Utah Jazz Best/Worst Case Series: Naz Mitrou-Long’s big opportunity

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 14: Naz Mitrou-Long #30 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 14, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 14: Naz Mitrou-Long #30 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 14, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Naz Mitrou-Long has once again secured a two-way contract with the Utah Jazz. Now it’s critical that he prove himself so he can continue to climb the ranks.

If there’s one thing the Utah Jazz have become known for, it’s discovering diamonds in the rough. Players like Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale were once afterthoughts at best for most of the league, yet the Jazz have been able to snatch each one up and turn them into formidable talents.

Doing so is rarely an easy task, but it can certainly happen. And when it does, it’s typically an enormous accomplishment. Therefore, even players that appear to be long-shots for making an NBA roster shouldn’t be counted out, especially when they’re in the renowned Jazz development program.

Such should precisely be considered the case for Iowa State product Naz Mitrou-Long, who played for the Salt Lake City Stars last year and was on the Jazz Summer League roster this offseason. Mitrou-Long was rewarded for his hard work and continued improvement as he signed a two-way contract back in mid-July.

This isn’t the first time that Naz has been on a two-way contract with Utah; he signed such an agreement last year before being waived to make room for Georges Niang, who has now signed an official contract with the Jazz. However, after earning a two-way contract once again, Mitrou-Long will have a chance to prove his worth and fight for a coveted spot on the Jazz 15-man roster at some point down the road.

Naz will undoubtedly spend the vast majority of his time playing in the G-League with the Salt Lake City Stars this upcoming season. Still, he’s shown flashes of brilliance, and if things go his way, he may very well be able to reach an even higher ceiling and make an impact for the Utah Jazz.

Best Case Scenario

Realistically, the best case for Naz Mitrou-Long would be that he excels in the G-League and remains on a contract for the entire season. Perhaps if he’s fortunate, he’ll be called up to play in a few games for the Jazz be it due to injuries or simply excellent play on his part.

If such ends up being the case, then Naz’s very best case of making an NBA roster would likely come down the road as it’s highly improbable that he’ll land an official spot with the Jazz this season. The Jazz are extremely deep at their guard spots with the likes of Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale, Alec Burks, Raul Neto and Grayson Allen all in the ranks. Thus, it would take an unforeseen leap or some poor injury luck for Naz to get a chance.

Still, Naz is no stranger to putting up big numbers, as he averaged 18.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 35 minutes per game while appearing in 40 contests last season with the Salt Lake City Stars. He’s also an incredible shooter which he displayed in full force during a March 19th contest against Rio Grande Valley where he posted 37 points (a Stars record) while shooting 9-of-15 from deep.

In his recent play in Utah Summer League, Mitrou-Long recorded a scorching shooting percentage of 67 percent from the field. While he certainly has his deficiencies, shooting and heaping on the points is an area in which he thrives. If he continues to expand there while also improving in other areas, staying with the Jazz on a two-way contract or otherwise is extremely likely.

And his chances of climbing the ranks and earning an official contract in upcoming seasons, much like his former college teammate Georges Niang, are very much plausible. In a best case scenario, Mitrou-Long will be a G-League All-Star this year and will really start to turn heads both within the Jazz organization and around the NBA to set himself up for major success in future seasons.

Worst Case Scenario

Mitrou-Long’s worst case scenario would be similar to what happened last year when the Jazz waived him and awarded his two-way contract to a different player. Naz has significantly improved since then, so ideally he’ll be able to avoid such a situation and remain under contract with the Jazz while largely playing with the Stars.

If he struggles to improve or showcase his worth, it’s not hard to fathom that he may never find a spot in the league. If such ends up being the case, his worst case scenario would likely have him as just another name on a random G-League roster or perhaps pursuing opportunities overseas.

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I don’t know if we’ll ever see Naz Mitrou-Long suit up in a meaningful situation for the Jazz, but I think he certainly has NBA rotational player potential. He’s an amazing shooter with good athleticism that should continue to help him thrive on both ends of the floor.

If the Jazz development program can work its magic yet again, it’s entirely possible that at some point down the road, Mitrou-Long could turn into another gem. For now, though, Naz has a lot to prove, which will have to start with some amazing play in the G-League during the 2018-19 campaign.