By Keyonte George, a young star could emerge for the Utah Jazz

The No. 16 pick has been the brightest spot for the Jazz in summer league action.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George (3) looks downcourt past the 76ers defense during an NBA Summer League basketball game Wednesday, July 5, 2023, at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

It’s become clear over the years that one of the many things Jazz fans get fired up about — correctly — is a young rookie showing promise, especially a young rookie who wasn’t a top pick. It’s a formula that mixes hope with a kind of unexpectedness, a sense that a team—their team—in a smaller market without some of the perks of so-called destination franchises outsmarted everyone. It’s satisfyingly explosive because that’s what the Jazz need to do to be successful.

It happened with a couple of guys who became famous around here, taken as they were with the 16th and 13th picks in 1984 and 1985. You-Know-Who and You-Know-Who. It happened recently with a couple of other guys who ended up being All-Stars, drafted in the form of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

Is it happening again now? First of all, let’s keep this kind of question because it remains a big question, regardless of the optimistic signs shown by this kid, the 16th pick in the latest draft out of Baylor, Keyonte George’s name.

By George, I think he has! Or … by George, I think he has?

Of course, that is still a question. Summer league showings are uncertain, especially just a little bit of them. Anyone who doubts that should go back to when a young Jazz center named Greg Ostertag dominated another young center named Tim Duncan in summer games.

There is considerable slack in what these preparatory games offer. Sometimes they are just mirages in the desert. But they also reveal bits and pieces of truth, of what might be. And that’s why there’s no harm in people around here getting excited about 19-year-old George and not only what he does on the field, but his words spoken after what’s done is done.

For example, Georges tallied 33 points and 10 assists in the tower’s now-famous show — if a summer league game can be called that — against a Clippers outfit in Vegas the other night. That’s on top of some bright spots demonstrated in Salt Lake City in the run-up.

George was smart with the ball and set up his teammates while also setting himself up, quite a trick for someone at such early stages of his professional development. He epitomized the duality of the term playmaker that night, doing to others what he also did to himself – uh-huh, making plays, here, there, everywhere. Impressive.

And his remarks afterwards were just as impressive, talking about motivation and the need to learn and listen and improve to become what he wants to be. Everyone else knows that it’s just the beginning for him, that there’s a steep mountain to climb, a whole lot of attention to detail and straight forward work, and he seems to know it too.

There hasn’t been this much excitement for a young player since Mitchell arrived here, and he showed some of the same energy and explosiveness and excitement and eagerness.

And it has caught the wary attention not only of Jazz executives, coaches, teammates and fans, but also others who escaped the Vegas heat to sit in the stands and watch a different kind of heat on the court.

Will it last? Is it the truth or even a particle of a hint or a hint of a particle of it? Is it an overheated mirage?

Hit me.

But the Jazz are a young team looking for ways to make the aforementioned surge, right next to the rookie. If you want to go the other way, they are like a 3-handicap golfer trying to shave strokes off his rounds, knowing that the strokes they lose now will lose more easily from this point to the next, rather than from the next to the sub-scratch scores that will theoretically come after that – in the Jazz’s case, namely a deep playoff run.

They have Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, John Collins, Jordan Clarkson and the others. They have a thousand future drafts. They have cap space. Now they have the promise that comes along with the young rookie with the moves and motivation to get better. And they haven’t even unpacked their other two first-round picks, neither of whom have played for them yet.

Are there more dramatic moves to come, moves that will speed it all up? Only Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik know with any accuracy, and maybe they lack accuracy in that regard, too.

In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with people mixing hope with unexpectedness, looking for satisfaction in an explosion that may or may not blow, but must blow in some form, at some point, for jazz to win the way they intend to — big.

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