Position Battles To Eye During Jazz Training Camp

Aug 24, 2021, 2:20 PM | Updated: 2:52 pm
Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz will open training camp on September 28, with their first preseason game set for October 4 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Though the top of the Jazz roster will return intact after re-signing Mike Conley in the offseason, the team’s second unit will look significantly different with the additions of Jared Butler, Eric Paschall, Rudy Gay, and Hassan Whiteside.

With the new faces making their debut for the Jazz during the preseason, what positions are up for grab entering training camp?

Jazz Training Camp Battles

Whiteside Vs. Azubuike

The Jazz signed Whiteside in early August, marking their final big-name free agency addition of the summer.

With Derrick Favors traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder to clear cap room, the Jazz needed added experience to the frontcourt and brought in Whiteside as the solution.

After nine seasons in the NBA, Whiteside has established himself as one of the league’s best shot blockers, though his overall impact on both sides of the floor has been subject to debate.

Azubuike meanwhile had a breakout performance for the Jazz during the summer league, showing off his ability to finish above the rim, block shots, and mimic much of what Rudy Gobert does in the starting lineup.

With Whiteside’s history of production in the NBA, he’ll be the de facto backup center for the Jazz to start the season. But if he struggles in Utah the way he did last year in Sacramento, and Azubuike continues to show promise, that battle could have a major impact on the team’s rotation come mid-season.

Butler vs. Oni vs. Forrest

Between Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson, the Jazz have one of the deepest guard rotations in the NBA entering training camp.

That didn’t stop the team from selecting Baylor’s Jared Butler and signing Trent Forrest to another two-way deal during the offseason, understanding Miye Oni is still likely to open the year on the Jazz roster.

With the top four spots in the team’s backcourt likely set, the battle for the fifth guard should be one of the more competitive in camp.

Oni brings the most experience having spent the last two seasons with the Jazz while playing with the Nigerian National Team at the Tokyo Olympics. The third-year guard has the best size of the group and has shown hints as a true 3-and-D threat, but has yet to carve out a full-time spot with the Jazz.

Forrest gained the trust of coach Quin Snyder last season with his steady point guard play and competitiveness on the defensive end. Over the final 15 games of the regular season, Forrest actually averaged more minutes than Oni with both Mitchell and Conley missing the game due to injury.

During summer league, Forrest showed off his high-level feel for the game and improved three-point shot highlighting his untapped potential.

However, Forrest can only appear in 50 regular-season and isn’t eligible for the playoffs unless his two-way deal is converted to a full-time contract.

Finally, the Jazz selected Butler with the 4oth overall pick of July’s NBA Draft after many expected the Baylor product to be chosen just outside of the lottery.

Concerns about a past heart issue and the guard’s knees scared some NBA teams allowing him to fall to the Jazz early in the second round. After missing the summer league, Butler has been working himself back into shape and will step back on the floor in a competitive setting for the first time during open gym which the Jazz open a few weeks before training camp.

Though he’s less experienced than either Oni or Forrest, he’s a significantly better prospect than either player with a more versatile skillset, and the Jazz have more invested in his success.

As the best shooter of the group, Butler could climb up the Jazz depth chart rapidly depending on how quickly he picks up the team’s offensive and defensive schemes.

Eric Paschall vs. Anyone?

The Jazz made a somewhat surprising move trading a future second-round pick to add third-year forward and Donovan Mitchell confident Erick Paschall.

Paschall was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team in 2020 but injuries and improved depth on the Golden State Warriors roster made him available to the Jazz at a cheap price over the summer.

With the addition of the veteran, the Jazz have 10 legitimate NBA rotation players on the roster. The problem — Snyder’s rotation, like most coaches in the NBA, is only nine players deep.

Rudy Gay will likely step into Georges Niang’s role from last season, and may even carve out a few extra minutes to give both Royce O’Neal and Bojan Bogdanovic added rest throughout the year.

Where Paschall could find minutes in Snyder’s rotation is behind Gobert as a small-ball center where the former Villanova product played nearly 60 percent of his minutes last season with the Warriors.

Regardless of where he earns the majority of his minutes next season, Paschall gives the Jazz versatile depth in case of injuries, but his role may be minor to begin the year.

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Position Battles To Eye During Jazz Training Camp