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Tony Bradley impresses in NBA Summer League opener

The former champ pulls in a double-double last night in a dominant win against the Spurs.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It is always amazing to see the changes that players go through from college to the NBA. It’s one of those most necessary components of competing at the next level, as players are only getting stronger and faster each and every year. So when Tony Bradley left UNC, it was easy to see how perhaps his body wasn’t ready for the league, and in turn would mean that he probably wouldn’t earn a great deal of playing time right away for the Utah Jazz. Well, things have changed, and now he looks like he’s ready to earn his spot during the NBA Summer League.

Tony Bradley entered last night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs looking considerably stronger than he did during his time at Carolina. Media outlets around Salt Lake City seem to agree, as this was also something pointed out by Kyle Goon with the Salt Lake Tribune:

People around the Jazz practice facility have told the 20-year-old center that he looks stronger, more chiseled than he did when he was drafted a year ago out of North Carolina. His body fat percentage is down, his numbers in the weight room are up, and Bradley feels more confident about himself than ever.

“I just look more like an athlete,” he said. “I’ve been getting that a lot since I’ve been back here.”

All of Bradley’s hard work this offseason has put him in a good position to make the Kings organization have to consider making room for him on their depth chart this fall should he maintain the level of play that he exhibited last night. Bradley finished the summer league opener against the Spurs with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks in his team’s 92-76 win over the San Antonio Spurs. He shot a not-as-impressive 4-11 from the field, but it was clear that he is still trying to figure out how to wield his new body. He was running the court effectively, played hard on defense, had quick moves on the offensive end, and overall looked more like a modern NBA big man than he has to this point in his college or professional career.

Going back to the defensive side of the ball, Bradley had some good moments, but Spurs center Amida Brimah also went 4-5 for the night. The best assessment that I can give is that Bradley had good moments against the Spurs as a team, but still needs some work in terms of handling his man. As quick as his feet are getting, he definitely has the potential to get this smoothed out sooner than later. However, I can see dealing with someone like Anthony Davis or recent Warriors acquisition DeMarcus Cousins being rather difficult for Bradley at the moment. Rather extreme examples, but the list only gets longer from there, and it will be important for Bradley to figure out how to use his new body to impose his will on defense.

Tony Bradley is currently projected to be the third or fourth center for the Utah Jazz, which isn’t the most ideal spot for him to be in as a first-round pick last year. He will have to find a way to stand out in the Summer League despite the hype surrounding former Duke star Grayson Allen, which will prove to be a monumental task (if you saw the game last night, you’ll know what I mean). Out of all of the former UNC players playing this month, Bradley will be one of the most important to keep a close eye on. He has all of the tools that he needs now to break through the glass ceiling and earn a spot with the Utah Jazz, and hopefully last night was only the beginning of what will be an impressive summer.