Since before the NBA or College basketball season began last fall, Utah Jazz fans had been infatuated with the thought of Jabari Parker suiting up in a Utah Jazz uniform next season. The “tank” efforts didn’t quite land the Jazz in a position to draft Parker, and he landed only an hour from his hometown, and is looking to lead the Milwaukee Bucks into the future.
The Jazz, however, seemed to have found a player that also could lead them into the future. With the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Jazz selected the Australian point guard, Dante Exum. Prior to the draft, Exum was rumored to be in the mix for the number one overall pick. When he fell to the Jazz at five, they couldn’t pass him up. Now four days into the Las Vegas Summer League, the two will go head to head in what should be a solid match up.
The Bucks have played two games so far in Las Vegas, and so far, have fallen short in both of those contests. However though, Parker has looked very good. Parker has posted 14.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game so far, and looks to continue that success on Monday night.
Parker, however, hasn’t been the only one on the Bucks summer league roster that has looked solid. Second year small forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has also put up great numbers in the first two games. At 16.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, he has tried to help shoulder the load along with Parker, which could be a preview of things to come in the upcoming season in Milwaukee.
Another second year player for the Bucks that has played fairly well in the first two games is Nate Wolters. So far, Wolters struggled a bit from the floor in game one, scoring seven points on only 30% shooting from the field. The second game was a much better outing for Wolters, as he finished tied with Antetokounmpo for the game high with 16 points, and shot 50% from the floor, and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
So how will the Jazz match up with the three Bucks players that have played so far, so good?
As far as Wolters goes, the Jazz will counter with a guard lineup that is extremely quick and solid on the defensive end. Trey Burke, who finished the Jazz’s first summer league contest, a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, seemed to be on the same page for the most part with his back court teammate in Exum. To start the game for the Jazz against the 76ers, Burke hit Exum cutting along the baseline for an alley-oop slam that got the crowd going early. Exum also played solid with the ball in his hands, putting the ball in the right places, and also taking the ball to the basket.
Exum could be asked to play a little defense on Parker, however, Exum is a bit undersized to be asked of that. Exum has the length that he can play and defend on the wing, however, it is his weight, 190 pounds, that is what could see him get into a bind on the defensive end.
Utah will also be looking to see a better effort from their other first round draft pick from this past month, Rodney Hood. In the game against Philadelphia, Hood struggled shooting the ball, going just 3-13 from the field, and only 1-10 from beyond the three point line. Not only did Hood struggle offensively, he seemed to be slow on his defensive rotations, and was caught chasing his opponent.
For Hood, this will not only be a game where he is needing to step up and have a better showing, but it is also a bit of a reunion game for him. Hood just wrapped up his college career at Duke, where he was part of a dynamic duo with Parker. At Jazz practice on Sunday, Hood was asked by reporters about his relationship with Parker, as to which he responded that the two talk on a daily basis, and their relationship “goes beyond basketball.” If he is looking to get the better of his former Blue Devil teammate, he will need to have a better showing than he had in game one.
In an effort to avoid starting summer league 0-2, the Jazz will also be looking for another solid performance from Rudy Gobert and Malcolm Thomas. The two players combined to score 24 points, grab 17 rebounds, and block 3 shots. For both players, the combined 9-of-15 shooting from the floor was great to see, however, the combined 6-of-16 from the free throw line is something that the Jazz would like to see improved.
The Jazz struggled in their first game offensively, especially from deep. The Jazz finished a combined 3-of-30 from beyond the three point line, and also turned the ball over 19 times. That being said, the Jazz still had chances to win the ball game, but came up just short. If the Jazz can come out and have a better outing offensively, they could find themselves coming out on top in this match up.
As easy as it is to say that the Jazz could win by playing better offensively, the defensive end of the court could be the key to a victory. Parker and Antetokounmpo are both skilled wing players with size. The Jazz don’t have many options to put on either player to try and stop them, however, with some of the schemes that Quin Snyder can implement, they may have something up their sleeves to try and slow them down.
With both teams looking for their first win on the summer, the game should be a pretty hard fought contest. As for Jazz fans, this is the first time they will get an opportunity to watch Parker play on the same court with a portion of their young core, however, they will be watching him in a different jersey than they were originally hoping.