Forrest, Butler, House Show Promise In Jazz Loss To Suns

Jan 24, 2022, 10:05 PM
Utah Jazz guard Danuel House Jr. shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (Photo by Christian Pe...
Utah Jazz guard Danuel House Jr. shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz lost a close game to the Phoenix Suns 115-109, despite missing six of their top-nine rotation players, including all five starters.

Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Joe Ingles all missed the game with various injuries, which led to significant minutes for players who rarely see the floor.

However, the roster put up a valiant effort, fueled by the talented but unproven backcourt of Trent Forrest, Jared Butler, and Danuel House Jr.

Jazz Backcourt Depth On Display

The Jazz entered the season with the deepest backcourt in the NBA with Mitchell, Conley, Clarkson, and Ingles filling out the four-man rotation.

Against the Suns, the Jazz showed they may truly have seven players who could get minutes in a regular NBA rotation.

Forrest scored a career-high 17 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting and was clearly comfortable going up against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul.

The Florida State product gets limited minutes against in the Jazz normal rotation, but too often defaults to the more experienced playmakers on the team’s roster. However, with limited scorers on the floor, Forrest had to look for his shot and found success.

The guard has long arms and a strong frame, and when mixed with his ability to get downhill he can be tough to stop in the paint. Furthermore, Forrest showed a willingness to shoot from the perimeter knocking down 1-2 three-point attempts.

Butler scored 13 points on 5-9 shooting including 3-4 from three and most impressive recorded four steals.

The rookie still plays defense with his hands which will get him into foul trouble, but he’s got a willingness to show effort on that end, and his offensive pace is as good as advertised coming out of college.

House Jr. is on a 10-day contract but scored 14 points while grabbing seven rebounds and four assists.

It’s the second time House Jr. has handed out four assists in his five appearances with the team, showing a more diverse offensive game than he did in Houston.

After the game House Jr. shared his appreciation for his opportunity with the Jazz, and specifically for Quin Snyder.

“He’s the head coach of Utah Jazz he can walk around with his head up but he don’t do that,” House Jr. said. “He wants everybody to have the same energy, he wants everybody to be on top. He wants everybody to succeed because that’s the type of person. He’s a selfless person.”

On top of their offensive performances, all three guards showed tremendous effort on the defensive end, even if results were sometimes mixed.

With two All-Stars in the backcourt last season, and the first and second-place finishers in the Sixth Man of the Year race on the roster, there aren’t many opportunities for the Jazz younger guards to get minutes.

But with the way the young backcourt has proven itself in limited opportunities, the Jazz luxury tax concerns, and the amount of money being paid to the top four players on the team’s guard line, their opportunity may be fast approaching.

The NBA trade deadline is just three weeks away, while Joe Ingles contract is set to expire this offseason.

Whether the veteran guard is still on the Jazz roster come the end of February, or should the team choose to hold onto him for one more playoff run, it seems hard difficult to justify not taking a closer look at at least one of Forrest, Butler, or House as a long term piece in the team’s organization.

That’s no knock on Ingles whose financial future looks difficult to blend with the Jazz salary cap concerns, but it’s also a testament to the young talent on the roster.

Adversity Creates Growth

The Jazz were one of the healthiest teams in the NBA last season, and when adversity finally hit with both Mitchell and Conley going down with injuries to end the regular season, it was too late to take aggressive steps to fix the team’s problems.

Also, because the team was so healthy, it was harder to get a full read on what the team’s weaknesses were until the Los Angeles Clippers exposed them by beating the Jazz four straight times in the second round of the playoffs.

The same can’t be said for this year’s team that seems to have had a year’s worth of adversity jammed into the last three weeks as every player in the team’s regular nine-man rotation has missed multiple games.

Snyder did admit that the lack of some of the team’s key bodies have highlighted areas where his roster needs to improve on the court if they want to achieve their ultimate goals.

“After we lost Rudy Gobert to COVID, I think our guys on some level felt exposed with our defense on the perimeter. You almost don’t realize how much Rudy’s presence is impacting the game and their focus went up,” Snyder said.

The coach pointed to improved defensive effort in the team’s last two outings as a sign of growth from adversity the Jazz have faced.

“Guys are just taking more pride and having more focus on containing the ball,” Snyder said. “That’s something that we can take from these last couple of weeks.”

The number have injuries the Jazz have incurred over the last three weeks has made for some difficult basketball to watch as the team has won just two of their last 10 outings, but perhaps the growth they make as they emerge from the injuries will help them further in the long run.

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