to the NBA last year.

Kessler, a shot-blocking center, and Bolmaro, a playmaking forward, both find themselves in areas of need in the thin frontcourt of the Jazz and could see significant time during the regular season depending on their development.

I was told there’s a higher likelihood that Bolmaro makes his Jazz debut in Las Vegas than Kessler, but seeing both players suit up isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

Jazz Vegas Summer League Opponents

The Jazz will play five games in the Vegas Summer League, with the first four already scheduled, and the final opponent yet to be determined.

Even among the four teams they are guaranteed to play, there is plenty of talent for Jazz fans to scout on opposing teams. Here are the names to watch for:

Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin

The Jazz will face the Hawks on Saturday at 5:30 pm MT and will see the debut of rookie AJ Griffin.

The Hawks selected Griffin, once thought to be a lock top-10 pick, with the 16th pick in the first round of June’s NBA Draft and will look for him to replace the shooting lost when they traded Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings earlier this summer.

Dallas Mavericks: Jaden Hardy

Jaden Hardy was a top-five recruit coming out of high school in 2021 but opted to sign with the G League Ignite rather than attending college.

Unfortunately for the rookie, he slid far down NBA Draft boards during his one season in the G League and was selected by the Dallas Mavericks early in the second round in June. Hardy will be looking to prove he belongs in the NBA in Las Vegas.

Toronto Raptors: Alex Barcello

There are more highly-touted prospects on the Toronto Raptors who NBA fans will want to familiarize themselves with (see Christian Koloko) but former BYU guard will undoubtedly be the name to watch for fans in the state of Utah.

Barcello initially committed to Arizona but transferred away from the school and found success at BYU where he averaged 14.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.1 rebounds to finish his career.

He’s a long shot to make the team, but he’s a deadeye shooter, and that could earn him a spot on the Raptors roster.

Los Angles Clippers: Moussa Diabate

Like the aforementioned Hardy, Moussa Diabate was a highly sought-after prospect coming out of high school but didn’t have the freshman season he was expecting at Michigan, averaging just 9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 32 appearances.

Still, he surprised some experts by keeping his name in the draft where he was selected by Los Angeles Clippers with the 43rd pick and will look to prove his game is better suited for the NBA than college.

Debut Of Johnny Juzang

Before acquiring Kessler and Bolmaro, Johnny Juzang was one of the top names to watch for the Jazz this offseason.

Unfortunately, the UCLA product suffered a concussion when he was involved in a car accident in Salt Lake City before the summer league began and didn’t suit up in Utah as a result.

Juzang signed a two-way contract with the Jazz after going unpicked on draft night and will look to make his NBA debut if he can clear concussion protocols while in Vegas.

Rounding Out The Real Roster

While most eyes will be on the court, don’t forget that the Vegas Summer League is one of the few places where NBA front offices from across the league gather for 10-days to conduct business.

The Jazz currently have 13 players under contract, but with seven players in the backcourt, and a lack of playable frontcourt depth, Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik have a ton of work to do to fill out their roster.

Ainge has every reason to be patient when finishing the roster as after trading Gobert, there’s not an expectation to win 50-plus games next season. But, if he’s proved one thing this summer, he’s more than willing to deal.

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5 Things For Jazz Fans To Watch At Vegas Summer League