SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this week, Donovan Mitchell expressed some surprise about Utah Jazz rookie Miye Oni.
Mitchell: "I didn't know Miye was that athletic.”
Everyone at Vivint Arena on Saturday: “Us either.”
A few such examples were at play Saturday night:
- Exhibit A: Oni taking the ball in transition, sprinting past a defender and then jumping around another for a layup
- Exhibit B: Oni soaring in the air for an alley-oop dunk.
- Exhibit C: Oni switching onto the smaller — and presumably quicker — Jerome Randle and handling him on the perimeter.
With the Jazz resting Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert Saturday in Utah's preseason-opening win over Adelaide, it gave some of the younger guys a chance to play. And, according to coach Quin Snyder, they didn’t disappoint.
“I think Miye, William (Howard), Stanton (Kidd), Juwan (Morgan), Jarrell (Brantley) and Tony (Bradley) tonight as well, all of those guys I think have made the most of their opportunities in practice,” Snyder said. “They play a lot of defense in practice. That is the way to get on the floor.”
Oni’s stat line didn’t jump off the page (he had 9 points, five rebounds and three assists). But that’s the thing with the rookie, his game shines in a lot of subtle ways. He prides himself on making the right reads, being in the right place and making the right pass — not on jumping out of the gym. So when he does do just that, it can be a little shocking.
“A lot of my style of play, usually when I’m not jumping, it’s really cerebral and grounded, so you wouldn’t think that I could jump,” Oni said. “Maybe that’s it.”
Oni described the last week as a “whirlwind” with two-a-day practices and trying to pick up on all the intricacies of Snyder’s defensive system.
“Honestly, it was a lot. It was a lot,” Oni said of his first week. “It was a lot thrown at you really quickly. But he (Snyder) trusted us to pick it up and a lot us young guys did pretty quickly. There’s still going to be some miscommunication, some mishaps here and there but it’s early. It's preseason that’s what it’s for.”
🔼🔼🔼 MIYE 🔼🔼🔼 pic.twitter.com/wcnS8LSLpg— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) October 6, 2019
Based on when Oni got time on Saturday, it seems he has impressed during his first training camp. Oni was part of the initial nine-man rotation on Saturday, getting into the game with 3:19 left in the first quarter. He ended up playing 18 minutes.
With Mitchell, Emmanuel Mudiay and Dante Exum all sitting out, there were some minutes to be had out on the wing, so it's not likely Oni will be asked to be a regular contributor once the season starts. But it was still a good sign for the second rounder out of Yale.
Oni said that in training camp he runs with numerous different groups, so he doesn’t have much of an idea of where he stands when it comes to the regular rotation. He’s not worried about that now, though.
“I just want to get better at everything — mainly defensively,” Oni said. “Coaches harp on me to be in the right position and everything so I'm trying to get that down first and let the rest of the game come to me.”
In his first NBA action, the game came to him.
“That takes some work to be able to guard quick guards, but it is a point of emphasis for him,” Snyder said of Oni. “If we can keep it simple, in that sense, defend and space and make the right read, which he did tonight, it is good.”