Mystery Surrounds Jazz, Raptors Preseason Opener

Sep 30, 2022, 4:01 PM | Updated: Oct 1, 2022, 10:59 pm
Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton defends against the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz open their preseason on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors and despite three training camp practice sessions, there remain more questions than answers on what to expect.

The Jazz roster underwent a complete overhaul in the offseason as Rudy Gobert was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Donovan Mitchell was shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic were also sent east in trades during the summer, leaving only Mike Conley on the roster from last year’s starting lineup.

Jazz Rotations Remain Unknown

Currently, the Jazz have 20 players under contract including two-way guard Johnny Juzang who was signed on draft night.

The roster features 12 veterans with three years of NBA experience or more, but only Conley, Rudy Gay, and Jordan Clarkson return from last year’s team.

Conley and Clarkson are locks to make the Jazz rotation, as are newcomers Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Rookies Ochai Agbaji, Walker Kessler, and Simone Fontecchio should also vie for playing time as their development could be key to the Jazz future.

Who Else Will Play?

In addition to the 10 players already named, which other players will be able to crack the rotation? The Jazz roster is loaded with young talent on the perimeter, but minutes will be few and far between.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker has reportedly stood out early in practice, but can he outplay Talen Horton-Tucker who established himself as a rotation-level player with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Leandro Bolmaro is two years removed from being a first-round draft pick, and struggled to shoot efficiently last season in Minnesota, but has obvious talent with the ball in his hands.

Jared Butler has yet to replicate his outstanding preseason performance last year, but does having a year under his belt with the team give him a leg up on the competition?

Saben Lee is a long shot to make the roster, but his odds would increase dramatically with strong preseason shooting numbers.

Stanley Johnson reenergized his career last season with the Lakers, but there is significant talent ahead of him in the Jazz frontcourt, including Gay who never jelled in Quin Snyder’s rotation last year.

Cody Zeller seems unlikely to make the roster but should get ample opportunity to extend his NBA career with Udoka Azubuike sidelined by an ankle injury.

Each player should get a chance to audition for a spot in the rotation during the preseason, though opportunities will be limited.

How Will The Team Play?

New coach Will Hardy has been tight-lipped about his team’s style of play, though subtle hints have been dropped over the last week.

Hardy wants the Jazz to play faster than they did last season and said he wouldn’t ignore the modern trends of the NBA. That likely means the Jazz will look to run when given the opportunity and won’t be afraid to continue their three-point barrage.

Sexton will be given the opportunity to run the offense as he and Hardy have set an assists per game goal, but didn’t reveal the number.

Conley said the Jazz have fluctuated between a drop-big defense and a switch-heavy defense in training camp, which would be a significant difference from last season.

Additionally, Markkaken, Vanderbilt, Gay, and Johnson could all get opportunities to initiate the offense in rebound-and-g0 situations.

How many of these questions get answered against the Raptors remains unknown, but there should be plenty of evidence for Hardy’s preferred style of play.

Jazz vs. Raptors Preseason Broadcast

The Jazz and Raptors will tip off their preseason contest at 4 pm MT in Edmonton. The game can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone and can be seen on NBATV and AT&T SportsNet, and streamed on FuboTV and DirecTV Stream.

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