Ex-Cats

Trey Lyles: Second NBA season felt more like a rookie year than first

Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) shot in front of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Andre Roberson, rear, in the fourth quarter on March 11. Oklahoma City won 112-104.
Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) shot in front of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Andre Roberson, rear, in the fourth quarter on March 11. Oklahoma City won 112-104. AP

Former University of Kentucky standout Trey Lyles must have come into his second NBA season with big expectations.

Instead, he played sparingly for the Utah Jazz in the regular season’s final months and the team’s postseason run.

“I was definitely, you know, wanted to play a lot more,” Lyles said in his end-of-the season interview with the media in Utah on Tuesday. “But it was a good learning experience for me. You could kind of say that my rookie year was this year instead of last year — as far as playing-wise and stuff like that. It was good to have veterans that I could learn from and ask questions … guys that went through the same thing that I went through this year, and they helped me out a lot … they kept me positive.”

Lyles was coming off a rookie season that saw him average 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range in 17.3 minutes per game. He finished up his first season by averaging 12.9 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 40.7 percent from long range in April 2016.

His numbers during Utah’s summer league games — 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists — also signaled that he was ready for a breakout year.

But that wasn’t the case. Utah and Coach Quin Snyder primarily turned to its veteran post players on the way to the Western Conference semifinals, which concluded with a 4-0 sweep against the top-seeded Golden State Warriors.

Lyles had averaged 24.1 minutes (with 9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds) in November, but that was down to 6.0 minutes (with 2.0 points and 2.0 rebounds) by April.

He scored seven points in 10 total minutes in two of Utah’s 11 postseason games.

“It’s been pretty challenging. I’ve never been in this situation where I haven’t been playing before,” he said. “It was hard for me to digest at first, but having the older guys say they went through the same thing made it a little bit easier.”

Lyles ended up averaging 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game this season — similar to his rookie numbers — but he made 29 fewer starts and played in nine fewer games.

His shooting percentages were down to 36.2 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from long range. That’s something he’s working on.

“Lately, I’ve been trying to make my jump shot more consistent,” he said. “Finding a right set of balance, being able to make different kinds of reads, kind of slow down how I was playing.”

Snyder talked about Lyles’ future in his end-of-season interview.

“I think he’s still got a bright future in the league,” Snyder said. “Part of what happened with Trey is to be expected a little bit. He almost had a rookie year this year, and our team was performing at a pretty high level. I think for Trey, like a lot of young players, it’s more about taking stock and looking at the year, figuring out how you can use it to improve.

“Sometimes you have to go through some things like that in order to get a good gauge on where you are. I expect Trey to have a terrific summer and look forward to him leveraging some of that adversity to make himself a better player.”

Dennis Varney: 859-231-3514, @ExCats

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Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) dunked on Atlanta Hawks forward Kris Humphries, left, in the second half on Nov. 25, 2016. The Jazz won 95-68. Rick Bowmer AP

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