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Jazz give a glimpse at their ability to switch in preseason loss

Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni, left, defends as Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis during preseason game.
Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni, left, defends as Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) works to the basket in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.
Michael Ainsworth, Associated Press

When the Utah Jazz signed Rudy Gay and Eric Paschall this offseason, the assumption was that both could be utilized as small-ball five options and give the Jazz more versatility.

We all know what they say about making assumptions.

Even with the appearance of greater versatility and an opportunity to play a different style of basketball, there were still many who wondered how the Jazz were going to use the two newest players and whether Jazz head coach Quin Snyder would be willing to change his system.

Those hoping for some change will have breathed a sigh of relief after the first two preseason games.

“This year, all of it is, for real, just preparing,” Jazz sixth man Jordan Clarkson said of the preseason slate. “Putting in stuff that we’re going to use during the year.”

Jazz players have talked about new additions to their schemes and sets and have said that the four preseason contests would serve as practice and allow them to experiment a little with new stuff including their ability to effectively switch at a higher level.

Then the news came out that Gay would miss the preseason and possibly more as he recovers from offseason surgery on his right heel to remove a bone spur, and there was even more concern that the Jazz wouldn’t be able to refine and practice with less traditional lineups.

But against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, even when most of the team’s main rotation was resting, we were given a glimpse into what could be coming.

Paschall started at the center position and although there were some clunky and choppy moments, there were some really encouraging sequences.

The Jazz switched everything and were really able to hold their own in mismatches. Even with the Mavericks’ starters, including Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, playing against the Jazz’s deep bench players, the Jazz were able to do some promising things.

“I thought our activity was really good,” Snyder said after the game. “There were some times where we broke down with our communication or we didn’t get underneath a roller, but I thought that by and large, having not done that one-through-five before, guys did a pretty good job.”

The Jazz have been able to switch through four positions before but they’re going that extra step, and being able to have a lineup that can switch everything has been talked about since the first day of training camp.

It was one of the things that Paschall noticed when watching the Jazz’s playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Being able to switch top to bottom would open up the Jazz’s defensive capabilities. And although Gay won’t be able to be on the court for a while, it doesn’t mean the Jazz can’t practice that component of their game.

It’s not something to expect in every game, but there are going to be times when it’s necessary and the Jazz will want to perfect its small lineup long before the postseason, so it’s likely to be something we’ll all see a bit more of.