Jarrell Brantley was Utah Jazz’s first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. No, he wasn’t selected in the first round, as the team forfeited that pick to the Memphis Grizzlies via trade in exchange for the services of Mike Conley Jr. Brantley was selected 50th overall in the second round by the Indiana Pacers, but ended up with the Jazz thanks in part to another trade.
Historically, second-round picks don’t fare well in the NBA. For one, there are 30-59 players selected ahead of them – all of which are assumed to be better. Secondly, roster spots are already limited. Second-round picks are not only battling first-rounders, but they are also battling former draft picks – or undrafted players for that matter – for 15 slots (17 counting two-way contracts).
Despite the fact that second-rounders’ odds are considerably less than anyone drafted inside the first round to make it in the league, there have been plenty of players to carve out a nice role. Some players have even turned into All-NBA athletes and Hall of Famers. Dennis Rodman, Manu Ginobli – and more recently Paul Millsap and Draymond Green – are all solid players that come to mind.
Brantley looks to join the long list of talent that the second round has produced in the NBA, and recent moves made by the Jazz front office give him about as good a chance as possible. The Jazz sent three players to Memphis as part of the Conley deal and also had quite a few expiring contracts from last year’s roster. All-in-all, there are still quite a few roster spots available, even after the slew of free agency signings Utah had during the first few days of the free agency period.
It’s clear the Jazz saw something in Brantley. They traded up to draft him.
When asked about his diverse skillset, Jarrell stated, “I’m grateful that Utah was able to pick that out of me and still allow me to use that, especially in summer league, even if I’m not able to use it during the season because of the guys they have on the team. But I’m grateful that they see it in me and they are allowing me to use it.”
You see by size, Brantley is a traditional four. He stands 6-foot-7 but weighs a stout 250 pounds. He’s stocky, incredibly strong and quite agile for his size. Thanks in part to the modern NBA, Brantley can easily play the three. He does have decent ball-handling ability, and he’s able to guard multiple positions defensively, so Utah certainly picked him up thanks in part to his unique toolbox.
Brantley played all four years for the College of Charleston. He garnered CAA Rookie of the Year as a freshman and was First Team All-CAA as a senior where he averaged 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field.
It wasn’t just the numbers that impressed, it was Brantley’s high motor. Utah’s summer league coach Lamar Skeeter was asked about it recently and said, “He’s good, he competes. You can tell he’s got that competitive fire in him which is great.”
That motor got Brantley in trouble in his first-ever NBA game where he accumulated eight fouls. Luckily for him, summer league rules didn’t force him out after six.
To that, Skeeter said, “Really it’s just understanding how the game is called. This NBA game is different than college. He’s aggressive, he’s physical, he likes to use his hands. But understanding when those situations are that he can use his hands [or] when he’s got to show them [is important]. The more we play and the more everybody gets comfortable [he’ll] understand how to defend without fouling.”
Jarrell has had a pretty solid showing thus far in summer league. He had 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal and block in his first game – and 16 and 6 in his second. Both games were played in Salt Lake.
He hasn’t had quite the same success in Las Vegas, at least as far as numbers go, but his motor really is next level. His sheer presence on the court – thanks in part to his size and athleticism – are more than enough to get him significant minutes in a Jazz uniform this year.
Basketball Insiders asked Brantley what he’s trying to prove to the Jazz organization and he had quite a thoughtful response.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily anything I want to prove because I know that if I go out there and be who I am I think I’ll have a good shot,” Brantley told Basketball Insiders. “They’ll see I can be placed here somewhere. That’s not my place to say. I think I’ll be okay if I just continue to prove who I am and go out day by day and just be consistent and love what I do. That’s all I can control.”
Brantley’s closing sentence there was a great take. He alone can control his effort. If the Jazz end up not needing what he brings to the table, so be it. But he essentially controls the level of intensity he gives on a nightly basis.
“It’s amazing. As soon as I got out there I smiled because it could be overwhelming but at the same time, these are all the things I’ve prayed for over the years,” said Brantley when asked about the almost 11,000 in attendance at Salt Lake City Summer League, “People calling my name, we don’t got Donovan [Mitchell] out there, we don’t got Rudy [Gobert], so right now we get the opportunity to be the stars in a sense so it’s fun and I’m grateful for it like I keep saying.”
Whatever happens with Brantley, it’s clear he has the attitude to be successful. Whether it be a two-way player for the Jazz, stud in the G League, or even a full-time player on Utah’s roster, Jarrell will surely give all he’s got. He is the type of basketball player that can find success in today’s NBA. And if the Jazz truly did their homework, they may have gotten yet another steal via the draft.
Only time will tell what type of career Brantley will have. But whatever happens in the future, you can’t take away the fact that Brantley has already had the chance to play an NBA game.
“It was fun. It was a blessing to be out there and be on TV,” said Jarrell regarding his first official match.
As the summer league leads into camp which then leads into preseason, pay attention to Brantley.
If his motor is any indication of how his first NBA season will play out, there is a high chance he’ll find himself suiting up for the Utah Jazz.