Jazz Benefiting From Opponents Missing Stars
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are likely to be taking on a short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves team tonight. Just hours before tip-off, Andrew Wiggins, who has had a surprise breakout season with Minnesota is listed as doubtful, as he deals with an illness.
Wiggins has missed each of the Timberwolves previous two games.
The Jazz are off to a hot start, sitting at 8-4, alone in the fourth seed in the Western Conference standings. While the Jazz have had several impressive wins so far this season, they’ve also benefited from catching teams resting, or missing key players in their rotation.
The Jazz first avoided Marvin Bagley III against the Sacramento Kings in game three, who was hurt in the Kings season opener against the Phoenix Suns. Bagley was the number two overall pick for Sacramento in the summer of 2018, and made the All-Rookie team last season.
Similarly, the Jazz avoided another All-Rookie team member against the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix was without starting center DeAndre Ayton who was suspended by the league for 25 games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. Ayton had an 18 point, 11 rebound and four block outing against the Kings in the team’s season-opening loss.
The Jazz’s luck continued for a third straight game against the Los Angeles Clippers, who were without MVP finalist Paul George for the first 11 games of the season. George was rehabbing from dual offseason shoulder surgery.
The Clippers also chose to rest Kawhi Leonard on the front end of a back-to-back against the Jazz, as he rehabs from a knee injury suffered last season during his Finals MVP campaign with the Toronto Raptors.
The Jazz would again avoid Bagley, and George over the next two games in rematches against the Kings and Clippers.
Against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Jazz faced a full-strength lineup during the first quarter, but former top overall pick Ben Simmons suffered a shoulder sprain while posting up Royce O’Neale, and would play only 10 minutes.
The Jazz then traveled to take on a shell of the Golden State Warriors teams that had won the Western Conference Finals each of the last five seasons. Five-time All-Star Klay Thompson will likely miss the full season after tearing his ACL in the finals last season. Steph Curry may miss the remainder of the season with a broken thumb. Neither played against the Jazz.
Former MVP Kevin Durant, now with the Nets, missed last week’s game against the Jazz, and is likely to miss the full season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Now, the Jazz will avoid Wiggins who is off to the best start of his career. Wiggins is averaging 25.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists, finally living up to the enormous contract he signed with the Timberwolves two summers ago.
In total, the Jazz have avoided six max salary players, not counting Simmons, who signed a max extension this past summer, but won’t see that money until next year. Bagley and Ayton, the only two players on the list not due max salaries were top two picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.
In total, the Jazz have avoided $229,423,284 in salary due this season between just nine players.
Marvin Bagley X2 – $8,556,120
DeAndre Ayton – $9,562,920
Paul George X2 – $33,005,556
Kawhi Leonard – $32,742,000
Ben Simmons – $8,113,930
Klay Thompson – $32,742,000
Steph Curry – $40,231,758
Kevin Durant – $37,199,000
Andrew Wiggins – $27,270,000
On the flip side, the Jazz have been relatively healthy. Bojan Bogdanovic missed one game against the Los Angeles Lakers after rolling an ankle. Ed Davis is sidelined for a month with a broken fibula, while Emmanuel Mudiay has missed three games with a lingering hamstring injury.
Dante Exum has yet to appear for the Jazz this season, though he was recently cleared to return to play.
The four Jazz players are owed $31,540,745 in total this season.
The Jazz injury luck isn’t likely to end in the next few weeks. The team will travel to Minnesota Wednesday, where they may once again avoid Wiggins, and will host Golden State once again Friday night without Curry and Thompson. D’Angelo Russell won’t be with the Warriors as he recovers from a sprained thumb.