29. Tracking Former Jazz Fan Favorites
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just 29 days from today. With the clock ticking, we look at 50 things for Jazz fans to be excited about leading up to the 2021-22 NBA season. Today, we look at where a few former Jazz fan favorites have landed, and how to track them.
Tracking Former Jazz Fan Favorites
As I wrote yesterday, fans will get a quick look at one of the most favorite former Jazzmen when they host Derrick Favors and the Oklahoma City Thunder on opening night.
The Jazz sent Favors, along with a future first-round draft pick to the Thunder to get out from underneath the two years and $20 remaining on the reserve center’s contracts.
While that may seem like a steep price to pay to unload a contract, it’s a more than reasonable move considering Favors deal would have cost the Jazz more than $35 million in luxury tax penalties on top of his existing contract, a staggering price for reserve center.
Favors should get an opportunity to prove he still has more to offer than he showed in Utah last season when he averaged 5.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in just over 15 minutes per game last season.
If he can show there’s more left in the tank, he could be highly sought after by teams in need of a reliable defensive-minded big man at the trade deadline.
Jarrell Brantley became a fan favorite early in his career with the Jazz showing off his unique skill set at the Salt Lake City Summer League in 2019.
However, a hip injury robbed him of an opportunity to earn a full-time guaranteed contract with the team, and he spent the last two seasons with the Jazz on a two-way contract.
Brantley’s shooting and playmaking with the Salt Lake City Stars and during his summer league appearances hinted at the future potential he had as a Jazzman, but with limited opportunities to develop with the main roster, the team waived the forward last week.
On Monday, Brantley signed with BC Unics, a professional club in Russia and part of the EuroCup through the 2021-22 season. The experience should be a good one for Brantley who is penciled in as a starter on the roster alongside NBA veterans OJ Mayo, Isaiah Canaan, and Lorenzo Brown.
Dante Exum had one of the more unique stretches in Utah, but still has one of the most dedicated followings among former Jazz players.
After proving unable to stay on the floor due to a series of serious injuries, the Jazz moved on from Exum in a trade for guard Jordan Clarkson. While the trade has proven to be one of the best in team history, Jazz fans still are vocal in their support of the former lottery pick.
Exum appeared in just 30 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded to the Houston Rockets as part of the James Harden blockbuster. Though the guard never suited up in Houston, he proved his value on the basketball floor during the Olympic Games in Tokyo where his defense and hustle helped lead Australia to their first-ever Olympic medal.
With the Rockets needing additional help in the backcourt, they resigned Exum to a three-year, non-guaranteed deal.
If he can earn a roster spot with the Rockets, Exum islanders will see the former guard on October 28 when the Jazz travel to face Houston on the road.
Whether it was his consistency on the floor or his boyish good looks off the court, Raul Neto endeared himself to Jazz fans in four seasons with the team between 2015-2019.
Neto spent one season with the Philadelphia 76ers before signing with the Washington Wizards where he had a breakout season averaging a career-high 8.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists backing up Russell Westbrook.
With Westbrook now suiting up for the Los Angeles Lakers, Neto will again serve as the primary backup after Washington signed guard Spencer Dinwiddie during the offseason.
Jazz fans will get their first look at the former fan favorite on December 11 in the nation’s capital.
While several former Jazz fan favorites have gone on to find promising roles in the league after their tenure in Utah, Ricky Rubio has had one of the tougher runs in recent years.
After two seasons as the Jazz starting point guard, the Jazz let Rubio sign with the Phoenix Suns after trading for All-Star Mike Conley.
Rubio’s lone season in Phoenix was promising, nearly leading the Suns to the playoffs, but was traded to the Thunder during the 2020 offseason in exchange for future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.
While Paul led the Suns to the Finals, Rubio was again traded by the Thunder to the Minnesota Timberwolves where he started his NBA career a decade ago. While rejoining his former team seemed like an ideal fit, the guard struggled with the Timberwolves averaging a career-low 8.6 points per game.
However, after a strong showing for Spain during the Olympics, Rubio was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers where his veteran experience should help a young roster in need of direction, just as he did in Phoenix.
Jazz fans will get their first look at Rubio in a Cavaliers jersey on December 5 in Cleveland.
The last of the Jazz’s recent fan favorite, Jae Crowder has been terrifically successful since leaving Utah.
While the Jazz needed to clear his roster spot to make room for Bojan Bogdanovic on the team, Crowder has gone on to make consecutive Finals appearances for the Miami Heat and the Suns.
Since leaving Utah, Crowder has averaged 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting a healthy 36 percent from the three-point line on two contending rosters.
Though Jazz fans have no love lost for the Suns, they will get a chance to root for Crowder when the two teams meet on January 24 in Phoenix.
While Jazz fans will always be loyal to their home team, tracking these fan favorites is one of the 50 top storylines in our countdown to opening night.