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Utah Jazz mailbag: What’s with the Jazz’s free-throw shooting woes and why is Miye Oni getting time over Shaquille Harrison?

Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni dribbles against Phoenix Suns center Damian Jones during preseason game at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni (81) dribbles against Phoenix Suns center Damian Jones (30) during an NBA preseason game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz improved to 9-4 on the season after a win in Denver and were riding a five-game win streak heading into a six-game homestand that started against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

But just because the Jazz are riding high right now doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions to be answered, so I turned to Jazz fans and asked what’s been on their minds.

The fact the Jazz haven’t had a standout game where they’ve dominated on both ends of the floor is not lost on the Jazz players at all.

“We’re hungry,” Rudy Gobert said after the 109-105 win over the Nuggets. “I feel like we still haven’t reached a level that we can reach.”

The Jazz have been incrementally seeing improvements with their defense as the season has progressed, which is a great sign, and I agree that we haven’t seen their ceiling, which is also cause to feel good about the potential of this roster.

There’s no doubt the Jazz have the talent and skill to be one of the best teams in the league, it’s just about putting it all together on a consistent basis. It’s still early in the season so there’s a lot of games to be played and time to make everything work, and right now it seems like the Jazz are on the right track and we’ve yet to see the best of them.

What is with the Jazz’ free throw shooting??? Seems to be struggling all around — @spencerstora

Mike Conley missed all four of his free-throw attempts in the win over Denver. It was a strange thing to see happen considering he was a career 81.9% free-throw shooter coming into the season. When he was asked about it after the game, Conley didn’t seem concerned at all.

“I don’t know what that was tonight but I guess that happens every now and then,” he said. “It’s early in the season, there’s a lot of guys still finding their rhythm.”

It’s true that some of the Jazz players have been struggling at the line this year. Conley, Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale have all seen dips in their free-throw percentages. But Jordan Clarkson, a career 81.8% free-throw shooter, is shooting 93.8% this season.

At this point I wouldn’t be worried. Conley is a veteran and I don’t expect for him to have trouble with this for very long, Bogdanovic is still trying to learn how to play comfortably with his surgically repaired wrist, and Gobert has always had struggles at the line.

It’s too early in the season to make any sweeping generalizations on a small sample size. We’ll revisit the topic if it continues.

Bogey’s dribbling into traffic. He seems to turn over regularly — @ups_dave

There were at least a couple of pretty egregious turnovers from Bogdanovic in the Nuggets game where he just dribbled the ball off his own foot. I think that is because they were so blatantly his fault and in one of the most recent games that’s why it’s on people’s minds, but really he’s not even near the worst turnover offender on the Jazz.

Conley, Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell are responsible for the majority of the Jazz’s turnovers, which makes perfect sense seeing as they are the main ball handlers on the team and have the ball in their hands more often these days with Joe Ingles missing time because of a sore right achilles.

All three of them have seen a slight uptick in their season averages for turnovers per game, but like the free-throw thing, it’s too early in the season to call this a real problem.

Through 13 games this season, the Jazz are committing the ninth-most turnovers per game in the NBA, but even that stat needs some context. The difference between the Jazz’s average, 15.5 turnovers per game, and the team that commits the sixth least number of turnovers is just two. The Washington Wizards commit the sixth fewest turnovers with 13.5 per game. So it’s not like the Jazz are some sloppy team that is horrible with the ball.

Will Jazz look to get under the luxury tax at trade deadline — @newbymiles89

If the Jazz really wanted to work the margins and get under the luxury tax this season, whether before or after the trade deadline, they could probably do it. If this was any other year that didn’t have a global pandemic wreaking havoc on everything then I would probably say yes.

But teams can’t really afford to leave multiple roster spots open or bring in newbies at the last minute this season because if there is a COVID-19 outbreak that takes out any of the core rotational players, teams want guys who are familiar with the system and trusted to be able to step in. The priorities this season are a little bit different.

The real answer is that I’m not sure yet, but there’s certainly reason to believe that too much tinkering is not the path that a lot of teams will be taking this year.

We have seen Oni getting some minutes especially for defense. What is Oni doing that gets him these opportunities and not Shaq? — @JacobPerazzo

Miye Oni has the benefit of having been around the team for a year and having played in the bubble with the Jazz. That seniority and the progress that he’s made has given him the chance to have more opportunity in the rotation than some of the other players on the bench, and to his credit he’s been playing really well.

But there’s also a positional component to this. Oni has length and skill that can allow him to work well in switches and he’s been getting more time lately because of Ingles’ injury. Shaquille Harrison is not a substitute for Ingles. It’s very possible that if Conley or Mitchell were to miss significant time that Harrison would see more time on the floor.

If you would like to have your question answered, you can send it to me at stodd@deseretnews.com with “mailbag” in the subject line, or you can send it to me via Twitter @NBASarah with the hashtag #UtahJazzMailbag.