Jazz Preseason Preview And Mailbag Answers
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In the latest episode of the Jazz Noted podcast, Ben Anderson previews the Utah Jazz preseason schedule, the five best games over the first half of the Jazz season, and answers your mailbag questions.
The NBA preseason starts on Friday with five games on the schedule. The Jazz will play the Phoenix Suns in the first of two home preseason matchups on Saturday. The two teams will face off once again on Monday before the Jazz finish their preseason against the Los Angeles Clippers next week.
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The Jazz are likely to draw many eyes in their preseason opener, but not because of the changes they made this offseason, but due to the fact that Chris Paul will make his debut in a Suns uniform this Saturday.
Mike Conley has been in quarantine and missed the first few group workouts with the Jazz, whether he’s ready to play Monday or not remains in question. However, the veteran guard said he was hoping to clear quarantine early this week, giving up ample time to prepare for game one.
Jazz fans should get an early look at Elijah Hughes, Udoka Azubuike, and two-way rookie Trent Forrest during the preseason, but how much those three play may depend on the Jazz approach to the preseason.
With only three games to prepare for the regular season, will the Jazz use those opportunities to get the veterans ready for the regular season, or will they prefer to limit the risk of injury and get extra playing time for the younger roster player?
The Jazz Rotation
The Jazz have just 14 players on their 15-man roster, plus two additional two-way players in Jarrell Brantley and rookie Trent Forrest. Here is what the depth chart looks like entering the season.
PG: Mike Conley / Joe Ingles / Nigel Williams-Goss
SG: Donovan Mitchell / Jordan Clarkson / Miye Oni
SF: Royce O’Neale / Elijah Hughes
PF: Bojan Bogdanovic / Georges Niang / Juwan Morgan
C: Rudy Gobert / Derrick Favors / Udoka Azubuike
Unless Williams-Goss has taken a major leap forward in his second season, the Jazz don’t have a true backup point guard on the roster. They can rely on Ingles, Mitchell, and Clarkson for depth, but any real injury could be cause for concern.
They have an open roster, and with a player like Shaq Harrison and Emmanuel Mudiay still on the market, there are options to fill it if they are uncomfortable with the death to begin the season, but at this point, it appears this is the direction they’ll head.
Anderson: I think the Denver Nuggets got worse in the offseason, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jazz overtake them in the standings. However, that could change depending on the development of Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol.
With that said, there’s a case to be made that Portland, Phoenix, Dallas, and Golden State could overtake the Jazz by the season’s end.
It’s unlikely all of those teams improve that much, and the Jazz have a good argument that they also improved with the addition of Favors, while bringing back a healthy Bogdanovic
Ultimately I’d still put the Jazz in the middle of the West, behind the Lakers, Clippers, and probably at least one other team in the top three. But they’re a firm playoff roster and should be competitive regardless of who they face in the postseason.
Anderson: Occams razor says the simplest explanation is often the most accurate. To me, that says the two sides have a different opinion on what the value of Gobert’s next contract should look like, and they are comfortable waiting for the other side to blink.
It gets tricky if the Jazz pass the deadline for Gobert to sign an extension and face the reality of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
I don’t think the Jazz are totally unprepared for that scenario and I think it factored into re-signing Favors and drafting Azubuike, but the Jazz won’t be better if Gobert leaves the roster.
My guess is a deal still gets done, but I am a little surprised it’s taken this long.
Anderson: This is a good question and it probably has a few answers. First, Hughes offers the Jazz something that they think could have more value next season if they need him with the main roster more frequently than they do Brantley.
As it stands, Brantley ended last season behind Bogdanovic, O’Neale, Niang, and Morgan in the rotation. The Jazz then went out and added Favors and Azubuike to their frontcourt.
While Ingles can play on the wing behind O’Neale, as can Bogdanovic and potentially Oni, the Jazz just really don’t have a lot of depth with 6’6 guys who can put the ball on the floor, shoot, and move their feet. Hughes might be able to do those things, and that gives him a leg up.
Along those lines, Hughes was a highly sought after pick who slipped to the Jazz with the 39th pick. On the other hand, Brantley may have gone undrafted last season had the Jazz not selected him.
That gives Hughes more leverage than Brantley, and it may have earned him a guaranteed deal.
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