The Utah Jazz didn’t have a first-round selection in last month’s NBA Draft, leaving them with a Summer League roster made mostly of second-round picks, G-League veterans and undrafted free agents.
Those second-round picks — Miye Oni, Justin Wright-Foreman and Jarrell Brantley — are embracing their new surroundings, as well as their shared underdog roles as low draft picks and former mid-major college stars.
“Those are my guys,” Oni said during the Salt Lake City Summer League. “It’s good to see each of us kind of breaking out of our shell a little bit. I think the three of us have become really good friends and we’re all feeding off each other’s energy.”
Brantley, who played at the College of Charleston, was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 50th overall pick in this year’s draft before being traded to the Jazz for a future second-round pick and cash. The Jazz selected Wright-Foreman, from Hofstra, with the 53rd overall pick, and Oni, from Yale, was picked 58th overall by the Golden State Warriors before being traded to Utah for cash.
The three rookies had a tough time adjusting to the professional level at the beginning of summer-league play, but they each improved by leaps and bounds as the games went along.
“My teammates and my coaches have really helped me,” Wright-Foreman said. “Definitely, nerves … (July 1) was my first game, so I had to get adjusted to the NBA speed and NBA length.”
Each player had an opportunity to shine earlier this month at the Salt Lake City Summer League at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Brantley had 16 points and six rebounds in a win over San Antonio on July 3, the same game in which Oni had 17 points, six rebounds and shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Wright-Foreman had 20 points and four assists in a victory over Cleveland on July 2.
Brantley also had 11 points and four rebounds in a July 1 loss to Memphis.
“We’re rooting for each other,” Brantley said. “We’re all mid-major guys and we’ve all had our names out there a little in a sense, in different ways, throughout the course of our careers, but now all of that is over. Now we get a chance to sit back and root for one another and play with each other. I think it’s a great story all in one, but I’m sure great things will happen for all three of us.”
Jazz summer league coach Lamar Skeeter has been impressed with the bond the three young prospects have built in such a short period of time.
“Rookies that come in at the same time, they kind of form this bond a lot of times,” Skeeter said. “They all get along, they all like each other and they’re all competitive, so it helps each one of them. They feed off of each other, whether it’s on offense, on defense, in practice, competitive shooting games — they feed off each other’s energy, and it’s contagious.”
Jazz 97, Trail Blazers 93
Tony Bradley had 17 points and seven rebounds, Tanner McGrew went 5-for-8 from 3-point range and scored 17 points and Josh Sharma had 13 points in 11 minutes off the bench as the Jazz beat Portland in an NBA Summer League game Tuesday at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
Stanton Kidd had 11 points and George King added 10 for Utah, while Isaiah Cousins had nine points, eight assists and five rebounds.
Portland’s Anfernee Simons scored a game-high 35 points, including a 6-of-7 mark from beyond the 3-point arc. Gary Trent Jr. had 12 points and Gian Clavell added 11.
The Jazz face the Houston Rockets on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.