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Instant analysis: Jazz go small as starters and vets rest

Utah Jazz’s Jared Butler, wearing a blue jersey, handles the ball
Utah Jazz’s Jared Butler handles the ball in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.
Michael Ainsworth, Associated Press

DALLAS — The Utah Jazz lost a second consecutive preseason game on Wednesday night, falling 111-101 to the Dallas Mavericks.

A win was never something that was going to matter in this game though, as the Jazz went into the night with seven of its main rotational players sitting on the bench in street clothes.

Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell all took the night off to rest, Hassan Whiteside sat out with a sore left heel, Bojan Bogdanovic remained out with right shoulder soreness along with Rudy Gay, who won’t play at all through the preseason as he recovers from offseason surgery on his right heel.

While a starting lineup of Miye Oni, Royce O’Neale, Eric Paschall, Trent Forrest and Jordan Clarkson might not sound exciting, especially when O’Neale and Clarkson only played first-half minutes, this game held a lot of information about the end-of-bench guys.

High Notes

  • If I had to make a guess about which fringe rotation player was going to get the most opportunity this season, I would say Jared Butler, it wouldn’t even be close and I’d feel pretty confident in my guess. I know that’s it’s just two preseason games, but the kid just looks like he’s farther along than the other players and has the tools that will give him a great career in this league.
  • It was really encouraging to see Elijah Hughes come into the game and hit some early shots. He usually takes a while to warm up in a game but he came out ready to go on Wednesday.
  • The Jazz tried out some small-ball stuff with Paschall at the five and there were some really encouraging signs early on. You can tell that the Jazz haven’t spent a ton of time in a scheme where they switch one through five, and that’s ok. It’s going to take a while to get used to something that new and different. But it’s nice to see the Jazz at least trying it out and then later hear players say that they were going to continue to experiment and refine it.

Low Notes

  • It’s probably not great news for Forrest that Butler is having a pretty impressive preseason thus far. While the Jazz like Forrest, it’s going to be hard for them to deny minutes to Butler with how much potential Butler has.
  • Udoka Azubuike continues to struggle and it didn’t help that he was going up against players who were never going to let him get away with his constant desire to dunk. It’s been a rough couple of games for Dok, unfortunately.

  • When all of the players on the floor are players that are not in the regular rotation, the Jazz’s spacing seems to collapse more often than not. There are a handful of possessions when Oni or Hughes, who have been around for a minute, float out to the wide corners as they are supposed to and they got some open looks that way. But there are way more times that everyone was passing up open looks and then the space incrementally shrunk with each successive pass. It really does help when these guys get time on the floor with the good players on a team who can guide them and correct them and help them. One of my high school basketball coaches used to say, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” If you keep practicing but you’re doing things wrong and you aren’t great at those things, then you probably aren’t going to get that much better.

Flat Notes

  • Players like Hughes, Butler, and even some of the other young players, likely won’t be evaluated based on their ability to score or their offensive abilities. Hughes has improved his shot, he shoots in rhythm and has a good feel for when to attack. Butler is a pure shooter who is really savvy with the ball. What they are able to do on the defensive end is going to be how their growth is evaluated. That’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, just a thing to think about as we’re watching these players. They’re good on the offensive side and we know that. But how good can they be on the other end?
  • Watching Luka Doncic play against the Jazz’s end-of-bench squad was a little unfair.