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The Triple Team: Allen struggles to score but adds assists, rebounds in summer league debut


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SALT LAKE CITY — Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz's 92-76 summer league win over the San Antonio Spurs from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.

1. Grayson Allen struggles to score at the rim

First, the bad news: Jazz draftee Grayson Allen struggled to score in his first taste of basketball at Vivint Arena. He scored 11 points, but shot 4-16 from the floor in order to do so.

The problem wasn't really the outside shooting: Allen went 2-6 from 3-point range, certainly good enough. And he hit two of his mid-range shots, including a jumper and a floater.

Instead, Allen ran into a line of Spurs defense at the rim that I don't think he was ready for. The Spurs' relatively anonymous centers like Amida Bremah and Drew Eubanks were problems for Allen as he attacked inside. He took that extra step to the rim, allowing the defense to rotate in time, and they took advantage by blocking the shot.

This is a big difference between the college level and the NBA. In college, if you burn your first defender that easily, you're probably going to go all the way to the rim. In the NBA, even the iffy teams have rim protectors that will eat that up.

The defenses are also just much more disciplined. Again, in college, the defense probably bites on this up and down move in transition:

But the Spurs' London Perrantes here wins the possession by staying solid, raising one arm and avoiding the foul.

"The nerves were definitely there," Allen noted. "The nerves, anxiousness, excitement, which leads to speeding up and going to fast on some stuff where you should slow up and make a good read."

We talk about how athletic Allen is, and he absolutely showed that at the combine. But he'll need to raise his level of functional athleticism, and in particular his ability to jump off one leg, in order to have more success at the rim.

The good news is that we said the same thing about Donovan Mitchell last summer, and he picked it up during the offseason to an incredible degree. If Allen gets the same boost, it would help his game a lot.

2. But Allen adds to the game with secondary skills

The really good news is that Allen found a way to impact the game without scoring, something that past Jazz draft failures like Trey Burke and Trey Lyles never really figured out.

In contrast, Allen nearly had a triple-double in only about 20 minutes on the floor on Monday, adding eight rebounds and seven assists. I loved some of his reads in the pick and roll to find open teammates for easy looks.

Here, Allen gets the ball in transition and runs a quick screen-and-roll with Tony Bradley. When Allen comes off the curl, he fakes the pass to Bradley, forcing Lonnie Walker to help. Then, George Niang can rotate to the wing for the open three. Allen makes the right read and the Jazz get the bucket.

So in this test, Allen passed with flying colors. He's going to get the ball in situations like this for the Jazz over and over, and he showed an ability to find the open man based on how the defense was reacting. Allen didn't bring the ball up the floor much, but was the team's best playmaker anyway.

3. Tony Bradley shows off what he's learned

It wasn't the best game I've seen from Tony Bradley, but he filled his role extremely well. Bradley is an old-school big man: his job is to set screens, roll to the rim and finish, and protect the rim.

I thought he did a good job on everything but the finishing on Monday night. On the good side were plays like this, where Bradley caught the ball, kept it high, and finished in traffic:

Sometimes, though, he got his shot blocked by late-arriving defenders. Bradley doesn't yet have that court awareness to know if he's likely to get his shot off cleanly, and so gets surprised pretty frequently. You don't exactly want him to slow down, but just get a better idea of where the defense is coming from. That, presumably, will come in time. Bradley is only 20 years old after all, more than two years younger than Allen.

Bradley's impact was most felt on the defensive end, where he picked up four blocks. He was a legitimate problem in the paint for the Spurs, and bothered even more than the shots he blocked. The Spurs shot just 18-38 in the paint.

Bradley is not athletic, and that shows sometimes. He fell out of bounds after getting awkwardly bumped where another player may have stayed stronger, giving up a 5-on-4 on the other end. But Bradley even looks better at that part of it too: he ran the court to get a layup ahead of the defense late. That's encouraging.

I don't know that Bradley is NBA rotation-ready yet, but he's getting closer. I'm interested to see how he continues to develop through these eight or so summer league games.

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