UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Mailbag: Best Trade Deadline Option, Biggest Surprises

Aug 27, 2021, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:27 pm
Jordan Clarkson - Utah Jazz - Houston Rockets...
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) watches as his 3-pointer falls through the net during the Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Courtesy of Deseret News)
(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA has officially entered its offseason with the Summer League all wrapped up, and only a handful of roster spots remaining to be filled.

The Utah Jazz are no exception as outside of a few camp invites to be announced in the coming weeks, the team has a rare stretch of downtime before open gym begins in mid-September.

With the news wire slowing to a crawl, KSL Sports’ Ben Anderson answer’s your mailbag questions about the Jazz here. You can also listen to the Jazz Notes podcast addressing your questions in the player below.

Jazz Mailbag

I think the biggest surprise will be Jared Butler due largely to the fact that Jazz fans didn’t get to see him during summer league, and even his terrific college career was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and teammate Davion Mitchell at Baylor.

He’s a legitimate NBA talent and has the high-level experience from college to be one of the early contributors to a good team in this rookie class.

Where he may get hung up is the sheer depth of the Jazz rotation in the backcourt and his injury concerns which could lead the team to bring him along slowly. Otherwise, his shooting, instincts, and defense are good enough to earn him playing time.

He’d be a candidate for an All-Rookie team if there were more minutes available.

The easy answer for the biggest negative surprise is Hassan Whiteside who despite his impressive statistical history hasn’t really ever been a top-tier center. However, I think most Jazz fans are familiar with his game and have set the bar for his success a little lower, and as a result, may lead to pleasant surprises.

So, I will say fans should be prepared for the fact that Rudy Gay has been in the NBA for a decade and a half now and is probably closer to Georges Niang’s current level of production than he is to his own prime.

To be honest I might be the least qualified jersey judge in the NBA. To be fair, I do and don’t like certain jersey schemes around the NBA, but I don’t have the passion for it that some do.

As I mentioned last week, I have heard new ownership doesn’t love the Jazz classic purple note theme and may look to move away from that over time. If you’ve seen Ryan Smith or Dwyane Wade in Jazz gear, it’s almost always black and white, so by default, that might be the direction I’d suspect they want to head in.

Personally, I love the classic white jersey with the purple lettering, and it’s one of the few throwbacks we haven’t seen from the team.

As we’ve seen with the Miami Heat “Vice” jerseys which were near-universal hit and the Jazz “Dark Mode” jerseys fortune favors the bold, so if they are going for a radical change, they should think outside the box.

During my pre-draft preparation, Butler was unquestionably the player I thought was most ready to help a contending team in the latter half of the first round.

To be honest, looking back at where most mock drafts had him, I don’t really know why I wrote up his bio considering nobody had him available with the 30th pick (much less 40th).

Maybe it was karma in my favor after writing up some 25 pre-draft bios last season only to skip Udoka Azubuike and Elijah Hughes — the two guys the Jazz did wind up drafting.

Regardless, yes I would have drafted him at 20, 25, 30, or 40, but to be fair, I didn’t know about the concerns surrounding his knees until just after the draft concluded.

I do think the Jazz will look at some smart cost-cutting moves during the season if they feel the trade would allow the team to continue to win at a high level.

That could mean any number of names from Bojan Bogdanovic, to Joe Ingles, to Jordan Clarkston, etc.

Those decisions probably haven’t been made yet and may depend on the performance of Gay, Butler, Trent Forrest, and Eric Paschall.

If one of those guys looks to be an obvious fit in the top eight of the rotation at a fraction of the cost, the Jazz could probably make a smart move to both save cash and build up their draft cache.

A lot of people were concerned about the wear and tear of last season’s quick turnaround after the abbreviated summer/fall period. And, it did feel like we saw a significant number of injuries, though it’s hard to say whether there was a direct relationship between the two things.

With that said, I have my concerns for this season. Certainly playing as many games as they did between the bubble and the most recent playoffs was going to take a toll on NBA players bodies, but I haven’t heard many people talk about what the total cost will be after mixing in travel from this past season and the number of games played in the condensed schedule.

With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see lots of rest for players across the league to prevent major injury, and that could easily include Quin Snyder after the Jazz were burnt by injuries to Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell last season in the playoffs.

Considering the money Chris Paul (four years $120 million) and Kyle Lowry (three years $90 million), bringing Conley back on a three-year deal worth roughly $70 million, and the final year being only partially guaranteed seems like a great deal for the Jazz.

Also Rudy Gay has been a favorite of Jazz GM Justin Zanik for some time, and he seems to fit the team’s winning timeline relatively well. I don’t know what to expect from Whiteside, and that will be one of the biggest question marks heading into the season as it could go a lot of different ways.

Finally, as mentioned above, I really liked the Jared Butler selection in the draft, and getting him plus two additional second-round picks could be the steal of the offseason.

For the summer as a whole, I’d give the Jazz a solid B+ or A- as they still had to make some difficult cost-cutting moves including a first-round pick, but overall very solid.

I don’t know how many teams in the West got significantly better, those the Los Angeles Lakers should improve just by being healthier.

The Suns had to bring Paul back regardless of the cost and they did. They also got Cameron Payne at a discount, and I like the addition of JaVale McGee and Landry Shamet.

However, the loss of Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig cut hurt them at times next year defensively.

If the Miller’s were still the majority owners, what do the very specific moves the front office has made this summer look like?

This question came via direct message on Twitter, which are always open if you want to send me a question for the podcast.

The new Jazz ownership is making an enormous financial investment into this team to win now, which is something the Miller’s always said they’d be willing to do for a championship.

Yet, we never truly saw them spend that money without a championship guaranteed.

So, it’s hard to say what the Miller’s would or wouldn’t have done, but my gut tells me Mike Conley might be playing somewhere else if Smith hadn’t bought the team last season, especially with the huge investments made in Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Jordan Clarkson last summer.

I could be wrong, and make no mistake, the Miller’s were very good NBA owners, but what Smith is doing feels different.

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