SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have played just seven games this season without Bojan Bogdanovic in the lineup. Six of those games have been in the bubble.
Despite the fact that the Jazz learned in May that they would be without their Croatian sharpshooter when the season resumed at Walt Disney World in Florida, they really haven’t had that much time to learn who they are without him.
“Jarrell came in, Miye came in, hit some big shots, made some great plays both of them. I think guys are really starting to step up and find their confidence and that’s really what this is about.” — Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell
“That process is obviously occurring,” Quin Snyder said before Saturday’s double-overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets. “I think a game like today, against a team like Denver, certainly gives you even more of a look, and even more feedback.”
Friday, with four of the Jazz’s starters sitting out, the coaches were presented with a unique opportunity to see what some of the deep bench players looked like against legitimate NBA talent. Through that game, rookies Miye Oni and Jarrell Brantley stood out and it earned them another shot.
Oni, with just three NBA points to his name before Friday, scored 14 points against the San Antonio Spurs while Jarrell Brantley scored his first NBA points. Both players showed versatility and were rewarded for their efforts with early rotation minutes against the Nuggets.
“Jarrell came in, Miye came in, hit some big shots, made some great plays both of them,” Donovan Mitchell said after the 134-132 loss. “I think guys are really starting to step up and find their confidence and that’s really what this is about. At the end of the day we would have loved to win, but guys are really starting to find themselves here and we’ve just got to continue to build upon it.”
Although the final minutes of regulation and both overtimes were largely dominated, and rightly so, by the Jazz starters and regular rotation players, getting experience against a team that the Jazz could see in the playoffs is invaluable for Utah’s developing players.
“Credit to those two young guys, Jarrell and Miye, for just coming in and being confident,” Mitchell said. “In a high-intensity game, a playoff-like game.”
In addition to Oni and Brantley playing themselves into larger roles, Tony Bradley had a lot of responsibility thrust onto him on Saturday after Rudy Gobert fouled out of the game at the end of the first overtime.
“I thought Tony did a heck of a job, filling in and competing,” Snyder said of his reserve center.
Bradley, like many of the young players on the Jazz team, still has some growing to do but with the playoffs less than 10 days away, time is dwindling, and playing in tense, high-stakes situations is the perfect opportunity to learn.
Though it’s still unlikely, with shortened playoff rotations, that Oni or Brantley will play a large role in the postseason, giving them chances to play now can only help. But if situations arise in which foul trouble or injury forces the Jazz to extend their rotation even more than they have since the loss of Bogdanovic, Snyder will have a clearer picture of what the young players can offer.