22. Jazz Players Fighting For Minutes

Sep 28, 2021, 2:46 PM | Updated: 2:46 pm

Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)...

Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just 22 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. Coming in at number 22, Jazz players fighting for minutes.

Jazz Players Fighting For Minutes

The Jazz begin training camp today with fewer question marks heading into the season than perhaps at any point since John Stockton and Karl Malone were the faces of the franchise.

The starting lineup has been set for two years, as are the top four players coming off the bench, spearheaded by the dynamic guard line of Joe Ingles and last year’s Sixth Man of the Year award winner Jordan Clarkson.

Veteran Rudy Gay will get the majority of the minutes as the team’s back up power forward, while Hassan Whiteside will begin the season as the team’s reserve center.

Yet, the Jazz will have 14 players with guaranteed contracts heading into the season, and both Trent Forrest and Justin James on two-way contracts.

With 13 players required to suit up each night, and the back half of the team’s roster fighting for minutes on the floor, here’s a deeper look at the team’s nine-man rotation, and how that rotation played out last season.

Jazz Nine-Man Rotation

Quin Snyder, like the majority of coaches in the NBA, prefers a nine-man rotation to eat up the majority of the 240 minutes each night.

Last season, the top nine players in the rotation averaged 241.9 minutes per game, with the overage due to the number of starters who missed games, upping the average time spent on the floor throughout the season.

However, despite those nine players eating up the majority of the minutes, the Jazz had just 22 regular-season games last year when only nine players stepped on the floor. Meanwhile, there were 50 outings when at least 10 players saw the court due to foul trouble, injuries, or late-game minutes in blowout situations.

In total, at least 10 players played in 70 percent of the team’s outings, while 13 players appeared in at least 28 games. Of the 17,280 regular-season minutes the Jazz played last season, 1,565, or nine percent of the total minutes were recorded by non-top-nine rotation players on the team. And, those 1,565 are more total minutes than Mike Conley, Georges Niang, and Derrick Favors each recorded last season.

Who Is Vying For Additional Minutes?

While the Jazz are hoping that Gay and Whiteside can be improvements over Niang and Favors production off the bench last season, the area of biggest improvement in the offseason may exist between the 10-15 roster spots on the team.

Last season Miye Oni and Trent Forrest got the majority of the minutes among players outside of the top nine in the rotation, with Ersan Ilyasova, Juwan Morgan, Jarrell Brantley, and Matt Thomas getting the 11-15th most minutes.

This summer, the Jazz added Eric Paschall to the roster, acquiring the versatile forward from Golden State in return for a second-round draft pick. They also acquired talented guard Jared Butler in a draft-night trade, while seeing both Forrest and second-year center Udoka Azubuike have breakout performances during the summer league.

With Ilyasova, Morgan, Brantley, and Thomas all gone from the roster, those previously mentioned names, plus second-year wing Elijah Hughes and two-way guard Justin James should all be options for minutes deep on the Jazz bench.

Where Will Jazz Minutes Come From?

Two of the most impressive stats to emerge from the Jazz owning the best record in the NBA last season were how many games the team’s top rotation players missed due to injuries and rest, and how few minutes the rotation players actually played last season.

Only Bojan Bogdanovic and Georges Niang played in all 72 games last season, while the team’s top nine rotation players missed a total of 55 games, including 40 from Mitchell and Conley.

Additionally, Mitchell’s 33.4 minutes per game average, the most of any player on the Jazz, ranked just 39th overall in the NBA. Coach Quin Snyder found a way to get the team to a league-best 52 wins without drowning his players in extra minutes.

With that success in mind, it’s reasonable to expect a similar minute allocation among the Jazz key rotation players, with the exception perhaps of Royce O’Neale who played a team-high 2,241 minutes last season, who could see a greater share of his minutes go to Gay than went to Niang last season.

Though Snyder will hope to keep the average minutes similar to last season, the health of the team will be mostly out of his control, which could result in more or fewer minutes for the back half of the team’s roster.

While there’s no way to predict the number of games missed due to injury this season, Snyder could be more willing to rest players atop his rotation periodically throughout the season to limit their minutes and risk of injury.

Additionally, the Jazz Net Rating could play a factor in available minutes for back-end roster players as well. Last season the Jazz led the NBA in Net Rating, leading to a significant number of blowouts, and a high number of minutes available in the fourth quarter with the games already decided.

If the Jazz once again find themselves among the league-leaders in Net Rating, a more experienced group on the back end of the roster could earn even more minutes than last season. But if their Net Rating drops, those minutes could be hard to find.

The Jazz regular-season opener is just over three weeks away, and though the nine-man rotation is likely set, the fight for minutes at the end of the roster is one of the top storylines to watch counting down to opening night.

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22. Jazz Players Fighting For Minutes