After a thrilling and exciting ride throughout the NBA 2K24 Summer League in Las Vegas, Utah’s time is up.
Despite a frantic fourth-quarter comeback, the Jazz ran out of steam and fell 115-101 to Houston on Sunday afternoon. With the loss, Utah finished its time in Las Vegas with a 4-1 record, while the undefeated Rockets will face Cleveland in the championship game on Monday night.
Here are three takeaways from Summer League: Salt Lake City and Las Vegas
1.) Keyonte is key
The highlight of the past few weeks was Utah’s first-round pick Keyonte George’s game.
With fellow rookies Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh missing action while recovering from past injuries, it was George’s time to shine, and he made the most of it.
After a somewhat slow start in which he adjusted to the speed and physicality of the NBA game, George averaged 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in three games in Salt Lake City. But then he broke out on the biggest stage, recording a double-double in his first game in Las Vegas en route to averaging 29.5 points and 8.5 assists in two games.
“I’m trying to become that real point guard,” George said. “At the end of the day, I know I can score, but getting my teammates involved… Making it easier for them is making it easier for me. Just getting the ball, playing together and having fun… The game is slowing down for me, and I’m gaining a lot of confidence in my job.
Unfortunately, his time was cut short when he sprained his ankle during the second quarter of Wednesday’s matchup against Denver. He not only missed the rest of the contest, but also sat out Utah’s last two games.
However, George was named a First-Team All-Summer League after his performances.
Regardless of the injury, George has shown that he will compete for minutes for the Jazz this upcoming season. Head coach Will Hardy doesn’t just give rookies minutes for nothing, so George will have to earn it all, but he’s off to a good start.
“He hasn’t surprised me at all,” Jazz summer league coach Evan Bradds said of George. “I’m very pleased with the way he’s taken things… You can see he’s getting more and more comfortable on and off the ball.”
2.) Agbaji takes on a different role
For those just looking at the stats and shooting numbers, one would think that Ochai Agbaji had an uneventful summer league. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
He was tasked with taking on a completely different role, as the leading scorer and leader of the young Jazz team. What he demonstrated was the ability to be a leader and mentor to the boys. He continued to do all the little things that helped the team reach the semifinals while he showed a level of humility to keep his teammates involved instead of looking for his own.
“I want to take on that leadership role,” Agbaji said. “Being that point guard or facilitator, just being aggressive for my game and looking for other guys… Keep everybody in the game.”
“The confidence that I’m bringing from last year and the last 25 games that I’ve played, it’s like taking on a new role,” he added. “Just getting comfortable with it… Just being that leader for these guys, and then bringing that to the real team.”
3.) Never say die
Last year, the Jazz became known around the league as a team that never left. Regardless of the score, they played hard throughout the game and led the NBA in “key minutes.”
As it turns out, Utah’s summer league team was no different.
The Jazz broke out for 39 points in the fourth quarter to earn a win over the Clippers in their first game in Las Vegas. They took advantage of a 13-2 run in the final minutes to get the victory over the Timberwolves. Utah then answered all of the Nuggets’ runs in the fourth with key buckets to remain perfect at 3-0. Two nights later, the Jazz went on an 11-2 run in the final three minutes in their win over the Suns.
It’s further proof that the culture built by Hardy and the Jazz last season is alive and well, and is quickly becoming an identifier for the organization.