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Key Storylines for Utah Jazz's Summer League Team

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Key Storylines for Utah Jazz's Summer League Team
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Trey Burke should lead the Jazz in the 2013 NBA Summer League.

The biggest storylines surrounding the Utah Jazz as they head into NBA Summer League play are those of individual players like rookies Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert.

They're two of 19 players recently named to Utah's summer roster, and games started Sunday. The Jazz won their opening game against the Miami Heat's summer squad by a final score of 69-59.

It looks like the organization is ready to hand the reins over to the young core that will be on display in Orlando. Over the last week, it learned that Al Jefferson will be signing with the Charlotte Bobcats and Paul Millsap is off to Atlanta to play with the Hawks.

The presumed replacements for Jefferson and Millsap are Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Neither will be at the tournament, as Kanter is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and Favors is training for an upcoming Team USA minicamp. 

That puts the focus squarely on Trey Burke.

 

Trey Burke

The No. 9 draft pick and 2013 NCAA Player of the Year could be the team's day-one starter and will have plenty of chances to show what he can do this week.

He struggled mightily shooting in his debut, going 1-of-12 from the field. But it was abundantly clear he'll be a focal point for the Jazz this summer as he played 32 minutes. And it wasn't all bad—he pulled in seven rebounds, dished five assists and only turned it over twice.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
The Jazz made a splash on draft night when they traded for Burke.

Against fellow rookies and NBA hopefuls, Burke should be able to dominate in much the same way he did at Michigan, where he averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists while hitting 38 percent of his threes. He simply had a bad shooting night against Miami.

Dominance or struggles in summer games don't always predict NBA success (ask Josh Selby), but the experience can still provide a look at a player's strengths and weaknesses as he gets his first taste of organized NBA action.

This week, Burke will get his first chance to work with and run the offense of head coach Tyrone Corbin in an exhibition game.

 

Rudy Gobert

Fellow rookie Rudy Gobert should be another player to keep an eye on during summer play. His numbers from Sunday may not jump off the page, but he still made an impression.

His impressive size (7'2" with a 7'9" wingspan) was on display as he blocked three shots in just 25 minutes and showed off some athleticism around the rim with a big putback dunk.

Last year, the 20-year-old Frenchman averaged just under two blocks in 23 minutes a game in France and shot a red-hot 72 percent from the field, showing he knows his limitations on offense and takes smart shots.

He's not extremely mobile or athletic and will likely get pushed around fairly easily by NBA big men early in his career.

He could use this summer league action now, so he can get a taste of what the American game is like and know what he needs to work on over the rest of his summer.

 

Alec Burks

The 12th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Alec Burks has yet to play in the kind of role you might expect a lottery player to have.

That could change this year. The youth movement in Utah has led a lot of fans to speculate about a possible starting five of Burke, Burks, Gordon Hayward, Favors and Kanter.

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Alec Burks should get a more significant role this year.

Despite being just a couple weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, Burks will be one of the most experienced players on the summer roster. That, in combination with the potential shift in his role on the team during the 2013-14 season, should motivate Burks to play aggressively this week.

He was the most efficient player for the Jazz against the Heat, hitting four of his six field-goal attempts and scoring 10 points in under 11 minutes.

That scoring ability was on display in college, where he averaged 19 points a game in two seasons for Colorado. He's just hasn't had many scoring opportunities in Utah, where he's averaging 6.1 field-goal attempts a game for his career.

With the team's two leading scorers from last year gone (Jefferson and Millsap) and starting shooting guard Randy Foye still unsigned, it looks like Burks may be able to get a lot more shots during his third campaign in the NBA.

He should be one of the best scorers for Utah this week, and dominating in Orlando could instill confidence that will help him in the regular season.

 

Jeremy Evans

Perhaps more than anyone else on the summer roster, Jeremy Evans' role could be significantly impacted by the departure of last year's starting bigs.

In three NBA seasons, he's appeared in just 115 games and averaged 7.8 minutes. But with Millsap gone, he might move up to No. 2 on the power forward depth chart behind Derrick Favors.

Evans isn't extremely skilled, but he has the size (6'9") and athleticism (he won the dunk contest in 2012) to at least be a solid rim protector on defense and a good finisher on the break on offense. For his career, he's averaged over two blocks per 36 minutes.

 

The general storyline surrounding the Jazz this summer will follow them all the way through the regular season. The organization is ready to turn things over to the young core.

In the short term, a starting lineup of Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter will almost certainly struggle. But a bad 2013-14 isn't necessarily a bad thing. The 2014 draft class is stacked. Utah and every other team that missed the playoffs in 2013 would love to land Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

Developing chemistry and talent from within has proved effective for other small-market teams like the Spurs and Thunder. And if the young Jazz take their licks and hold together for a few seasons, this bright future might come to fruition pretty soon.

 

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