Jazz Will Start Juwan Morgan With Conley Out

Aug 17, 2020, 11:18 AM | Updated: 11:18 am
Juwan Morgan against the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)...
Juwan Morgan against the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah –Β The Utah Jazz will start forward Juwan Morgan in place of Mike Conley when they open the NBA playoffs against the Denver Nuggets today. Coach Quin Snyder downplayed the importance of who starts the game when pressed on the issue. Conley left the team Sunday to be with his wife after the birth of his son.

“I think it’s the whole game that’s important,” Snyder said of his altered rotation. “And who you start impacts your rotations and who comes off the bench. And you try to think about it in terms of 48 minutes, not just the beginning of the game.”

Conley has been a crucial piece for the Jazz in the Orlando bubble, averaging 32 minutes and 18 points per game. Both stats rank second on the team behind Donovan Mitchell.

Morgan brings size and defense to the Jazz who sport one of the smaller rotations in the league with forward Bojan Bogdanovic sidelined after season-ending wrist surgery in May.

Though Snyder has undersold the value of the starting lineup throughout his career, he acknowledged that the Jazz can’t find themselves behind early in the series with Denver.

“Getting off to a good start is always important,” Snyder admitted. “And we’ve got a bunch of guys that we have confidence in.”

Morgan has averaged a modest 3.4 points and two rebounds in Orlando for the Jazz. The rookie big man injured his knee in the Jazz August 6 matchup with the San Antonio Spurs but returned to the lineup after missing two games. Morgan played in the Jazz final seeding game, and recorded six points, three rebounds, and one assist in nearly 22 minutes.

Why are the Jazz Starting Morgan?

Snyder had a list of options to start in place of the absent Conley. Guard Jordan Clarkson was the most logical choice to step in for Conley. The veteran sixth man has been productive this season against the Nuggets, averaging 24 points per game, his best against any team this season.

However, starting Morgan allows Snyder to continue to use Clarkson off the bench. Snyder praised the opportunity to play younger players during the Jazz eight seeding games.

“We were able to get some guys significant minutes, important minutes with guys that have been playing heavy minutes for us during the year,” Snyder said of his rookies Morgan, Miye Oni, and Jarrell Brantley. “[We’ve been] trying to integrate some guys that have been playing for the Stars.”

Morgan had been used mostly in situations where reserve center Tony Bradley was unable to match up with smaller second units. The rookie’s defensive versatility and high basketball IQ allow him to match up with former Jazzman Paul Millsap in the Nuggets starting lineup.

Oni doubled the number of games he’d played with the Jazz main roster inside the NBA bubble. Meanwhile, Brantley appeared in four of the team’s games after making just five appearances during the first 64 games of the season. Snyder said the experience has been good in preparation for the playoffs.

“They’ve had their feet wet in the league during this time,” Snyder said. “And I think that’s really important for them to have at least some comfort level. And it’s okay to be a little nervous. I think that can be a good thing because it can make you urgent defensively. That’s what we need.”

Oni averaged seven points in just under 20 minutes per game during six appearances with the Jazz in Orlando. He’s shooting 40 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from the three-point line, while snaring three rebounds per contest.

Brantley has averaged six points in nearly 21 minutes per game. The rookie is shooting just 35 percent from the floor and 23 percent from the three-point line, but has grabbed 3.8 rebounds per game and has an ability to match up with quicker forwards on the defensive end.

The Jazz and Nuggets open the NBA playoffs at 11:30 am MT. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and locally on AT&T SportsNet.


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