Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: July 14 vs Utah Jazz

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: Gary Payton II of the Milwaukee Bucks is guarded by Naz Mitrou-Long
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: Gary Payton II of the Milwaukee Bucks is guarded by Naz Mitrou-Long /

The Milwaukee Bucks have just one game left in Las Vegas Summer League this year, as they’ll be done there after taking on the Utah Jazz on Friday evening.

Las Vegas Summer League is almost over, as far as the Milwaukee Bucks are concerned. After an ugly Summer League thus far, the Bucks will have one more chance to have a magical moment that won’t leave Vegas on Friday night, when the team takes on the Utah Jazz.

There are a few interesting storylines on the Bucks side of things to watch for on Friday, and one really intriguing Jazz aspect of this game for Milwaukee fans. Let’s go through a few of them and see what should stick out of the Bucks final SL matchup.

D.J. Wilson stepping up

After a really nice 17-point outing against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, D.J. Wilson managed just seven points against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. That Kings team was without both De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, meaning Summer League backups made up most of the active players.

Wilson struggling against that core isn’t a great sign, although it’s not exactly unprecedented for a good player to not have a good Summer League. Still, for Bucks fans’ sake if nothing else, it would be nice to see Wilson have a solid bounce-back game against Utah on Friday.

Donovan Mitchell, Summer League standout

The Jazz lost Gordon Hayward this summer, but Utah has bought into Donovan Mitchell to such a degree that Jazz fans might completely forget about Hayward by the time the regular season rolls around.

To his credit, Mitchell has been downright impressive in his time in Summer League. He’s averaging 28.0 points, 1.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and a shocking 6.0 steals per game across two games in Vegas thus far.

Those per game numbers have come via poor efficiency thus far, though. Mitchell is shooting 36.0 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point territory in Las Vegas. The Jazz are 0-4 altogether in this Summer League, so despite Mitchell’s exciting play Utah has yet to win a game in Vegas.

Pressure isn’t so rosy

Rashad Vaughn and Gary Payton II have arguably been the Milwaukee Bucks’ best players in Summer League thus far. They’ll both probably be feeling some pressure to continue to perform on Friday, considering the Bucks are reportedly meeting with Derrick Rose again.

Milwaukee currently does not have a roster spot, so any free agency signing would require a player on the Bucks being released or traded. Rashad Vaughn and Gary Payton II are the leading candidates based on skill alone, although stretching Spencer Hawes is an option as well.

The Mitten would be the most obvious target to be cut if Rose were to be added. Payton II and Rose play the same position, and Payton II’s non-guaranteed contract makes him the cheapest route to opening a roster spot the Bucks currently have available to them.

End of the hot takes

Blissfully, Las Vegas Summer League is almost over for Milwaukee Bucks fans. The end of Summer League will almost certainly coincide with the end of people basing takes on Summer League, one of the NBA’s worst annual traditions.

Studies have been done on this. The results? Summer League stats, especially points per game, don’t mean much of anything once the games start to matter. There are just too many variables at play during Summer League — such as the quality of teammates, the lack of time teams spend together, the shorter quarters and increased foul limit, and maybe most importantly the quality (or lack thereof) of opponents — for it to be anything but incredibly noisy statistically.

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The best things to notice from Summer League aren’t numbers, but skills and traits. D.J. Wilson has a pretty nice handle for a big guy — he won’t just forget how to dribble when he hits the floor in the NBA, although it will get tougher when the defenders get worlds better.

After Thon Maker had two bad games and Bucks fans got ready to cut him outright, fortunately there wasn’t much craziness aside from Rashad Vaughn fever striking. It’s been awful around the NBA, as players from Mitchell to Lonzo Ball to Dennis Smith Jr. have all been crowned as superstars before they play a single NBA minute.

This is all almost over and done with. The Bucks’ Summer League slate ends on Friday, win or lose against Utah, and the rest of the tournament will conclude on Monday night. Hopefully Milwaukee can grab a win on the way out of the door, even if it sparks another week of intense Vaughn debate.

Next: Takeaways from loss to Kings

The game is at 5 p.m. on Friday in the Cox Pavilion and will be broadcast on ESPNU and on the ESPN app.