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SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 72-63 summer league loss to the Portland Trail Blazers from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Mitchell as primary ball handler
Without Dante Exum on the Jazz's Vegas Summer League roster, new Jazz draftee Donovan Mitchell found the ball in his hands a whole lot more in Saturday's summer league contest. With that came some good and some bad.
We first have to talk about Mitchell's shooting. He shot just 8-26 from the field in 32 minutes of play. That's obviously not very efficient, though believe it or not, that's about the same rate as the rest of his Jazz teammates made shots. Mitchell shot 30.8 percent, the team as a whole shot 31.6 percent.
"A lot of times, I'd go and try to win the game, when other guys were wide open and I didn't hit them," Mitchell said. "I'm going to try to be more of a point guard."
At the beginning of the game, I felt Mitchell was taking good looks but missing them. That happens, that's just variance. But as the Jazz lost their way in the second half, I thought Mitchell forced up worse looks, both in traffic and with some bad jumpers early in the shot clock.
That being said, Mitchell's forced shots may have been because he was frustrated about his teammates missing excellent opportunities he set up for them. Mitchell only ended up with two assists, but should have had several more.
An example: Mitchell delivers this pass with one hand while driving perfectly, but the spot-up shot was missed.
I love a good drive-&-kick to a wide-open shooter. Mitchell should've had a dime pic.twitter.com/pT1UKPwHQ2 — Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) July 8, 2017
Mitchell also picked up four steals, adding to his excellent average. He has an outside chance to average more steals than anyone in summer league history. He does gamble wrongly at times, which coaches won't like, but those steals (and associated two points on the other end) are so ridiculously valuable that it's actually okay to gamble in a major way if you get them on a regular basis, which Mitchell does.
In the end, Mitchell still had more promising moments than any player on the court for either team. Things like this drive (although there might be a little bit of an elbow used at the end) or this stepback three are so impressive that it still puts on display just how much more talented Mitchell is than his counterparts.
Mitchell fell on his elbow late in the game, and while he shook off the injury, it wouldn't be shocking to see him sit out tomorrow's contest against the L.A. Clippers.
2. Joel Bolomboy not dominating
I'll be honest: I expected more from Joel Bolomboy in his second summer league. After a couple of promising performances in the NBA last season, and averaging 16 points and 13 rebounds per game in the D-League, I expected Bolomboy to shine with some time to show off how he's developed.
Well, if anything, his summer league performance so far has been less impressive than last year's. That includes a six point, eight rebound performance Saturday, which included 1-7 shooting and four turnovers.
Let's start with his outside shot, which had been working for him with the Stars. He shot 45 percent last year from deep, making about one a game. That's great! But so far, he hasn't made them in summer competition, going just 1-9 overall. Bolomboy shoots on the way down, which is a very goofy way to do it, but he has been consistent about it. When it does go in, that's okay, but in slumps, that hitch doesn't look good.
Bolomboy's best skill at any level is his ability to offensive rebound, and he did that Saturday, picking up five. But beyond that, he needs to develop other parts of his feel for the game. Screening and rolling with good footwork is a big key. He screens very inconsistently, and sometimes rolls too close to the ball-handler. Ideally, he'd open up a bit.
His contract is guaranteed for next season, so he has some time to develop and figure it out. Because of his rebounding skillset, he probably actually makes the most sense in the modern NBA as a center, believe it or not. Right now, that spot for playing time behind Gobert is open between Bolomboy and Tony Bradley, so he has an opportunity. Bolomboy can own it with hard work this summer.
3. Zach Guthrie's first head coaching experience
Jazz assistant coach Zach Guthrie hadn't ever been a head coach at the professional level before, so he was a little bit surprised when he was told he'd be the head coach of the Jazz's entry into the Vegas Summer League.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity that Coach Snyder and Dennis and all of those guys have given me," Guthrie said. "Obviously, a little bit nervous at first, but it went away like that. Coaching is coaching. I'm loving it and hoping to grow."
That doesn't mean there aren't more responsibilities. "I slide over one more seat and I have a lot more decisions. I've never had more text messages in my life," Guthrie said.
The 29-year-old Guthrie pointed out that just he's stepping up into a new role in summer league, just like his players are on the court. That shared relationship makes it easier to connect with the players during timeout huddles, as they're all here in Vegas for the same reason: development through experience.
That doesn't mean it's all easy. After all, Guthrie picked up the Jazz's first loss of summer league after fellow assistant Alex Jensen went undefeated.
"As soon as Alex finished 3-0, it was unbelievable. It was all downhill from there," Guthrie said. "I expect him to give me some good-natured ribbing."