Hardy Discusses John Collins, Jazz Starting Point Guard Options

Sep 29, 2023, 1:12 PM | Updated: Oct 2, 2023, 1:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – On the verge of opening training camp next week, Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy discussed two of the most pressing issues facing the team during the preseason.

How will the team use John Collins? And, who will start at point guard?

Hardy and Jazz General Manager Justin Zanik discussed the team’s offseason and addressed the major questions facing the team leading up to the season opener on October 25.

How Will The Jazz Use John Collins?

The Jazz made one of the bigger splashes of the NBA offseason when they traded for Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins shortly after free agency opened.

The low price tag to acquire Collins (Rudy Gay and a highly protected second-round draft pick) made the trade a no-brainer, but how the team plans to use him is a more difficult proposition.

Collins has been a full-time NBA starter over each of his last five seasons in Atlanta, and should be penciled into the starting lineup alongside Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler in the Jazz frontcourt.

What those results look like is anyone’s guess.

“We have some new pieces, we have some players in new roles,” Hardy said of the offseason changes. “And it’s our job to try to look at the team as something that doesn’t have a ton of history to it.”

With the emergence of Trae Young in Atlanta and their dependence on Clint Capela as a pick-and-roll option, the Hawks gradually reduced Collins’ role on offense over the last several seasons.

As a result, Collins has seen a steep drop off in his three-point shooting percentages, and unless either he or Kessler becomes a reliable long-range threat, the Jazz may have similar spacing issues on the offensive end, without a ball-handler as talented as Young to bail them out.

That could mean the Jazz will be forced to stagger Collins’ and Kessler’s minutes throughout the game, even if the two players start alongside one another with Markkanen at the three.

“I have to be flexible in what I am willing to do or try with them in order to make that three-person group of Lauri, John, and Walker work to the best of their abilities,” Hardy said. “I can’t center it around John, and I also can’t just center it around those two and just say ‘John, figure it out as you go.'”

Related: Why Did The Jazz Trade For John Collins?

Luckily for the Jazz, Kelly Olynyk’s versatility off the bench should allow him to play next to both Kessler and Collins interchangeably at the power forward or center positions while maximizing Markkanen at small forward.

Though Olynyk might not start for the Jazz, his role on offense could be significantly more important to this year’s roster than it was last season.

Seeing how Collins and Kessler fit together will be a key issue to open training camp, and one to monitor throughout the preseason.

Who Starts At Point Guard For The Jazz?

While Collins will be the most significant new face for the Jazz, who starts in the backcourt may be the tougher question to answer.

Mike Conley was the opening night starter last season, but after a midseason trade and a slew of injuries, the Jazz opted for a point guard by committee approach to close the year.

Jordan Clarkson is the Jazz’s longest-tenured player, signed a contract extension this offseason, was the team’s second-leading scorer last year, and started all 61 of his games.

With that resume, it’s probably safe to assume he’ll fill one starting spot for the Jazz in the backcourt, but will mostly likely operate off the ball.

So who starts alongside him?

“When you look at just the guards, there are a lot of factors that are going to go into all of those guys really, really competing to try to earn those minutes because not everybody can play every night,” Hardy teased.

Collin Sexton, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Kris Dunn each appeared in a starting role for stretches last season, while rookie Keyonte George showed a knack for playing the position in the summer league.

Who gets those minutes early in camp could go a long way toward determining who starts the season opener against the Sacramento Kings.

Related: Who Should The Jazz Start At Point Guard?

“Collin, Talen, Kris, Jordan, I haven’t even mentioned Keyonte yet, those five guys are going to go at it at training camp, and I love that,” Hardy said.

“But again we’ve got to make sure that it’s within a team construct and that individual motives are good and powerful and we need to lean into hose, but we also have to remember that we have 82 games coming and we’re all wearing the same jersey.”

The Jazz will host media day on Monday morning before boarding a flight to Hawaii to open training camp.

You can listen to interviews from media day live on the KSL Sports Zone beginning at 7 a.m. MST. The team opens the preseason a week from Sunday in Hawaii against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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Hardy Discusses John Collins, Jazz Starting Point Guard Options