Analysis: Jazz’s first preseason game offers mixed bag of good, bad and ugly
The 10-man lineup offered a glimpse at the rotations that could be most used by head coach Will Hardy
EDMONTON, Alberta — With so much new and unknown with this Utah Jazz team, the first 2022-23 preseason game provided a lot of really valuable information.
Who played, and who did not
Probably the most notable point of interest on Sunday afternoon was the 10-man rotation that Will Hardy used through the majority of the game.
There was the starting five of Kelly Olynyk, Lauri Markkanen, Mike Conley, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt and then a secondary five of Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay, Walker Kessler and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Hardy cleared the bench for the final 8 minutes of the game with Talen Horton-Tucker, Jared Butler, Simone Fontecchio, Ochai Agbaji and Cody Zeller taking over.
Leandro Bolmaro, Stanley Johnson, Saben Lee and two-way player Johnny Juzang did not play. Udoka Azubuike is still sidelined as he works back from his ankle surgery last season.
So what can we surmise from this? Well, it’s just one preseason game, and Hardy has said that he’s still experimenting and still working through what could be a regular rotation, but it would be impossible to look at who played meaningful minutes on Sunday and not think that it’s probably close to what we should expect when the dust from the preseason settles.
The biggest surprises here are that Sexton came off the bench and that Alexander-Walker was a part of that top-10 group.
We’ve consistently heard good things about Alexander-Walker from the coaching staff and other players through training camp. His consistency and impressive play have obviously earned him some good will with Hardy.
As for Sexton, it makes sense for the Jazz to try to give more length to their lineups by avoiding playing their smallest guards, Conley and Sexton, together.
“We’re still tinkering with a lot of these guys being very new, learning how to play together,” Hardy said. “But I think some positional size is always good in the NBA. And, again, our roster gives us the opportunity to put some different combinations out there on the floor. That gives us some versatility.”
For the players who didn’t see the floor on Sunday, it’s hard not to look at that group as being in danger of not being on the final roster. The Jazz have 18 players under contract (not including Zeller, who is on a training camp deal) and have to cut that down to 15 by the start of the regular season.
Who stood out, and who did not
- Markkanen was the Jazz’s highest scorer and was by far the most productive for them when he was on the floor. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds and two steals. He looked like he was as in control as a player can be on a team that barely knows each other.
- Sexton was great at pushing the pace and keeping the defense on their toes and also acquitted himself well when shooting the ball, hitting 3-of-4 from deep and finishing with 11 points.
- Kessler, though he looked like the rookie that he is at certain points, also impressed with his ability to run the floor and his finesse around the rim. He also finished with 11 points.
- Beasley, who had been praised by many for his play during camp and has called himself the best shooter on the team (a claim that was backed up by a few of his teammates) was cold in Canada. He shot 2-of-12 overall and hit just 1-of-8 from 3-point range.
This was a mixed bag.
The Jazz looked surprisingly chaotic, in a good way, in the first half. Making the most of their length on defense and successfully switching quickly and making good reads. That led to some good offense with the Jazz pushing the pace as often as possible.
But the second half reminded us that this team is disjointed at best with no one person who is going to lead the team and a lot of players who just aren’t familiar with each other. The Raptors made easy work of the Jazz in the second half and won the game 114-82.
I’m going to be very interested to see what other rotation wrinkles Hardy plays with through the next three preseason games and what this team starts to actually look like when guys settle into their roles.