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Udoka Azubuike's size has dominated Summer League. Can it translate to the regular season?

Utah Jazz' Udoka Azubuike hammers down a dunk after receiving a pass from white teammate Devonte Green as they play in summer league action at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Utah Jazz' Udoka Azubuike hammers down a dunk after receiving a pass from white teammate Devonte Green as they play in summer league action at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — Udoka Azubuike is relatable in at least one area.

"On my off days, I really don't do nothing," the second-year Jazz center said. "I'm just in my room and just watching the TV. I'm kind of new here to Utah, so I don't really know anybody."

He spends his free time watching TV and struggles to meet people outside of work? There's probably more than a few people out there nodding along right about now.

So Azubuike is just like everyone else. He just has a 7-foot, 280-pound frame with a massive vertical that, well, makes him very little like anybody else — both in and out of the NBA.

"He's a freak of nature really," Jazz point guard Trent Forrest said. "To be that tall and be able to jump as high as he does, I feel like he has a lot to his game that a lot of people haven't been able to see yet."

Over the first two days of Summer League, he's starting to showcase more and more of that game that tempted the Jazz to take him with the 27th pick in the 2020 draft. On Wednesday, he went 9 of 9 from the field for 19 points and added 11 rebounds to lead Utah Jazz White to a 94-75 win over the Summer Grizzlies.

All but one of those nine shot attempts were taken, unsurprisingly, right at the rim. With his big frame, long arms and almost unfair leaping ability, it's just about impossible to stop Azubuike if he catches a lob.

Just ask Memphis guard Shaq Buchanan.

Buchanan was unlucky enough to have found himself between Azuibuke and the hoop when the big center from Kansas caught a lob early on in Wednesday's game. The sequence ended with Buchanan on his back after being absolutely trucked by Azubuike. The silver lining for the Memphis guard: at least Azubuike didn't score, but Buchanan was called for a foul.

"He's a vertical space," Jazz White coach Bryan Bailey said. "Guards get in the paint and just throw the ball up, and he's the only one that can get it."

Forrest has been a big benefactor of that. He has been able to slip into the paint with relative ease in the first two games; once he gets there, he just flips it up to his old friend and lets him do the rest. Forrest finished with 13 assists on Wednesday, including a few to the rim-running Azubuike.

"We kind of go way back. I've known Dok since eighth grade so we play camps together, play AAU together, so our chemistry is kind of always been there," Forrest said. "I mean, we're really close and always been close so I feel like a lot of it just kind of falls on how we know each other off the court. So, once we get on the court, we know how to play with each other."

The same thing that allows Azubuike to hammer lobs over just about anybody gives him quite an advantage on the defensive end, too. Memphis was completely reluctant to attempt shots at the rim with him in the game, and Azubuike has been phenomenal at contesting shots at the top of the paint. His reaction time and instincts have allowed him to spring from being in drop defense to skying high to get blocks. Again, his physical traits are ridiculous.

"Dok is super athletic," Bailey said. "He's got long arms, legs and he gets off the floor super quick when you think he can't contest the shot."

He's been good at running the floor (when he's not dead tired; his conditioning has to improve), he's been good at setting screens, rolling to the rim and cleaning up rebounds. The question left: Will any of this translate against real NBA talent? Will defenses be able to draw fouls against him or will they be able to stop his rolls to the rim? Or will Dok ultimately prove to be big enough to be an NBA player?

"I hope that does translate to the real games when the regular season games," he said. "I feel like I still got a long way to go."

But he's been good, and has looked like the player that owned the paint at Kansas.

"If you watch a clip of me in college, I just dominate," Azubuike said. "So that's what I bring to the table. For me, when I'm out there, my mindset is to dominate."

So far this summer, it hasn't just been in his mind.

"He's a guy that wants to work. He wants to get better," Bailey said. "He's always asking questions. 'Coach, can I do this better? How can I improve on this?' He's in the gym trying to get better and working every day."

And when he's not, well, he's pretty quiet — and content to spend a day watching some TV.

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