Butler, Hughes, Fitts Highlight Jazz Youth In Loss To Mavericks
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Jared Butler, Elijah Hughes, and Malik Fitts showed that the Utah Jazz might have more talent at the back end of their roster than previously known despite the team’s 111-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
The Jazz fell to 0-2 in the preseason with the loss but were extremely shorthanded against in their final preseason road game starting the night without Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gay, and Hassan Whiteside.
But, even without seven players expected to be mainstays in the team’s nine-man rotation, the younger pieces on the roster gave fans plenty to enjoy.
Butler, Hughes, Fitts Impress
Hughes got the excitement started for the Jazz scoring nine points in the first quarter while knocking down three three-point shots.
After starting Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs, Hughes came off the bench but gave the team an immediate spark by running the floor and knocking down open shots.
“Sometimes you have to find a fit,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Elijah Hughes’s role. “Going to the offensive glass, running the court, playing defense, rebounding, all those things.”
Hughes finished with 11 points in 19 minutes while adding three rebounds and three assists.
Malik Fitts, who signed with the Jazz last week also made the most of his opportunity in the fourth quarter.
The second-year forward knocked down four of his five three-point attempts, three of which came in the final period to finish with 12 points while adding three assists.
“You can definitely see the transition on the NBA with the threes,” Fitts said of his shooting. “That’s something that I work on every single day.”
Fitts signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Jazz which functions as a training camp invite that allows the team to retain his G League rights should they waive him.
However, with an open two-way contract spot on the roster, the Jazz could guarantee themselves an opportunity to keep the guard if they wanted to convert his deal.
But while Hughes and Fitts showed their promise, it was Butler who once again stole the show among the Jazz youngest players.
The rookie guard led the Jazz in scoring for the second straight game, totaling a game-high 22 points in just over 30 minutes. Butler connected on 9-18 shots from the floor and 3-7 from the three-point while handing out four assists in the impressive outing.
There were never questions about the rookie’s talent coming out of Baylor, but concerns about the health of his heart and knees scared teams away on draft night. Though it’s very early in the guard’s career, his ability to handle a major load on the floor in the NBA looks reminiscent of his time in college when he averaged over 29 minutes per game in 90 outings with the team.
“I’m really big on how I feel out there, what type of player am I going to be in this league,” Butler said of feeling out the game. “Getting off to a good start is good because that just sets the tone for my whole trajectory.”
In two outings with the team, Butler has shown impressive control over the pace of the game, an advanced comfort with the ball in his hands, and the type of shooting that made him one of the best guards in basketball at the college level.
Forrest, Azubuike Haven’t Found Summer Magic
While Hughes, Fitts, and Butler have impressed, neither Trent Forrest nor Udoka Azubuike has quite been able to replicate their stellar summer league play.
Though Azubuike finished with a game-high 14 rebounds, he still finds himself out of position on defense routinely allowing the opposing teams to get easy looks at the rim. And where he could get easy dunks most trips down the floor in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, he’s found trouble finishing over the larger rim defenders in the preseason.
Forrest has also struggled with the size of interior defenders after summer league. The guard easily picked apart the slower defenses in Salt Lake City and Vegas by getting into the paint and using floaters to score at the rim. However, the guard has struggled to shoot the ball in preseason including a 3-11 night against the Mavericks.
Jazz Return To Utah
The Jazz now return to Utah with four days before their next preseason game. The team will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday before wrapping up the preseason on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
After resting the majority of his lineup on the road to open the preseason, watch for Snyder to give his regulars opportunities to tune their games up before the regular season begins on October 20.
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