UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Roster Has Mostly New Faces Ahead Of Media Day

Sep 23, 2022, 3:23 PM | Updated: Sep 24, 2022, 11:37 am
Talen-Horton-Tucker-Jordan-Clarkson-Utah-Jazz...
Talen Horton-Tucker shoots against Utah Jazz teammate Jordan Clarkson (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz open media day on Monday, and after a flurry of off-season trades, the roster will be mostly unrecognizable from last season.

Only six players remain from last year’s team, and none of those players are guaranteed to finish the season in Utah.

With the high turnover on the roster this summer, here’s a look at the current Jazz team heading into media day.

The Backcourt

The backcourt is by far the deepest group on the Jazz roster this season and will almost certainly see thinning out before the trade deadline.

Four of the Jazz six returners from last season are guards, though five other new faces will compete for time in the backcourt.

Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of each name on the Jazz guard line.

Mike Conley

Conley is suddenly the longest-tenured Jazzman despite joining the team just three summers ago.

The veteran is coming off a better-than-advertised season with the Jazz where he averaged 13.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.0 rebounds while shooting an efficient 40 percent from the three-point line.

Conley struggled mightily in the postseason but could see a sharp increase in averages as one of the most talented players on the roster.

Jordan Clarkson

The second longest-tenured Jazzman returns despite ongoing trade speculation throughout the summer.

Clarkson will again likely be used as the Jazz sixth man in Will Hardy’s system and is a candidate to be the team’s second-leading scorer behind Collin Sexton.

The fan favorite will be trade bait through the regular season if he’s still on the roster after training camp.

Collin Sexton

The Jazz’s biggest acquisition this summer, Sexton is the odds-on favorite to be the next face of the franchise.

When he’s been healthy in his career his production has been inarguable, even if he couldn’t fully carve out a role as the man in Cleveland.

Sexton is coming off a meniscus tear that cost him most of last season so his return to full speed may be slower than fans expect, but he’s a near lock to lead the Jazz in scoring this year.

Jared Butler

Butler saw extremely limited minutes throughout the regular season with the Jazz last year despite a truly impressive preseason campaign.

The rookie averaged 18.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in three preseason appearances but struggled to find the floor on a team that was expected to contend for a title.

Butler should get ample opportunity to prove last preseason was no fluke, though his summer league performance left fans wanting more.

Talen Horton-Tucker

Due to his age and the fact that the Jazz owe him $21 million over the next two seasons, Talen Horton-Tucker should be a mainstay in the rotation this season.

The 21-year-old is entering his fourth season and could benefit from playing on a team with lower expectations than he faced as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers each of the last two years.

Horton-Tucker hasn’t quite developed into the defensive menace many projected coming out of college, and his shooting numbers need to climb, but he’s a candidate to have a breakout season in Utah.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

When the Jazz acquired Alexander-Walker at the trade deadline it was reported that the team planned to fit the guard into their rotation before the postseason.

That never materialized, and the 24-year-old has devolved into an afterthought on this year’s roster.

Alexander-Walker’s size and playmaking are an ideal fit next to Sexton if he can develop, but his shooting numbers must improve dramatically.

Ochai Agbaji

One of four rookies on the Jazz roster, Ochai Agbaji should get ample opportunity to see the floor during a developmental season in Utah.

The guard was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after leading Kansas to a title last season, but he isn’t a traditional college star.

Agbaji projects as a 3-and-D role player, but the NBA’s improved spacing mixed with his shooting and athleticism could elevate his game.

Saben Lee

The newest Jazz guard, Lee is just two years removed from a strong career at Vanderbilt and had a promising rookie season in Detroit, but struggled in his sophomore campaign.

Lee shot 39 percent from the floor and 23 percent from the three-point line in his second year and split time between the Pistons’ main roster and their G League affiliate.

Due to his age, expiring contract, and minuscule salary, Lee could fit the Jazz rebuilding timeline, but unless he shows quick improvement during the preseason, he might be a buyout candidate.

Johnny Juzang (Two-Way Contract)

With the Jazz youth and depth in the backcourt, Juzang may spend most of his time developing with the Salt Lake City Stars in the G League.

The 6-foot-7 guard is on a two-way contract and will get an opportunity to see the floor during the preseason, but those minutes might dissolve by opening night.

With the youth movement happening in Utah the Jazz two-way contracts may serve more as a revolving door this season than they did over the last two years with Trent Forrest.

The Wings

The Jazz lack of wing versatility is as much to blame for the team’s championship window closing as any other factor last season.

Without a true mismatch-creating playmaker on the perimeter, the Jazz offense became far too predictable, and the defense lacked the length and athleticism needed to aid Rudy Gobert.

As a result, the Jazz traded both Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic this summer. Here are the names in line to fill that void this season.

Malik Beasley

The Jazz likely would have redirected Beasley to a new team this summer had there been a reasonable offer but didn’t feel forced to move him after the Gobert trade.

His talent on the floor is unquestionable, but an arrest in 2020 has dramatically changed the league’s perspective of the 25-year-old, high-scoring wing.

Beasley will be given the opportunity to rehab his image in Utah and will be one of the team’s go-to scorers early in the season. If he proves he can help a team win while staying out of trouble off the floor, he could be a valuable trade piece at the deadline.

Leandro Bolmaro

Also acquired in the Gobert blockbuster, Bolmaro is perhaps the biggest wildcard on the Jazz roster.

Just barely 22, Bolmaro’s best basketball is still ahead of him, and when he’s playing his best, it’s clear why he was a first-round pick in 2020.

However, when he’s not on his game, which is unfortunately often, he can be a major detriment. If it clicks, Bolmaro has a chance to be a special player, but consistency will be key, and he’s never shown that at any point during his professional career.

Simone Fontecchio

Fontecchio was a breakout star for the Italian national team at EuroBasket this summer, averaging 19.4 points per game while shooting an extremely efficient 49 percent from the floor and 45 percent from the three-point line.

His size, experience, and shooting ability should translate immediately to the NBA, and unlike some of the younger players on the Jazz roster, he should be able to earn NBA minutes from day one in Utah.

Fontecchio will turn 27 this season, so he likely doesn’t fit the Jazz’s long-term timeline and could be another trade piece at the deadline.

Stanley Johnson

Johnson has career averages of 6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 419 games in the NBA, but never lived up to his top-ten draft selection in 2015.

The forward resurrected his career with the Lakers last season providing much-needed energy and rebounding on a poorly constructed roster.

Johnson’s ambiguous role on the Jazz might make it more difficult for him to succeed than it was in LA, but he should see the floor.

The Frontcourt

Gobert had been the longest-tenured Jazzman, and former coach Quin Snyder admitted last season the team was built around the center to maximize his strengths.

On paper, the frontcourt is the Jazz weakest position group, especially compared to the steady play they got each of the last nine seasons.

Here’s a look at the names the Jazz hope can see the floor this season.

Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen was the second-biggest name the Jazz acquired this summer behind Sexton and should be a major piece of the team’s puzzle this season.

After his second season with the Chicago Bulls, Markkanen appeared to be on an All-Star trajectory, but his production dipped in year three.

Markkanen was forced to play small forward last season in Cleveland but will likely move back to one of the two frontcourt positions this season and could record big numbers in a Jazz uniform.

Jarred Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt averaged a career-high 6.9 points and 8.4 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game last season in Minnesota before landing in Utah in the Gobert trade.

The forward was a favorite to start prior to the Jazz acquiring Markkanen, but his hustle and versatile defense will make him a fan favorite in Utah.

At just 23 years old, Vanderbilt could be a fixture with the Jazz for the foreseeable future.

Kelly Olynk

The Jazz were faced with a gaping hole at center after the Gobert trade and needed a body to eat up starting minutes while the younger bigs on the roster developed.

Olynyk will almost certainly start the season at the five in Utah and provides veteran stability and floor spacing to let the guards and wings around him develop.

He’s a mercenary on this Jazz roster and could be traded by the deadline, but he’ll assist in the team’s growth while he’s in Utah.

Rudy Gay

Gay never found himself impacting the Jazz roster in any meaningful way (outside of his season debut) last year, and was replaced by Juancho Hernangomez in the rotation by the playoffs.

A year removed from bone-spur surgery, and with a familiar face in Will Hardy, Gay might be able to regain the role he showed in San Antonio as a productive veteran off the bench.

On the flip side, he doesn’t match the Jazz timeline and could be a candidate for a high-priced buyout before the regular season.

Walker Kessler

Kessler has yet to make his Jazz debut after a toe injury during the pre-draft process kept him out of the summer league, but there are big expectations for the Jazz rookie.

The Auburn product is a solid athlete who runs the floor easily in transition and moves quickly near the hoop to rack up blocked shots. He has starting potential in the NBA but will need time to develop.

Like Agbaji, Kessler should get plenty of opportunities to make mistakes during his rookie season with the Jazz.

Udoka Azubuike

Serious ankle injuries have derailed most of Azubuike’s first two seasons in Utah, and now with Olynyk and Kessler on the roster, playing time might be difficult to come by.

The third-year center must first prove that he can stay healthy, then show he’s worthy of valuable minutes if he hopes to stick with the Jazz this season.

It’s unlikely, but with the Jazz needing to trim the roster down three spots by opening night, Azubuike is a dark horse buyout candidate.

Micah Potter (Two-Way Contract)

Potter is entering his second NBA season after making three appearances for the Detroit Pistons last season and is the fourth true center on the Jazz roster.

The big man was a standout in the G League last season and his ability to space the floor is unique among centers.

Like Juzang, Potter will get a chance to prove he’s worth a developmental opportunity, but that leash might not be terribly long this season.

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