Jazz Pre-Training Camp Mailbag
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA season officially opens next week as the Utah Jazz host their annual media on Monday.
From there, the Jazz will leave for Las Vegas where they will spend most of the week practicing and preparing for their preseason opener against the San Antonio Spurs on October 4.
With the season on the immediate horizon, Ben Anderson of KSL Sports answers your final offseason questions in the latest episode of the Jazz Notes Podcast. You can listen to the answers in this player, or read the answers below.
Final Jazz Offseason Mailbag
I am sure this is possible, though it must be understood that if any member of the public has considered the potential fallout of bringing in a player like Eric Paschall because of his friendship with Donovan Mitchell, and then not playing him, the Jazz have certainly run through every contingency plan to make sure that everyone is taken care of.
Teams are absurdly obsessive about these types of details, and even more so about keeping their star players happy. Remember the Jazz previously loaded the back end of the roster with Deron Williams former Illinois teammates to keep him happy, and it seemed to work to varying degrees.
What’s different about what the Jazz are doing with Paschall and what they did with Dee Brown and Roger Powell is that Paschall has proven to be a better NBA player than either of those two ever did.
The Jazz are going to continue to face a serious luxury tax crunch in the coming seasons with the huge contracts due to Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley, and having young players with a low cost and a reasonable upside are smart investments.
Paschall fits that bill, and his friendship with the team’s best player is icing on the cake.
Also, I wouldn’t rule out him finding minutes in the rotation, which I’ll address later in this article.
The only way I see the Jazz perimeter defense improving, especially in the postseason when it was most clearly a problem, is for Mitchell and Conley to be healthier at season’s end, and for either Jared Butler or Trent Forrest to prove they have defensive chops and can work their way into the rotation.
Otherwise, the personnel is almost entirely the same outside of Paschall and Rudy Gay, and neither are strong perimeter defenders.
Here’s what’s difficult. The Jazz had a top-four defense throughout all of last season because Gobert is so difficult to gameplan for in one-off situations. But when you get to the postseason, a team’s scouting reports become more thorough, and they start to pick the Jazz apart the same way the Los Angeles Clippers did.
So ultimately no, I don’t think the Jazz perimeter defense got better, but having a healthier Conley and Mitchell, which would also improve the offense could offset the defensive limitations.
As for a slow start, I’d be surprised. The Jazz bring back the same starting five from last season and should have even better chemistry, they’ll compete for the best record in the NBA again.
I wrote a little bit about this very idea last month, so I am glad you brought it up. Certainly making tweaks to your roster is how some teams finally breakthrough from being a great regular season team to a great postseason team.
That’s where the Jazz are right now, tweaking the end of their rotation to add Gay, Paschall, and Hassan Whiteside in place of Georges Niang and Derrick Favors.
This isn’t unlike what the Milwaukee Bucks did tweaking pieces around Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Giannis Antetokonmpo with players like PJ Tucker who played a key role in winning a title.
But, the good news is that finishing the regular season with the best record has traditionally been a solid signifier that more future success is on the way in and of itself.
Since 2001, four of the 11 teams that have earned the best regular-season record but failed to repeat with the best record the next season still went on to win an NBA title within the next five seasons.
While that’s far from a lock, it goes to show that being good in the regular season tends to pay off in future postseason runs, even if the Jazz don’t finish with the best record this year.
It should mostly be the same cast of characters from last season, though you could flip the two LA teams depending on how well Russell Westbrook fits with the Lakers, and how much time Kawhi Leonard misses with the Clippers.
The Phoenix Suns should be very good again, though Chris Paul has played a lot of basketball in the last two seasons, and father time could alter their championship hopes.
Westbrook has been a less-than-terrific playoff player historically, something the Jazz have seen first hand, but he can still wreak havoc on opposing defenses with his relentless style of play, again, something the Jazz have seen first hand.
What he might do best is give LeBron James long stretches off from having to do everything on the floor because Westbrook is himself a walking triple-double. Three-point shooting will be a question mark, but they will likely still adjust the roster as the season progresses.
I think the Denver Nuggets will once again be good, but won’t be a true contender until Jamal Murray returns to the lineup and that probably won’t happen this year.
Golden State should be significantly improved with the return of Klay Thompson, though I believe their best years are behind them. Steph Curry should again compete for an MVP trophy, but I am not sure their young players are ready to win at a high level just yet.
Otherwise, most other teams in the West are one-trick ponies, and that’s a hard way to win.
I’d be surprised if Quin Snyder makes a full-time move to a full 10-man rotation as he’s pretty strictly played just nine players most of the time that he’s been in Utah.
And there’s good reason, you want your best players on the floor as often as possible without risking their health.
But, while I don’t think we’ll see a 10-man rotation, we may see a nine-man rotation plus one throughout the season.
Because of Eric Paschall’s ability to play as many as three positions, Snyder could potentially try to find additional rest for Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gay, and Joe Ingles throughout the season while mixing their newest addition in wherever he’s needed.
While that may not guarantee him minutes every night, it could get him on the floor with real rotation minutes in a significant number of games throughout the year while also building chemistry, and providing rest to the middle of the Jazz lineup.
I contend that while most people expressed significant concern about injuries last season due to the quick turnaround, this year has also had a shorter-than-usual offseason, and stealing days off will be at a premium throughout the season.
Gobert has traditionally shown a little more willingness to shoot further away from the rim during the preseason, only to see it disappear during the regular season
The difficulty is that he’s so good around the rim, there’s no reason for him to ever step too far away from the basket unless it’s a late clock situation.
With that said, I once tweeted a video of Gobert making a three and said we’ll never see that in a game, and he seemed to challenge that notion.
I will say that though I don’t think we’ll see him working on a jump shot much, maybe this is the year he finally knocks down a three.
He seems to make a slightly deeper jumper every season, maybe this is the year he hits a late clock buzzer-beater from downtown.
While the Jazz enter the season well over the luxury tax, they can change that at the trade deadline and save significant money. With that in mind, there is a real reason to believe that the team might not be done dealing this season, especially considering their depth in the backcourt and on the wing.
Here’s a breakdown of the type of money the Jazz could shave off their luxury tax bill if they could flip any one of these players at the deadline for a draft pick while taking no money in return.
Bojan Bogdanovic – $18.7 million = $38.8 million in savings
Joe Ingles – $13 million = $31.3 million in savings
Jordan Clarkson – $12.4 million = $30.1 million in savings
Royce O’Neale – $8.8 million = $23.7 million in savings
Those are not insignificant sums, and with Gay, Paschall, Forrest, and Butler on the roster, they may have enough bodies to carry the load to make one of these players available.
However, if the Jazz want to win a title, they probably won’t do so by making cost-cutting moves, that’s not traditionally a strong way to improve, so I won’t be surprised if the Jazz roster on opening night looks similar to the roster in game 82.
Finally, how many cats are we talking?