Prior to the Utah Jazz’s 111-92 preseason win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday, head coach Quin Snyder said the contest, the Jazz’s second of three preseason games, would be more about the main rotational players, and that was the case for the majority of the game.
The Jazz’s eight-man rotation is pretty well ironed out with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles.
From that point there’s going to be a little bit of competition for the ninth spot and some of that will depend on matchups, but a lot of it could depend on the defensive competency of the players. Through the first two preseason games Georges Niang and Miye Oni have shown that their progression on the defensive end last season has continued through the offseason and both have taken another step.
“In Georges’ case, particularly off the ball, there was a possession in front of our bench where he really took a challenge to get switched on to someone in pick-and-roll and he really competed,” Snyder said after the game. “Georges certainly defensively tonight, was better and something that I know he takes pride in.”
While Niang was a part of the regular rotation last season, most notably for his prowess from beyond the arc, it isn’t lost on him that in order to stay on the court he has to be able to defend.
In the bubble, Niang quietly had some really impressive moments on that end of the floor that were often overshadowed by what was going on between Mitchell and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Though those moments might have been lost in the national spotlight, the Jazz are well aware of Niang’s progress and of his potential with his size and ability to space the floor.
“Obviously as a member of this team, the Jazz pride themselves on defense,” he said. “I’m pretty confident in my abilities and I just try to get 1% better every single day.”
As said above, that ninth spot in the rotation could depend on matchups and when there are smaller, quicker guards that need to be taken care of, it seems that the Jazz may have a diamond in the rough with Oni.
“It’s tough to come in this league as a defender and be able to do it at the level he has done,” Mitchell said of Oni. “So far in the preseason he’s been great. He’s even doing it in practice. He’s been guarding me a bunch, making my life hell. We’re really happy for him.”
“Obviously as a member of this team, the Jazz pride themselves on defense. I’m pretty confident in my abilities and I just try to get 1% better every single day” — Georges Niang
Oni ended up tasked with guarding Phoenix’s Devin Booker for a bit on both Saturday and Monday night and held his own.
“When you’re aggressive and you’re as athletic as Miye is, you can be too aggressive and Booker someone that’s really hard to guard against because he’s so good at drawing fouls,” Snyder said on Saturday. “I thought Miye was disciplined in how he guarded him and that’s something that we’ve been asking of him and he’s been trying to do. There’s games like this where you know he has that opportunity and he took advantage of it.”
When the opportunity presented itself again on Monday, Oni once again showed some pretty serious chops against one of the better young guards in the league which is a good sign for the Jazz, who will also have the services of Shaquille Harrison once he’s back from injury.
It’s a good problem to have a handful of good defenders at the end of the bench that can be trusted in high-pressure situations.