Jazz Mailbag: Where would the Jazz be this year with the same roster that ended last season?
Also, is Collin Sexton a potential starter down the road or a guy to lead the second unit?
The trade deadline has passed, the All-Star break is over, Walker Kessler is apparently a 3-point threat, and the Utah Jazz have just 21 games left to play in the 2022-23 season. It’s a perfect time to open up the ol’ mailbag and answer some of Jazz Nation’s burning questions.
Let’s dig in.
Let’s imagine the Jazz brought the exact same roster from last year into this year, but Hardy was the coach instead of Snyder. How far does that team go this year?— Mike Miller (@MillerMike123) February 21, 2023
It’s probably irresponsible to answer this question — maybe even a little unfair to Will Hardy and Quin Snyder. Perfect. I love it.
First, here’s the final roster the Jazz were working with at the end of their run last year: Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Royce O’Neale, Jordan Clarkson, Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gay, Danuel House Jr., Juancho Hernangomez, Trent Forrest, Eric Paschall, Jared Butler, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Udoka Azubuike.
My first thought is that Hardy is not nearly as rigid when it comes to rotations and minute distribution as Snyder was. But, follow along with me as my thoughts progress.
Hardy would have been so frustrated and unwilling to give free minutes to Whiteside, but the alternative was Gay as a small-ball five or Azubuike. Well, we know what those things would look like and it’s not much better. So maybe you’re just stuck with Whiteside playing those minutes.
It’s possible that Hardy gives a little more of a chance to Alexander-Walker, House, Paschall, Butler and Hernangomez, but if that’s the difference in rigidity that we’re really talking about then the quiet part that needs to be said out loud is that the Jazz had a serious depth problem last year.
Hernangomez isn’t really playing this season with the Raptors, Paschall isn’t in the league, Alexander-Walker wasn’t going to fix the Jazz’s problems, House is racking up DNPs in Philadelphia and Butler is in the G League. And Snyder did give some of these guys a chance. He benched Gay and used Hernangomez and House. But he also knew that Paschall was inefficient and that Butler wasn’t ready. He was right about a lot of stuff.
If you drop Hardy into the power dynamics that were already at play with Mitchell, Gobert and the rest of the Jazz organization, does that fix anything? I don’t think so. If anything, without having a deep history with those players, Hardy probably ruffles even more feathers and it all blows up sooner than it did.
I think that Snyder was a part of why things went wrong with the Jazz, but so was Mitchell, so was Gobert, so was the front office, so was the lack of depth, the lack of point-of-attack defense, the lack of health, the lack of passion following the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers the previous year. There was a lot wrong that I don’t think Hardy could have fixed. That team had run its course.
Sports question, then: Is Collin Sexton meant in the long-term to start? Or do you think he’ll lead the second unit as the team is more put together?— Dan(🎷30-31) (@MegaJazzFanDan) February 21, 2023
I think Collin Sexton’s role with the Jazz is going to depend on him. If he develops enough as someone that can be trusted in late-game situations and improves his playmaking skills — especially as a facilitator — then I think there will be a good argument for him as a starter.
I don’t know if the Jazz coaching staff and front office would have a different answer if you gave them a truth serum. I truly do think that they are going to use the rest of this season and next season to see what they have in Sexton.
They are obviously invested in him as a part of the future, or they wouldn’t have committed to a $70 million extension for him as part of the deal that brought him here from Cleveland. I’m not trying to take an easy out with this answer, I just truly think that Sexton’s future with the Jazz will be what he makes it.
Curious as to your thoughts on the recent 10-day signings. Do you see this filling any longer term need? Just wondering what your insight is. Thanks!— Taylor Hadley (@taylorkhadley) February 21, 2023
Frank Jackson, who played at Lone Peak High, is obviously a fun local story and it would be great to see if he can compete for some backup point guard minutes for the Jazz. I’m honestly not super familiar with his game and haven’t watched enough of what he’s done with the SLC Stars to weigh in too much.
What I can say is that I don’t think I see Talen Horton-Tucker as a longterm piece for the Jazz and so it doesn’t really shock me that they would start to bring up guys to get some different looks at ballhandlers.
Kris Dunn has always been really intriguing to me. I love a hard-nosed defense-first player and he really does some incredible stuff with his on-ball defense. Hardy actually used him in his first game after his 10-day signing against the Thunder on Thursday.
In that game I saw some things I expected. He’s not a consistent shooter, his touch around the basket can be iffy, but man is his defense just exactly what you want at that position.
What I didn’t expect was how patient and smart he is with the ball in his hands in isolation and in the pick-and-roll. The problem is that his lack of touch and his lack of experience as a primary facilitator means he doesn’t make the best decisions. I’d love to see what he does in that area with a little more of an opportunity.
Let’s remember that right now, these are just 10-day signings. It requires players to really show some flashes of potential to get another 10-day or to get signed for the rest of the season. We’ll see what happens.
If they made the playoffs, which current top-four WC team would the Jazz have the best chance of beating in the first round?— Jake Linford (@LinfordInfo) February 21, 2023
Call me a hater if you want, but I don’t think the Jazz would beat any of the top four Western Conference teams in a playoff series. There’s no best chance.
Will our two-way players ever see the court in a Jazz game? Curious about Juzang.— Mel Rydalch (@mel_ryd) February 22, 2023
I actually think there’s a chance we could see some of Johnny Juzang this season. He had a pretty serious grade 3 wrist sprain that had him sidelined for well over a month so he’s just now kind of getting back into the swing of things.
I don’t think that the Jazz are going to make it a point to use him over some of their other guys, but if there are injuries or rest days, and as the Jazz get closer to the end of the season, we could see him get some minutes here and there.
Micah Potter, the other Jazz two-way player, might have a little more trouble getting some minutes considering that Kessler is an absolute franchise piece and that the Jazz got Damian Jones at the trade deadline.
Jones pretty much took Azubuike’s minutes, but Azubuike is still there ahead of Potter. But, things could change as the season goes on.
This is an interesting question that I’ve been thinking about. It’s really hard to imagine that Markkanen would be OK with just sitting out games.
He had a little bit of a hard time sitting out the game against Memphis right before the All-Star break and he had a sore knee. What softened the blow was that he was about to play in his first All-Star Game and he had a ton of family and friends flying in from Finland to watch the game. He said he wouldn’t have been able to forgive himself if he got seriously hurt or made his knee feel worse and then ruined the whole All-Star experience for him and his family.
But he really wanted to play in that game against Memphis. So it’s hard for me to see him being OK with missing other games.
That said, maybe his tone shifts if it becomes clear that the Jazz aren’t going to make the playoffs. He’s just now getting used to the idea that he’s the best player on this team. If he knows that there’s no payoff in the way of a postseason run, maybe he’s willing to sit out some games at the end of the schedule to preserve his body. I don’t know though.