UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Look Like A Rebuilding Roster In Loss To Thunder

Dec 11, 2023, 9:36 PM | Updated: Dec 12, 2023, 10:26 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz dropped their third straight game and the fifth in the last six outings with a 134-120 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Keyonte George scored a career-high 30 points in the loss while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander matched the rookie guard with 30 points of his own.

With the loss, the Jazz fell to 1-11 on the road this season.

Jazz Truest Rebuilding Game To Date

The Jazz’s loss to the Thunder resembled the first true rebuilding game of the season, and perhaps the purest rebuilding game since the team traded Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell last summer.

The team tanked several games down the stretch last season as they rested the majority of their veterans in March and April, and used the opportunity to get both Ochai Agbaji and Walker Kessler significant minutes, but neither of those players appears as likely to shape the Jazz’s identity going forward as Keyonte George.

With Kessler, John Collins, and Lauri Markkanen missing Monday’s game, Will Hardy was able to roll out his young players for extended stretches, and Jazz fans got a taste of the team’s future with George running the show.

The rookie guard led the Jazz in points, field goal attempts, and minutes, while matching Kris Dunn’s team-high seven assists.

“He’s somebody that we’re heavily invested in his development,” Hardy said of George, “and he’s putting the work in and he’s seen the results.”

George has carried a huge responsibility early in his career as he’s tried to find his own individual identity while still managing an offensive system designed to feed the Jazz’s higher-paid veterans.

“He’s got a ton of ability,” Hardy added. “He can shoot off the dribble, he can get into the paint, he’s a good passer, he’s got good feel. I think he’s trying to figure out that balance every single night.”

At some point this season the Jazz will move away from the veterans on the roster who don’t have long-term potential on the roster, and will hand the ball over to George, Taylor Hendricks, Brice Sensabaugh, and a few of the other second-year players in hopes of finding a few core pieces to work with going forward.

As a result, this Jazz roster isn’t destined for many wins this season, but winning and rebuilding rarely go hand-in-hand.

While the losses may be painful for some fans to swallow, performances like George’s should ease the burden, if only a little bit.

Clarkson Struggles For Jazz Against Thunder

Jordan Clarkson’s difficult season didn’t get any easier in Oklahoma City after scoring eight points on 3-13 shooting, including 0-4 from the three-point line.

The guard has missed four of the Jazz’s last six games due to a combination of illness and a thigh bruise, and when he’s been on the floor, he’s lacked the energy that he’s traditionally brought to the roster over his last four years in Utah.

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Clarkson is averaging just 10.3 points while shooting 31 percent from the floor and 31 percent from three, and was a team-worst -25 in 21 minutes in Oklahoma City.

There’s no doubting Clarkson’s skills as a scorer, as he’s less than a month removed from a four-game stretch in which he averaged 31.5 points per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three.

But regardless of sickness or injury, Clarkson’s struggles have been difficult for the Jazz to overcome.

Nightly Awards: Jazz vs. Thunder

The “Deron Williams This Might Be Personal” Award:

Goes to Keyonte George who seems have a little extra pep in his step when he plays against teams who drafted point guards ahead of him in the lottery.

George first scored a career-high 15 points on November 14 against the Portland Trail Blazers who selected Scoot Henderson with the third overall pick in June’s draft.

He set another career-high of 16 points against Portland a week later, then had his first 21-point outing against Henderson and the Blazers earlier this month.

Cason Wallace, the 10th pick in this year’s draft, and a childhood friend of George also felt the guard’s wrath as the Jazz rookie poured in a career-high 30 points in Oklahoma City.

Not every outing against a fellow lottery pick has been noteworthy for George who scored just six points on 1-2 shooting against Anthony Black and the Orlando Magic on November 2, though that did come before the rookie was thrust into the starting lineup less than a week later.

Deron Williams notoriously had a chip on his shoulders against the other guards in his class, including both Chris Paul and Raymond Felton who were selected immediately behind him in the 2005 draft.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Knicks on Wednesday at 7 pm MST in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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