The Utah Jazz are about to head down to Las Vegas for 2014 NBA Summer League action. The Jazz released its summer league roster on Monday, July 7 in advance of the five-day tournament and as expected, it’s filled with people you already know.
The roster is front loaded with players the Jazz just drafted, like No. 5 pick Dante Exum of Australia and No. 23 pick Rodney Hood of Duke. They will be joined by 2nd year guard Trey Burke, whose exploits in his rookie year were good enough to earn him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team.
Together Exum and Burke might be the most anticipated combo that Jazz fans have ever witnessed at a summer league event. Usually summer leagues are reserved for up-and-coming players and for free agents or European-based players trying to make the team.
But this year, because of the Jazz unusual poor regular season record and high draft standing, fans will get an opportunity to witness the best of what the team has to offer months before the season even begins. Exum comes into this summer league knowing that along with Burke, he is the Jazz’ go-to guy in the backcourt.
Whether Exum likes it or not--or Jazz brass like it or not--as of right now Exum is the one player that Jazz fans are banking their season on. While Burke will also shoulder some of that role, it is Exum who will be expected to give the Jazz that second point guard when things aren’t going well for Burke.
The two players may also share time in the backcourt--giving credence to the rumors that new head coach Quin Snyder may employ a dual-point guard system in Utah.
As for Hood, his playing time during the season will largely depend on what happens with forward Gordon Hayward. But in Las Vegas, Hood will be counted on to fill Hayward’s role at the three spot--making him as a visible as either Burke or Exum as far as Jazz fans are concerned.
While the three-headed combo of Burke, Exum and Hood will be the ones getting most of the points and publicity in Sin City later this week, there will be others to keep your eye on.
Ian Clark is likely playing for a way back on the team--and needs a good summer league to prove that he is worth keeping in Utah. Erik Murphy is another returning player who along with Clark needs to show well in Vegas for the new coach Snyder to warrant a contract.
Center Rudy Gobert had a much better first season in the NBA than did Clark--but the 7-foot-2-inch Frenchman will be expected to carry a big load inside for the new-look Jazz.
One other player to keep an eye on is 6-foot-7 combo guard Niels Giffey, a lethal 6-foot-7-inch sharpshooter out of UConn via Germany who was mentioned in many pre-draft mocks as a sure-fire mid-second round pick and ended up going undrafted in Brooklyn a few weeks ago.
Giffey was also picked up by the Memphis Grizzlies for its summer league entry in Orlando. But, the German hasn’t played a single minute yet for the Magic--which is probably good news for Jazz fans. Not having Giffey play in Orlando due to injury means the Jazz should get a fresh, hungry rookie ready to make a lasting impression in Las Vegas--provided he is back from said injury.
Another player to watch out for is former New York Knicks guard Mardy Collins--who as a combo will also have an opportunity in Vegas to make this new-fangled Jazz opening day roster. Collins played last season for the Greek club Olympiakos. There are also two locals with a shot at making some noise in ex-Utah center Jason Washburn and former Weber State guard Nick Covington.
Several rookies will also play for the Jazz entry, including Nevada guard Jerry Evans and Washington State forward Brock Motum, Bradley guard Chris Roberts and UC Santa Barbara center Greg Somogyi, and Temple guard Khalif Wyatt.