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Former Tar Heel Tony Bradley shines in the first games of the NBA Summer League

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Remember that one guy that helped the Heels win a national title? Well, he’s still a pretty good player.

2019 Salt Lake City Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

If there is one thing that the Tar Heels haven’t had to worry about a great deal, it is keeping up with one-and-done talent that has left the program. While this sounds like a dig, the fact of the matter is that it’s probably easy for casual UNC fans to forget about a guy that they only got to watch for one season. Take 2017 national champion Tony Bradley for instance — Bradley is still working very hard to achieve his dreams of finding a permanent spot on a NBA roster, and has been doing his best to stand out in the NBA G-League. Well, it seems as though his hard work is starting to pay off.

Monday was the first day of the NBA Summer League, and some of the teams in the Western Conference have been squaring off in hopes of not only winning the Summer League Championship, but to try and earn/keep their roster spot on their respective NBA team. For Tony Bradley, it is a summer that will be big for him, as he has been in and out of the Utah Jazz roster ever since he took his early leave from the program. So far he is off to a strong start, as he has been looking like the best player on the floor for the Jazz.

Monday night, Utah squared off against the Memphis Grizzles. Bradley filled up the stats sheet, logging 14 points, 15 rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Statistically, he was easily the best player on the court for his team that night. However, for those that cover the Jazz, they didn’t see it as being a sign that he is ready to suit up in the NBA on a night-to-night basis (yet).

Mychal Lowman, who writes for SB Nation’s Utah Jazz site SLC Dunk, shared his thoughts following Bradley’s performance:

I’m not sure what to say about Tony Bradley. If this was 2001, Tony Bradley would be guaranteed to have a long 14 year career in the NBA as a second or third big off the bench just because of his size and the lack of spacing in the NBA. Now, it’s a completely other story. Tony Bradley at times just is slow. His athleticism feels as though it’s a special move that has to be conserved and saved for specific times. His ability to jump high for an alley-oop isn’t there.

To Bradley’s credit, he finds himself at the right spot in the pick and roll and guards it the way he’s supposed to. But he struggles to have the gear to get to the spot in time. He did finish with 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 27 minutes of play. But it feels like he’s better than the G-Leaguers at Summer League, but still not far and away better to justify taking a roster spot on a possible championship contending team. Hopefully he shows more as the Summer League progresses, but his long-term future on the Jazz is definitely in doubt.

To echo the sentiments of Lowman, Bradley’s game definitely hasn’t sped up since he left UNC, nor has he found a way to display any significant improvement in the athleticism department. It’s apparent that he has found ways to work around both weaknesses, but it goes without saying that one summer league game is a very tiny sample size. That’s where last night’s game comes into play.

In the 86-71 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tony Bradley finished with 26 points, 16 rebounds, and one steal. Once again easily being the best player on the floor for his team, he finished the game with a +23 plus-minus, and shot at a 69% clip.

With the Utah Jazz losing Derrick Favors and, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, likely losing Ekpe Udoh, the door is open for Tony Bradley to make a name for himself in the Summer League and earn a roster spot. His progress, along with multiple Tar Heels that will participate with their respective teams, will be worth following for the next couple of weeks. Here is how you can watch the remainder of Utah’s Summer League games:

vs. San Antonio - Wednesday, July 3rd on ESPN 3

vs. OKC - Saturday, July 6th on ESPN 3

vs. Miami - Sunday, July 7th on ESPN 3

vs. Portland - Tuesday, July 9th on ESPN 2

vs. Houston - Thursday, July 11th on ESPNU

Stay tuned later this week, as we will also let you know how you can watch each of the Tar Heels participating in the NBA Summer League, and we will also provide more news and highlights. Go Heels!